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Education Update

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

June 18, 2018

In Budget & Finance News…
 
State Budget Update – The House and Senate return to start the third week and to keep moving in the direction of a final 2018-19 budget. There continues to be a lot of optimism that the final 2018-19 state budget could come together prior to June 30, and we are still keeping an eye out for any major hurdles standing in the way.
 
Money and Equity – Can more money make up for the effects of poverty in schools? School finance experts increasingly say yes. But states will have to distribute their money much differently between schools and districts than they do today, with a more complex approach to fiscal equity than simple funding levels. Civil rights activists historically have pushed for states to spend the same amount of tax dollars in wealthier and poorer school districts, a legally and politically fraught goal that's led to the leveling of spending in states such as Florida and Wyoming. But a growing number of school finance experts now conclude that states should, instead, spend based on need. In other words, schools with heavier concentrations of poverty, and therefore greater academic needs, should get more money than schools where the majority of students' parents are wealthy. Read the rest of the story: “Equity in K-12 Funding More Complex Than Just Dollars” (from Education Week, 6/6/18).
 
In School Safety News…
 
Final Task Force Hearing – Students had a message for school leaders, law enforcement, health professionals and Harrisburg officials who gathered last Tuesday at Woodland Hills High School: Listen to us. “When having this conversation about safety in our schools, we have to be listening to people who are actually inside the school, so that means students,” said Christian Carter, a recent Pittsburgh CAPA graduate. “Students are experiencing this public school system from the day that they are in kindergarten all the way up until 12th grade.” Carter spoke at the final meeting of the Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force, which held five other meetings throughout the state to gather feedback from communities on school safety. He urged those in power to continue to make sure students and parents — and especially those who have been personally impacted by gun violence — have a seat at the table as security decisions are made. Read the rest of the story: “Students Tell Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force To Listen” (from The Tribune-Review, 6/12/18).
 
In Legislative News…
 
Session Schedule – Both the House and Senate are again in session this week. Numerous education bills recently moved through various committees in the past two weeks may come up for consideration in each chamber. Meanwhile, the committee schedule is again full.
 
Last Week’s Legislative Action –
 
* Keystone Exams: HB 85; passed by the House, 154-39. The bill requires school boards to develop policy regarding whether the parental opt-out on Keystone Exams will be extended to those opting-out for philosophical, not just religious, reasons. Failure to address the issue in policy within 180 days following passage of the bill would mean such an opt-out would be acceptable. PASA opposes this bill, as it will exacerbate the opt-out issue in many districts.
 
* Restrictions on State Spending: HB 110; approved by the Senate State Government Committee, 8-4. The bill is a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the PA Constitution to restrict annual state budget spending increases equal to the sum of the average percentage increase in the CPI for the three preceding calendar years and the average percentage increase in the population of the commonwealth for the three preceding three calendar years. The bill also would prohibit any circumventing of that restriction through fund transfers, and would require a ¾ vote in both the House and Senate to spend beyond the annual limitation. As a Constitutional amendment, the resolution would require approval in two consecutive legislative sessions before the measure could be put before voters through a referendum. The bill passed the House in December with a 103-83 vote.
 
* Citizen Tax Credit: HB 2040; approved by the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee. The bill authorizes school districts to set up programs in which senior citizens volunteer in the school district in which they reside and receive a partial credit against their school property tax in exchange for their services. Services that seniors may provide to schools include tutoring children, mentoring activities. School districts would have the authority to set up specific regulations over the criteria for acceptance.
 
* Student Services: HB 2052; passed by the House, 193-0. The bill would require school districts to offer families the option of communicating that a parent or guardian is a member of one of the armed forces, and, if a school district is notified that a child’s parent or guardian has been activated or deployed, the district would be required to provide the student with access to school guidance counselors and existing federal or state military support services. The Departments of Education and Military & Veterans Affairs would be require to coordinate and provide guidance to districts and parents. PASA supports this bill and has asked for clarification on a district’s responsibilities to coordinate with state and federal military support services.
 
* Senior Citizen Mentors: HB 2065; amended and approved by the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee. The bill establishes a new Older Adult Mentor Volunteer Program (MVP) to better enable retired older Pennsylvanians to assist middle and high-school students. Specifically, the legislation establishes a certified list of retired volunteers who would be willing to share their life-lessons, experience and hobbies with junior and high school students interested in enhancing their knowledge and skill sets. Older adults wishing to participate would be required to undergo criminal background checks and any other necessary requirements put forth by their school district.
 
* Performance Audit Pilot: HB 2209; approved by the House State Government Committee. The bill would initially establish a Performance Audit Pilot Program for two state agencies and then subsequently require all State agencies be subject to a performance audit during an initial three-year period after the effective date of the bill.
 
* Tobacco Sales In Schools: HB 2226; passed by the House, 195-0. The bill would expand the offense of sale of tobacco products in or near school/charter school property or school buses to electronic cigarettes.
 
* Tobacco in Schools: HB 2268; passed by the House, 195-0. The bill would add nicotine-based products, including electronic cigarettes, to those products prohibited on school/charter school property or school buses. 
 
