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January 28, 2022 

The Senate and House of Representatives were in session this week. Both chambers are now adjourned and will return to session on Monday, February 7.

PSBA ADVOCACY

Wasteful spending in charter school advertising further highlights need for reform 

 

KCCC Director Lawrence Feinberg speaks at a Capitol news event hosted by Rep. Ciresi

This week Rep. Joseph Ciresi (D-Montgomery) held a news conference on charter school accountability reform, highlighting the results of an examination of records showing that charter schools have spent more than $35 million in tax dollars on advertising during the previous two school years with no state audits or oversight. Among the organizations participating at the event calling for reform was the Keystone Center for Charter Change at PSBA (KCCC).
 
The records, obtained through a Right-To-Know (RTK) law request in 2021 by the Education Voters of Pennsylvania, resulted in more than 3,500 pages of invoices detailing how cyber charter schools spent millions of property tax dollars on bus wraps and billboards; TV, radio and internet advertisements; ads on various social media platforms, sponsorships and more.
 
“Wasteful spending in cyber charter school advertising further highlights the need for accountability and reforming our outdated and broken 25-year-old charter school law,” said Rep. Ciresi. “There's strong bipartisan support for reform, including my proposal in House Bill 272 which would add long-overdue accountability and ethical standards while saving almost $400 million annually by reducing overpayments with data-driven, common sense reforms. It’s time for a vote.”
 
“In a widely bipartisan statewide consensus, locally elected volunteer school directors in 410 districts have adopted resolutions calling upon the General Assembly to reform charter school funding so that districts and taxpayers are no longer overpaying or reimbursing charter schools for costs they do not have,” said KCCC Director Lawrence Feinberg. “There is a straight line from charter tuition overpayments to increased local property taxes. It is long past time for the PA Legislature to pass charter reform.”
 
The Google drive with all the documents received through the RTK requests can be found here, along with 500 school district fact sheets that detail how much each school district would save with the bipartisan charter school reforms proposed.

Feb. 9, 2022: Join PSBA to discuss the fiscal impacts of Gov. Wolf’s 2022-23 state budget plan

 

Governor Wolf will unveil his 2022-23 state budget proposal on February 8, 2022. How will the proposed funding levels affect your local school district budget? Join PSBA Government Affairs staff the day after the governor releases his new spending plan for a deeper dive into the numbers and a discussion on the impacts and trends in state appropriations for public education. Bring your questions! This hour-long webinar on February 9 at 12:00 p.m. is complimentary for all members.  Click here to register.

Join PSBA, PASA at the Capitol on April 25 for Spring Advocacy Day

 

Connect with your legislators on key issues

Join us at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday, April 25, 2022, for Advocacy Day. This complimentary event, sponsored by PSBA and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), will bring school directors and superintendents together to advocate for key education issues:
  • The impact of state funding on your district, including basic and special education, and providing critical services for students as we navigate through the pandemic.
  • The need for meaningful cyber charter school funding reforms that reflect the actual costs to educate students in regular and special education programs.
Click here for the agenda and details for the day.

Advocate at in-person meetings with legislators at the Harrisburg Capitol or be a virtual supporter by using PSBA-provided resources to email, call or raise awareness on social media. Register now for either option on myPSBA.

NEWS FROM THE HILL

Signed by the governor

Assisting homeless, foster care students: Gov. Wolf has signed into law Senate Bill 324 (Sen. Langerholc, R- Cambria), now Act 1 of 2022.  The new law, which is effective immediately, is intended to help keep students who are either experiencing homelessness or are in foster care on track to graduate high school. Public school entities must designate a point person for the student who will review past transcripts and provide support and resources needed to help the student graduate on time. PSBA worked on an amendment to allow a point of contact to be a third-party, add consultation with a student's individualized education program (IEP), clarify that the school shall comply with laws for a student with a disability, and make other technical changes. Click here for more information.
 
Opioid Abuse Child Impact Task Force: House Bill 253 (Rep. Owlett, R-Tioga), now Act 2 of 2022, establishes a task force on the opioid abuse epidemic's impact on children. This week the bill was amended in the Senate to distribute $225 million from the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account for hospitals and retention and recruitment of healthcare workers. The House concurred in the Senate amendment and the bill was sent to Gov. Wolf, who quickly signed the bill into law. Act 2 is effective immediately.

 
Vetoed by the governor

Redistricting map: Gov. Wolf vetoed House Bill 2146 (Rep. Grove, R-York) which put forth a proposed congressional redistricting map. Other proposed maps submitted by citizen groups and others will be considered by the Commonwealth Court. The decision of the Commonwealth Court to select a new map could be made by January 30. That ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
 

Passed by the House of Representatives

School district name change: House Bill 232 (Rep. Mustello, R- Butler) specifies a school district of the third class that is located within the county of the fifth or sixth class may change its name by a two-thirds vote of the local board of school directors and the approval of the Department of Education. The bill would impact the South Butler School District and be effective immediately.  House Bill 232 is now in the Senate Education Committee for further consideration.
 
Expanding the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children: House Resolution 166 (Rep. Boback, R-Luzerne) urges the State Council on Interstate Educational Opportunity for Military Children and the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission to expand eligibility in the Compact to members of the National Guard and Reserve who are in an inactive-duty status.
 

