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Education Update

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

December 9, 2019

In Budget & Finance News…
 
PLUS Caucus of PASA Calls for Equity, Charter School Reform – Norristown leaders, parents, teachers, and students last Thursday called for immediate changes to a school funding system they described as inequitable and crippling for urban schools in particular. The district was one of more than a dozen across the state — including Upper Darby and Pottstown — that held news conferences Thursday to draw attention to funding disparities facing districts that are also burdened with increasing costs for charters each year. The conferences, organized by the PLUS (Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools) Caucus of PASA, were timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycotts sparked by Rosa Parks. Read the rest of the story: “Pennsylvania’s Urban School Districts Call for Change; Say State Funding, Charter Laws Crippling Them” (from The Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/5/19).
 
Property Tax Reform Options – Party leaders in the state Legislature will be asked to figure out how many rank-and-file lawmakers support various plans to cut or get rid of school property taxes as a months-long study of the topic concludes. State Sen. David Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican and head of an informal group of lawmakers that did the study, said its work is largely done. The final product is a short list of options on how to shift the burden of financing a big piece of school districts’ operating costs from property taxes to other taxes, according to Argall. He said it will go to House and Senate party leaders so they can “take a head count” on preferences of their lawmakers. Read the rest of the story: “School Property Tax Options Ready for Review by Pennsylvania Lawmakers” (from The Morning Call, 11/29/19).
 
November Revenue – According to the PA Department of Revenue, Pennsylvania collected $2.4 billion in General Fund revenue in November, which was $1.8 million, or 0.1 percent, more than anticipated. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $12.7 billion, which is $166.1 million, or 1.3 percent, above estimate.  
 
In School Safety & Health News…
 
Key School Health Topics – A report by Child Trends details the current landscape of school district and charter policies that support healthy schools. Overall, the report covers how state laws and regulations are addressing key school health topics aligned to the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework. Moreover, the analysis takes a deep-dive into policies relating to Health Education, Physical Education, Nutrition, Health Services, and many more topics in 20 states. The report provides useful information on which topics are gaining momentum on the state and local level, as well as highlighting existing opportunities that better align and integrate school health policies. Click here to access the report.
 
Student Assistance – Students with special needs are more likely than general education students to report having thoughts of suicide — 22% compared to 14%. But they are also more likely to report there is an adult in school they can talk to when they’re having problems or feeling upset — 53% compared to 45% of general education students — according to a new YouthTruth analysis of students’ responses over a six-year period. Students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals and English learners are also more likely than peers not in those groups to report their schools have programs or services to help them. Read the rest of the story: “Survey: Special Needs Students, ELs More Positive about School Mental Health Services” (from educationdive.com, 12/2/19).
 
In Legislative News…
 
Session Schedule – Both the House and Senate remain in recess. The House is scheduled to be in session three days next week (Dec. 16-18) and the Senate one day (Dec. 18).  
 
In State News…
 
PAsmart Grants – The PA Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) announced last week that nearly $4.6 million in PAsmart grants are available to create more opportunities for Pennsylvania workers to increase their job skills and earn quality wages. The PAsmart Next Generation Industry Partnership grants bring together multiple employers in the same industry to provide targeted job training so that students, workers, and job seekers get the skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy.
 
Governor Tom Wolf secured $30 million for PAsmart last year and $40 million this year. In addition to the Next Generation Industry Partnership grants, L&I will soon begin accepting applications for nearly $6.6 million in apprenticeship grants. The governor recently announced the availability of $20 million in PAsmart funding to advance science and technology education through the Department of Education.  
PAsmart Next Generation Industry Partnership grants of up to $250,000 per partnership, are available through L&I to connect employers in the same industry to support job training in: advanced manufacturing; agriculture and food production; bio medical; building and construction; business services; education; energy; healthcare; hospitality; leisure and entertainment; logistics and transportation; real estate, finance and insurance; and wood, wood products and publishing.  
 