* Executive Session: HB 2327; passed unanimously by the House. The bill would amend the Pennsylvania Public School Code to exempt school board discussions of critical security and emergency preparedness from open meetings requirements. PASA supports this bill.
 
* Dyslexia Pilot Program: SB 776; passed by the House, 196-0 and sent to the Governor. (Gov. Wolf has until June 23 to decide whether to sign the bill.) The bill extends and expands the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program for an additional two years and increases the number of pilot schools from three to eight. PASA supports this bill and the pilot program.
 
* Graduation Requirements: SB 1095; amended and approved by the Senate Education Committee unanimously. The bill, introduced by Sen. Thomas McGarrigle (R-Chester/Delaware) and amended with language offered by Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks), provides multiple pathways for students to earn a high school diploma and ends the use of the Keystone Exams as the sole consideration of student proficiency for graduation. The plan under Senate Bill 1095 is the culmination of extensive discussion and collaboration with leaders in the Senate and the education community, including PASA, and recommendations from the Department of Education. It revises the current graduation requirement that calls for students to pass the state-developed Keystone Exams in Literature, Algebra I and Biology in order to graduate. As amended, Senate Bill 1095 builds a system with multiple pathways for students to demonstrate graduation readiness beyond simply passing each Keystone Exam. PASA supports SB 1095 and welcomes this change to a more relevant and meaningful process to determine whether students qualify for high school graduation.
 
* Depression Screening: SB 1181; approved by the Senate Education Committee, 12-0. The bill requires that mandated student health exams also include depression screening, starting with students in sixth grade, and would require the medical professional conducting the screening to report to the school district that the screening occurred. School districts would be required to notify parents of the requirement, although parents could opt out of the screening. Screening results would be shared with parents but not school districts, although parents could choose to share that information. Districts would be required to adopt or revise existing procedures concerning the district’s response to screening results indicating a student may have depression or similar symptoms. Neither a screening confirmation nor the results of the screening could be included in the students’ academic record. PASA supports this bill.
 
* School District Data: SB 1198; approved by the Senate Education Committee, 9-3. The bill would establish in statute the current Student Performance profiles webpage as a single location to access all accountability measures, in addition to publication on district websites. The page will include the new ESSA  index, and will require all reported indexes to provide summative scores to stakeholders. In effect, this bill would require the Department of Education to continue publishing online summative and other data as had been done previously and provide a “one-stop location for comprehensive information about school success in preparing students for future readiness and an annual profile for each public school and school district comprised of academic, nonacademic, financial, demographic and related information.” The department would be required to provide all of the following online: the indexes or reports of Federal accountability data in accordance with the Every Student Succeeds Act or its successor statute; the school district financial data required under law; the information compiled under sections 220, 221, 222 and 603-B; the school performance profile data, including summative district-level and building-level scores with regard to student performance on assessments and academic growth, as provided under Act 82 of 2012 and Chapter 4 regulations relating to academic standards and assessment. PASA opposes the use of summative scores to evaluate schools and districts. This bill will expand the SPP from just building scores to a district score as well.
 
* Gun-Free Zones: Senate Resolution 293; approved by the Senate Education Committee unanimously. The resolution directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study and to (1) assess the effectiveness of "gun free zones" and whether they have acted as a deterrent for gun violence; (2) work with the Pennsylvania State Police and others, to conduct a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of this Commonwealth's background check system, including application rejection data and whether any issues with the background check system have played a role in gun violence at schools in this Commonwealth; (3) examine school safety measures being utilized by school districts across this Commonwealth and compare the safety measures with those used by school districts in other states; (4) quantify the number of schools that have received a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment by the Pennsylvania State Police in the last 10 years and whether the resulting safety recommendations were acted upon; (5) enumerate all applicable funding sources available to schools for school safety; and (6) quantify the number of school districts in compliance with the statutory requirements under 35 Pa.C.S. §7701(g) and 22 Pa. Code § 10.24.
 
This Week’s Committee Schedule –
 
Monday, June 18
 
House Finance Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on local tax assessment reform.
 
PIAA Legislative Oversight Committee to hold a public hearing on separate championships, boundary and non-boundary schools, and classifications of sports. Those offering testimony will be representatives from the PIAA, the PA Catholic Conference and the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
 
Tuesday, June 19
 
House Education Committee to consider the following:
 
* ‘Safe2Say: SB 1142. The bill, already passed in the Senate, establishes the Safe2Say program. This bill prescribes that “it is the intent of the General Assembly that the Safe2Say program be a one-stop shop for students, teachers and community members to report behavior perceived to be threatening to an individual or a school entity.” Reports made through the anonymous reporting system will be received by the Attorney General and screened, with reports being referred to local schools, law enforcement and/or organizations as necessary. PASA supports this bill and is working with Senate leadership, the Attorney General’s Office and other education organizations to clarify expectations of school districts.
 
* CPR Training: HB 1097. The bill would require schools to offer the same cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training course required under section 1205.4 (professional development CPR training) as an option to all students enrolled in the school.
 