Amended on the House floor

Professional licensure for behavior analysts: House Bill 19 (Rep. Mehaffie, R-Dauphin) provides for the professional licensure of behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts in Pennsylvania. This week the bill was reported out of the Professional Licensure Committee, amended on the House floor and is now in the Appropriations Committee for further consideration. Applied behavior analysis techniques are used to help children with a variety of diagnosed conditions, including autism, substance abuse disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. PSBA worked with the bill’s sponsors to ensure the proposal does not adversely impact school districts.
 

Approved by the House Education Committee

Clearinghouse of online courses: House Bill 1330 (Rep. Ortitay, R-Allegheny) requires the PA Department of Education (PDE) to establish a central clearinghouse of free online courses related to content tested by the Keystone Exams, beginning by the 2022-23 school year. The following school year, the clearinghouse must also offer other courses that are aligned with state education standards from providers, subject to purchase through contract. Schools are not required to use any of the courses; however, a school entity that does decide to offer the courses must adopt policies regarding their use and make parents and students aware of the opportunity. The bill also provides for an application development and approval process, parameters for purchasing courses, penalties, and the issuance of a report regarding the program. PSBA supports House Bill 1330.   
 
Study of teacher training mandates: House Resolution 163 (Rep. Mackenzie, R-Lehigh) directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to study the state and federal training mandates for public educators. The committee, which will include a representative of PSBA, will prepare an assessment to identify any duplicate mandates and potential negative impacts of eliminating any of the mandates. The committee would make its report and recommendations within 18 months from the adoption of this resolution. PSBA supports House Resolution 163 and has worked with the sponsor.
 

Approved by the House Labor and Industry Committee 

Privacy of employee personal data: House Bill 844 (Rep. Rowe, R-Snyder) amends the Public Employee Relations Act (Act 195 of 1970) to prohibit social security numbers and home addresses of public sector employees from being proper subjects of collective bargaining.
 
Advance public notice of proposed collective bargaining agreements: PSBA opposes House Bill 845 (Rep. Rowe, R-Snyder), which requires school districts to provide advance public notice and post terms of proposed collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) prior to board action. The proposed agreement must be posted online 14 days prior to acceptance and ending 30 days after acceptance. The posting must include a statement of the terms of the proposed agreement and an estimate of the costs to the public employer associated with it. Further, proposed CBAs are to be public records subject to the Right-to-Know Law. Read PSBA’s letter of opposition.

Fair share fees and Janus rights: House Bill 2042 (Rep. Klunk, R-York) amends the Public Employe Relations Act (Act 195 of 1970) to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The bill would require public employers to annually notify nonunion members and new employees that there is no statutory obligation for members to make any payments to an employee organization. House Bill 2042 also repeals the two Pennsylvania laws that authorized the payment of “fair share fees” by nonmembers.

Prohibiting PAC contributions from payroll deductions:  House Bill 2048 (Rep. Mackenzie, R-Lehigh) also amends the Public Employe Relations Act to prohibit public employers from deducting money from the wages of a public employee to be used for a political contribution.
 

Approved by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee 

Purple Star Schools: House Bill 1867 (Rep. Boback, R-Luzerne) establishes a program to recognize schools that provide services for educational transition issues of military families. Schools will be designated as Purple Star campuses if they demonstrate military-friendly practices such as: having a military liaison staff member; information on the school’s website that includes resources for military students and families; and, professional development training opportunities for staff members on issues relating to military students. PSBA has worked with staff on this legislation and supports the bill.  
 

Passed by the Senate

Provisional hiring parity: House Bill 764 (Rep. Miller, R-Lancaster) amends the Child Protective Services Law to place an employer’s ability to hire an employee on a provisional basis on par with the 45-day provisional hiring window that is currently authorized for child-care providers. House Bill 764 provides parity in the 45-day window for employees of both child-care providers and any other employer who hires employees who have direct contact with children. The bill would be effective immediately. PSBA has reviewed this bill and determined it is not in conflict with current regulations that affect school districts.
 
Display of the state Constitution in schools: Senate Bill 934 (Sen. Dush, R-Jefferson) would require the posting of the preamble to the Pennsylvania Constitution in the entrance of every school building where state funding is provided to the district or institution of higher education.
 
Display of the US Constitution in schools: Senate Bill 935 (Sen. Martin, R- Lancaster) would require the posting of the preamble to the United States Constitution in the entrance of every educational facility where state funding is provided.

OTHER NEWS

Independent Fiscal Office releases report on EITC

The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) recently released a report evaluating the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The program, administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), provides Pennsylvania businesses tax credits if they contribute to a scholarship or educational improvement organization. Most of these credits available are directed toward organizations benefitting private schools. Monies are also used to fund innovative educational programs in public, charter or private schools.
 
The report examines the administration of the program and provides comparisons with similar programs in other states. However, the IFO notes across states, Pennsylvania has one of the largest tax credits, but collects and publishes the least amount of outcome data. The reason is that Pennsylvania’s law expressly limits the data that DCED may collect. Among its recommendations, the IFO suggests that the law be amended to allow for the collection of student performance and demographic data so that program effectiveness can be evaluated. Read the IFO report on EITC programs.
 

PASC invites high school juniors to apply for student seat on the State Board of Education

The Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils (PASC) is currently accepting applications for a new junior student representative to the State Board of Education (SBE). Since 2008, the SBE has included one non-voting senior student and one non-voting junior student member, recommended to the board by PASC. Current 10th grade students (Class of 2024) enrolled in public high schools in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for the open position of junior representative. The student would serve a two-year term and attend SBE meetings held in Harrisburg six times a year. The application materials and additional information can be found online. Applications are due to PASC on March 7, 2022.
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