Eligible applicants include local workforce development boards (LWDB), labor organizations, economic development organizations, industry associations, local education agencies, education intermediaries, post-secondary education providers, community-based organizations, libraries, and nonprofits. Any entity may serve as fiscal agent for all grant awards. Applicants are required to partner with an LWDB on their application. 
 
The deadline to apply is January 3, 2020. Additional details, the grant application, and information about the bidder’s webinar can be found on L&I’s website.  
 
FYI – Another Free Webinar from CoSN: Professional Learning…
 
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and its state affiliate chapter, Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology (PAECT), are honored to support the work of current and aspiring superintendents and district leadership teams in leading all aspects of digital learning transformations. CoSN, in partnership with edWeb.net, hosts The Empowered Superintendent monthly webinar series on topics that are essential for all educators engaged in leading digital transformations. School superintendents serve as panelists on each webinar and share their stories and expertise.
 
Despite decades of existing research, school district professional development programs often fail to demonstrate any measurable improvement in teacher and student classroom practice. This issue is magnified when it comes to helping teachers leverage technology tools for learning, which often necessitates teachers having to learn new skills combined with a change in traditional instructional strategies and practices. One of the most critical keys to an effective, well-designed, professional development program is a coordinated leadership strategy for planning and delivering professional learning experiences within a school district. CoSN’s one-page guide for school leaders on effective professional development offers school leaders three critical guidelines for professional learning that improve classroom practice and also presents an overview of the essential factors school leaders must consider when planning for and evaluating professional learning.
 
This month CoSN offers a free, one-hour webinar, “Professional Learning: The Secret Sauce for Successful Technology Integration,” on December 9 (5:00 pm ET) on how to create effective professional learning opportunities within a school district. Members of Connecticut’s Meriden Public Schools district leadership team – including the Superintendent, the Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology, and the Supervisor of Blended Learning - share the planning, collaboration and implementation strategies they use to assure that their district’s professional learning programs are effective and have the desired impactful results. Learn more and register for this free webinar as well as access recordings of previously broadcast CoSN/edWeb webinars at https://home.edweb.net/supers/
 
To register for this free webinar and to access recordings of previously broadcast webinars, click here. If your school or district would like more information about joining CoSN or getting more involved with CoSN, please contact Brian Calvary, CAE, CoSN Director of Membership and Chapters, at bcalvary@cosn.org.
 
In National News…
 
Personalized Learning and Time Constraints – Nothing governs the school day quite as strictly as time. This is especially true in middle and high schools, where subject-specific blocks break up the day, and bells control when they stop and start. Often, these schedules are created at the district level, informed by state requirements that tie school funding to seat time. These structures help organize and manage instructional time for the hundreds—or thousands—of students in a building. But they can also be major headaches for educators who are trying to give each student more control over when and how fast they learn—essentially personalizing the pace of their education. Personalized learning emphasizes that students have some control over what, how, where, and when they learn. Addressing all four of those variables can require some big instructional changes. But there are especially intractable issues around when and how quickly students should learn. Read the rest of the story and a full report on the issue: “One Big Barrier to Personalized Learning: Time” (from Education Week, 11/5/19).
 
Across the Nation…
 
New Hampshire: Medicaid to Schools Funding – New Hampshire is taking steps to salvage federal money for schools that provide mental health counseling, speech therapy and other services to students, Gov. Chris Sununu and other state officials said last week. The Medicaid to Schools program allows schools to be reimbursed by the federal government for services provided to Medicaid-eligible students. While it once applied only to special education students, the state expanded the program in 2017, and it now covers thousands of students from virtually every district. The program is in jeopardy, however, because under new federal guidance issued in July, those providing the services must be licensed by a medical board, not just credentialed by the state Department of Education. To address that issue, Sununu signed an executive order Wednesday to temporarily speed up the licensing process, and bipartisan legislation is being drafted to create a permanent change. (from Education Week, 12/3/19)
 
On the Calendar…
 
Dec. 10             Webinar: Red Flags in Your Professional Career
Dec. 16             Superintendent of the Year Luncheon
Dec. 24-Jan. 1   PASA Office closed
Jan. 7-8             New Superintendents’ Academy Session 3 (PASA office)