* Purchasing Timelines: HB 2432. This bill removes from current law the time window when a school district may adopt new textbooks, materials and other curriculum prior to the school year. The current law places the window between April and August. A local board of school directors can now adopt changes at any regular board meeting. PASA supports this bill.
 
Senate Local Government Committee to hold a hearing on SB 1099. The bill would allow school districts to appoint, by resolution, one or more suitable persons as tax collectors and authorize and direct any one tax collector to collect the school taxes in any one or more wards or other proper divisions in the district.
 
House Children & Youth Committee to hold a hearing on HB 1311. The bill would establish the Office of Child Advocate within the Office of the Attorney General and prescribes for the powers and duties of the office.
 
 Wednesday, June 20
 
House Finance Committee to consider the following:
 
* Tax Rebates: HB 406. The bill would allow for the distribution of a property tax/rent rebate to the family of a deceased individual.
 
* Tax Rebate Calculations: HB 2312. The bill would clarify in current law that 50% of a payment in-lieu of Social Security benefits for annuitants of the federal Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) is not to be considered “income” when determining eligibility for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
 
In National News…
 
Update on the Latest Congressional Action – (as reported by AASA)
 
* SNAP and the Farm Bill: Last week, the Senate Agriculture committee advanced their version of the Farm Bill reauthorization. It is a bipartisan bill and does not make any substantial changes to SNAP or the school lunch program. It stands in stark contrast to the House version, which is partisan, dangerous to school meal programs, and already failed to pass the House once. The House may revote on their version of the bill in the next few weeks, as they have scheduled an immigration vote to placate the Freedom Caucus, who derailed the previous Farm Bill vote.
 
* Perkins Reauthorization: This week, the Senate HELP Committee will take up a bill to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. We hope it will be a bipartisan bill. Previously, the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize Perkins that would streamline the Perkins application and reporting requirements..
 
* Federal Appropriations Bill: Last week, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Other (LHHS) subcommittee passed its numbers for the FY 19 funding package, AASA is pleased to see the LHHS was not used to offset funding increases. LHHS was level funded, but education did receive a nominal increase, and funding for critical programs was maintained and increased. The full appropriations committee should vote on the LHHS bill next week and we will be reviewing amendments. At this point, AASA has applauded the bill for not cutting education but has not yet endorsed the bill, as we do not have a full listing of education programs to see where cuts are made, and we remain concerned that overall, the LHHS bill (which represents more than 1/3 of all non-defense discretionary funding) did not receive a proportional increase compared to the overall FY19 budget cap levels. 
 
Status of Federal Funding for CHIP – Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted to approve a package revoking about $7 billion in funding reserved for the Children's Health Insurance Program. The decision hasn't gone over well in the children's advocacy community. The House vote last week dealt with a $15 billion "rescissions" package proposed earlier this year by President Donald Trump. The Trump team is seeking to slash the government's bottom line—even though Trump signed a big spending increase into law for fiscal 2018. Most of the cuts would come from unspent federal funds. Nearly half of that rescissions package, part of a bill that the House passed 210-206, comes from CHIP, which provides health care to kids from low-income families. However, Senate approval of these rescissions could be tough. Even though the move would require only 51 votes and not a filibuster-proof 60 votes, it's not clear that moderate Republican senators in particular want to support Trump's spending cuts after months of difficult work crafting a fiscal 2018 spending agreement. Stay tuned…. (from Education Week, 6/11/18)
 
Summers Off & Inequality – If the American dream depends on its education system, summer break could be holding its students back. "Summer is the most unequal time in America," says Matthew Boulay, founder and CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. "We pour enormous amounts of resources in children learning but much of that investment stops in the summer months." A growing body of scholarship shows that the weeks students have off school in the summer months hamper student learning across the board, and exacerbates the divide between the haves and have nots in the nation's schools. "It's a uniquely American problem, we have the longest summer break of any developed or industrialized country," Boulay says. "In this country the inequalities, the income gap and wealth gap are growing and that sort of reinforces the inequalities during the summer." Read the rest of the story: “Is Summer Breaking America’s Schools?” (from USA Today, 6/7/18).
 
From AASA: Free Webinar...
 
This Thursday (6/21) AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is hosting a webinar with Sandy Hook Promise that is open to any/all school leaders about the new federal grant dollars that will be flowing from the Department of Justice to districts via the STOP School Violence Act. These new federal dollars can be used to train students and staff to identify, assess and respond to school safety threats, improve coordination with law enforcement, improve mental health, update response systems, and much more.  
 
AASA worked to ensure that rural districts, suburban districts and urban districts all have their own funding streams to make the distribution of resources more equitable. More details on the grants can be found here: http://aasa.org/policy-blogs.aspx?id=42632&blogid=84002.
 
Click here to register for the webinar.
 
On the Calendar…
 
June 19             Lobby Day at the Capitol
July 4                PASA office closed
July 12-13         New Superintendents’ Academy Part 1 (PASA office)
July 29-31         PA Education Leadership Summit (State College)

(pdf for printing)