PAPSA, Coalition Send Letter to Senate in Opposition to HB 2169 (May 23, 2022)

On May 23, 2022, a joint opposition letter regarding HB 2169 was sent by the Pennsylvanians Against Vouchers (POV) Coalition to the full PA Senate. Also attached was the HB 2169 FAQ from POV.
PAPSA signed on to the letter, which can be accessed by clicking here.
To view the FAQs, click here.

The Senate Education Committee sunshined a May 24th committee meeting to consider HB 2169. However, HB 2169 was pulled from the meeting agenda prior to the meeting.

Previously, on April 27th the PA House passed HB 2169 with a vote of 104-98. This was an unprecedented vote, since voucher legislation had never before passed the PA House. The bill has been considered a tuition scholarship program that uses public funds to provide private school alternatives for students enrolled in the state’s lowest-performing public school districts. Known as the Lifeline Scholarship program, the bill would allow an enrollee to be eligible to use their share of state funding for use at a private school. The proposed bill defines an eligible student as a child who has not yet received a high-school diploma, currently resides in the attendance areas of a low-achieving school (the bottom 15% of public schools as measured by performance on standardized testing); and one of the following: attending a public in PA in the preceding school year; received funds from the program in the preceding school year; will attend first grade for the first time in the next school year; a child in foster care; a child whose adoption decree is not more than one year prior to submission of an application, OR a child of full-time active duty military personnel. Federal funding and school district tax monies would not be available for use.

Updated May 24, 2022.

L&I Employee Honored for Exemplary Leadership in Advocating for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing During Pandemic (May 23, 2022)

Governor Tom Wolf has honored Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) employee Melissa Hawkins with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in recognition of her work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the delivery of critical, life-saving information to Pennsylvanians with disabilities through the services of certified deaf interpreters.

In her role as director of Pennsylvania’s Office for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (ODHH) within L&I’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Hawkins collaborated with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Department of Health to bring critical information to Pennsylvanians who are deaf and hard of hearing to keep them informed of the latest information related to COVID-19.

At the start of the pandemic, to keep the deaf and hard of hearing community informed, Hawkins and ODHH teamed up with health officials to create educational videos in American Sign Language during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: “Coping and Mental Health Tactics,” “What is a Pandemic,” “How to Communicate with Your Children,” and many more developed by Commonwealth Media Services – ultimately empowering the deaf and hard of hearing community to make informed decisions for themselves and loved ones.

In 2020, ODHH created a COVID-19 Communication Card, geared toward Call Centers established as COVID-19 hotlines for individuals who needed information about vaccinations, hospitals, and Department of Health resources. As a result, the COVID-19 Communication Cards were used as a tool to help those answering the calls relay communication and health-related assistance to individuals during the pandemic. Hawkins also worked closely with L&I’s Unemployment Compensation office to implement assisted technology so people who are deaf or hard of hearing could apply for UC benefits.

For more information, visit the L&I website.

PA DHS Announces Pandemic-EBT Plan Approval to Cover the 2021-2022 School Year, Outlines Updated Eligibility (May 14, 2022)

PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead announced that the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) approved Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) plan for the 2021-2022 school year. Eligible families will begin to receive these P-EBT benefits in mid-to-late June.

P-EBT is designed to help eligible families cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches their children would have been eligible to receive for free or at a reduced price through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in child care or school settings that closed temporarily or permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School children who received free or reduced-price school meals are eligible for these 2021-2022 school year benefits if their school was closed or had reduced hours for a period of at least five consecutive days due to COVID-19 and if the student was absent from the classroom due to COVID-19.

Families who have previously received and activated P-EBT cards should keep them and ensure that the child’s school has a current mailing address and the correct birthdate for any school-aged children. Parents who have a standard EBT card for other benefits such as SNAP and cash assistance and have children who were deemed eligible for P-EBT will have their P-EBT benefits loaded to their EBT card, if possible. Families can use their P-EBT benefits to purchase almost any unprepared food item in participating grocery stores or food markets that accept EBT, and the program follows the same rules as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for eligible purchases.

