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Education Update

Below is the current Education Update.  Click here for a list of other recent updates.

September 20, 2021

In Budget, Revenue & Financial News...

Act 1 Index – The Department of Education has calculated the base index, or the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index, for fiscal year 2022-3 to be 3.4 percent. For school districts with a market value/income aid ratio greater than 0.4000, an adjusted index will be posted on the department's website by September 30, 2021.
 
State Unemployment Rate – In a press release last Friday, the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) reported that the state’s unemployment rate in August went down one-tenth of a percent since July to 6.4 percent. The state’s total nonfarm jobs went up to 5,743,000 in August and jobs increased in eight of the 11 supersectors.
 
In Health & Safety News…
 
Nationwide Poll of Educators: Vaccine Requirements – The Delta variant is causing big shifts in educators’ opinions about vaccine mandates. Though most district leaders, principals, and teachers report their schools are not requiring vaccines for students 12 and older right now, support for these requirements is increasing dramatically. Nearly 60 percent of educators are now saying students who are old enough to receive COVID-19 vaccines should be required to show proof they got the shot to enter school buildings. That’s up from 27 percent when the EdWeek Research Center last asked educators about vaccine requirements in June. Most educators also support vaccine requirements for staff (63 percent). This latest survey was administered Aug. 25 to Sept. 8 to a nationally representative sample of 1,241 educators. (from Education Week, 9/16/21)
 
In Legislative News…
 
Session Update – Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session three days this week. The House returned to Harrisburg one day last week, but most activity came in public hearings held by various committees on a variety of issues, including the positives for local governments during the pandemic, a Republican response to the Department of Health’s recent mask mandate, and the 2020 election.
 
What is clear is that this fall session is going to be hyper-partisan. The animosity at the Capitol is palatable.
 
This week various committees will continue the 2020 election “inquiry” and will considering numerous bills, including more Election Code bills, as that remains one of two focus areas of House and Senate Republicans. Last week a Senate committee voted along party lines to subpoena voting records for 8 million Pennsylvanians, with that information to include personal data such as drivers’ license numbers, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and voting history, with the intent of turning that data over to a yet-unnamed private firm to conduct yet another “audit.” Attorney General Shapiro has indicated he will challenge that action, and other organizations are likewise gearing up to challenge the move based on privacy safeguards. Meanwhile, yet another Constitutional amendment will be up for consideration, this time to curtail the PA Secretary of Health from being able to issue orders such as the mask mandate in schools. Republican lawmakers are also moving toward challenging the order in court and/or taking action to force such orders to be submitted as regulations subject to the regulatory review process.
 
These two issues, as well as congressional redistricting, are transforming into a political nightmare at the Capitol and likely will take up a lot of attention in the General Assembly this fall.
 
Committee Schedule –
 
Monday, September 27
House State Government Committee
8:00 a.m., Room 205, Ryan Office Building
To consider Election Code legislation and COVID-19 legislation
 
Thursday, October 7
House Consumer Affairs Committee
3:00 p.m., Meeting Rm. Hilton Garden Inn, Monaca
Public hearing on rural broadband
 
In State News…
 
PDE Rulemaking: Charter Schools and Cyber Charter Schools – The Department of Education has proposed rulemaking to promote transparency, equity, quality, and accountability in the implementation of the Charter School Law and now is seeking public comment on the proposal.
 
The proposed regulations clarify six areas of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law:

  1. Charter school applications requirement: Establishes requirements for applications to open a charter school, allowing school districts authorizing brick and mortar charter schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) authorizing cyber charter schools to hold the schools to high academic, fiscal and administrative standards, ensures charter schools will equitably serve all students; and provides consistent application expectations.
  2. Non-discriminatory enrollment policies: Requires charter schools to post their non-discrimination enrollment policy on their website and in the student application so families and taxpayers know how admission preferences are considered and weighted.
  3. Boards of Trustees ethics standards: Clarifies that charter school trustees are subject to the state’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, addresses conflicts of interest, and sets penalties for violations. The same requirements already apply to school districts.
  4. Financial and auditing standards: Requires charter schools to use common accounting principles and auditing standards as school districts already do. This will make reviewing annual reporters and financial records easier for school districts and PDE.
  5. Redirection process clarification: Outlines the process to reconcile disputes over school district payments to charter schools for student tuition.
  6. Charter school employee health care benefits parity: Ensures charter school staff have adequate health care. The charter school law requires charter schools provide the same health care benefits as the authorizing school district. The regulation clarifies that when a charter school serves more than one school district, the school district in which the charter school’s administrative office is located is the district of comparison.
The PDE has submitted the proposed charter school regulations to the General Assembly, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the Legislative Reference Bureau. Interested individuals and organizations may access the proposed regulations at the department’s website. Interested persons and individuals affiliated with small businesses are invited to submit written comments, questions, suggestions, commendations, concerns or objections regarding this proposed rulemaking to the Division of Charter Schools at mailto:RA-EDCharterRegs@pa.gov, or by mail at 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126. Comments must be submitted within 30 days of publication of this notice of proposed rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (October 18). For further information contact Randy Seely, division chief, Division of Charter Schools, or Eric Levis, deputy policy director.
 
On the PASA Calendar…
 
Sept. 23-24…New Superintendents’ Academy Part 1
Sept. 29……..Webinar on Critical Race Theory
Oct. 1………..PASA Membership Year Begins
Oct. 6………..Fall Virtual Forum: Leading in a Culture of Change

(pdf for printing)