A daily round-up of education news and views for the Keystone State.
10th June 2021

A daily round-up of education news and views for the Keystone State.

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Actions to advance equity in education announced
The Department of Education has announced a series of actions it is taking to advance equity in education and ensure schools across the nation are serving all students. The actions include an Equity Summit Series, launching virtually on June 22nd, that will initially explore how schools and communities can reimagine our school systems so that every student has a voice in their school and classroom, particularly students from underserved communities. In advance of this, there is a new report from the Department's Office for Civil Rights exploring how the impacts of the pandemic have fallen disproportionately on students who went into it with the fewest educational opportunities, many of whom are from marginalized and underserved communities. Also of note are new Maintenance of Equity provisions, central to ensuring that essential resources are meeting the needs of students who have been subject to longstanding opportunity gaps in our education system. These student groups have also experienced the greatest impact from the pandemic. In addition to the historic resources the American Rescue Plan is providing states to address inequities made worse by the pandemic, President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposes $36.5 billion in formula grants for Title I schools, a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level. The investment will provide meaningful incentives for states to examine and address inequities in school funding systems, as well as ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, provide equitable access to rigorous coursework, and increase access to high-quality preschool. States would be required to collect and report data analyzing gaps in these key foundational areas, and work with their districts to make plans to address them. 
Gov. Wolf's Pa. School Funding Criticism Challenged
The Delaware Valley Journal challenges Gov. Tom Wolf's suggestions this week that Pennsylvania ranks 45th in school funding in the U.S. While it's true that the state government's share of total school spending is among the lowest in the nation, with just over 38% of public school education funding coming from the state, Pennsylvania ranks near the top when it comes to the amount of tax money spent on schools. A US News and World Report ranking last year based on 2017-2018 numbers actually put Pennsylvania fourth in the nation in education spending. According to Corey DeAngelis, National Director of Research at the American Federation for Children, the Keystone State's spending is even better: "Gov. Wolf and his team are using a bogus metric," he told the paper, adding: "The reality is the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show Pennsylvania funded K-12 public schools at $21,206 per student in 2019. That funding amount – 35% higher than the national average – puts Pennsylvania in 6th place when it comes to total funding per student." According to Pennsylvania Department of Education data compiled by the Commonwealth Foundation, state aid for public schools has grown by 32.6% since 2012.
Pittsburgh schools open drop-off sites for device returns
Pittsburgh Public Schools has opened four drop-off locations for students to return their district-issued devices through June 18, gathering laptops, iPads, hotpots and chargers that require “re-imagining and system upgrades.” Weekend opening hours are designed to accommodate working families during non-traditional school hours. Students who are enrolled in district-sponsored summer learning programs like Summer BOOST or the extended school year can keep their laptops and other devices until they are done.
Court ruling reignites Native American mascot debate
A Pennsylvania court has reversed a decision that barred the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County from using imagery associated with the name of some of its sports teams. The ruling could restart a tense, yearslong conflict over whether the District’s symbolism is racist and harmful to Native Americans. As of 2019, the district had spent about $435,000 defending the team name.
Taxes going up in Danville
The Danville Area School District board has adopted a $44m budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year which raises real estate taxes 3.5%. Business Manager Bobbi Ely said the increase would help balance the budget and leave the district with a $7.5m general operating fund balance to use for emergencies or increases in health care costs and pension contributions. She also said the district would cut expenses by not filling four teacher positions, a savings of approximately $476,000; not replacing three paraprofessionals, saving $91,500; using $2.3m in COVID money; reducing equipment purchases by $200,000, and using about $255,000 in savings from refinancing 2016 bonds.
Federal student loan loss forecast rises by $53bn
The Biden administration has raised an estimate of losses on the federal government’s student loan portfolio by $53bn, reflecting lower repayment rates and pandemic-relief efforts.
How 'grow-your-own' programs are helping recruit teachers of color
School districts are increasingly making use of "Grow-Your-Own" programs designed to encourage students of color to become teachers in their home communities. Some identify potential teaching candidates as early as high school; others recruit existing paraprofessionals and career changers to become certified teachers. Many aim broadly to increase a state or district’s local pipeline of future teachers, while others work specifically to enhance the diversity of the next generation of educators. Grow-your-own program leaders say that recruiting community members to become teachers is both a practical and effective long-term solution to increasing educator diversity. “Whether it’s students or bus drivers who want to become teachers, it’s OK. You want to look at who’s right in front of you,” said Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK International, a professional association for educators that oversees Educators Rising, a community-based model for recruiting teachers that has a presence in every state plus Washington, D.C., and official agreements with departments of education in 31 states. Among the program’s participants, 52% are people of color.
Record Number Of Students Set To Attend Summer School
Millions of children this summer will participate in what's expected to be the largest summer-school program in history, powered by more than $1.2bn in targeted federal post-pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan. This year's programs face the task of teaching not just about math, history and English, but also addressing widespread mental health challenges among students, and in some cases, dealing with nutrition issues for children who missed out on weeks or months of school meals. Such demands have seen warn these enrichment programs aren't an instant panacea; among the concerns is that students who previously had trouble focusing on classroom work will have lost some of their coping skills. Experts also say this is a rare opportunity to focus on mental health and the underlying causes of disproportionate discipline, by training teachers to even more closely focus on the whole child.
CTE directors share tips for strong school-business partnerships
A report released in March by the Association for Career and Technical Education noted "significant enrollment declines" in Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses this school year, along with concerns about possible funding declines and instructor shortages in the years ahead. One major struggle during the pandemic has been providing work-based learning experiences, the report said. K-12 Dive speaks to CTE leaders to garner advice for keeping school-business connections strong by cultivating relationships and working through challenges. Insights include casting a far net to draw businesses and organizations of all sizes into partnerships, thus ensuring better matches for student and employer needs, and to create a full-time workforce development coordinator role, to both promote CTE programs and work on curriculum updates; 

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