Those who do not still have their P-EBT cards will be able to get a replacement through an automated replacement card process that will be available once issuances begin. More information on this process will be available soon.

Families of students who entered kindergarten in Fall 2021 or entered a different school district for the 2021-2022 school year can fill out an application for free or reduced-price school meals by visiting your school district’s website or by applying through COMPASS.

The P-EBT Hotline is available to for families who need further assistance or to report an issue at 484-363-2137. More information on P-EBT can be found here.

See the press release here.

PA State Bd of Ed Welcomes Acting Sec Hagarty, Takes Action on Grad Requirements and PASA Redesign (May 12, 2022)

At its May 4, 2022 meeting, the PA State Board of Education (Board) welcomed the new Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty and took action on items that included issues concerning waivers related to meeting state graduation requirements and changes in the test design and performance level descriptors for the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA).

With regard to graduation requirements  for the classes of 2024 and 2025, the Board approved one of two recommendations from the PA Department of Education (PDE) regarding the continuing impact of the effects of the pandemic on high school graduation requirements. It approved PDE’s recommendation to extend Covid-19 as an extenuating circumstance pursuant to Act 158 of 2018 for students in the classes of 2024 and 2025. The Act allows a chief school administrator to grant a waiver of the requirements for demonstration of statewide graduation requirements to accommodate a student who experiences extenuating circumstances. Previously, the Board approved PDE’s recommendation to modify the waiver provision to add Covid-19 as an extenuating circumstance for students graduating in 2023.

The Board also approved changes involved with the redesign of the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). The redesign of PASA requires adoption of four new performance levels and descriptors, which are: “emerging,” “approach target,” “at target,” and “advanced.” New cut scores for the assessment will be considered at the next meeting. Click here to view the report on the new performance levels and descriptors.

Following discussion, the Board decided to defer to the General Assembly the establishment of an allowable two-test composite score (in place of the three-score composite) for students who were eligible for the Act 136 exemption under Act 136 of 2020. Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), who sits on the Board, will introduce legislation to make the change. Click here to view reports on the above.

Two additional presentations were made at the meeting. They included a presentation by the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Coalition (PEDC) regarding provisions under the newly revised Chapter 49 regulations for educator certification regarding requiring teacher preparation programs to include culturally relevant and sustaining education (CR-SE) and a PDE update on programs, services, and initiatives regarding career and technical education (CTE).

Many thanks to PSBA’s Cindy Eckerd.

PDE: Pennsylvanians Can Now Access Hundreds of Free New E-Books on POWER Library (May 12, 2022)

On May 11, 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that Pennsylvania’s public electronic library, POWER Library, has acquired 350 new e-books for users to explore, bringing the total of available titles to approximately 20,000. The new titles are available in the subject areas of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging; Mental Health; and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). All e-books are viewable on screen, and many are available for download and offline viewing.

The e-books are available on the POWER Library website in Find E-resources under the following categories EBSCO E-books, Gale E-books, and ProQuest E-book Central. Users will be prompted to enter a public library card number to access them, but those without a library card can sign up for an e-card for immediate access.

POWER Library is made possible in part by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Library Access funds administered by PDE’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries.

In his 2022-23 budget proposal, Governor Tom Wolf has requested a $1.25 million increase for libraries, including a $1 million increase in the Public Library Subsidy. The subsidy goes directly to local libraries, library systems, 29 district library centers, and provides every Pennsylvanian access to statewide resource center libraries at State Library of Pennsylvania, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the libraries of The Pennsylvania State University.

The commonwealth helps defray the cost of basic operations of Pennsylvania’s more than 600 local public libraries that annually serve more than 16 million visitors who borrow nearly 60 million books, including digital content. For more information from PDE, please visit the website.