Press Releases

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 10:42 AM

It doesn't matter if they get three inches or three feet of snow — schools in Indiana can bring students into a virtual classroom if their physical classrooms shut down.
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Source: NPR.org, Jan. 26, 2016.

 
Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:22 AM

School officials are breathing a sigh of relief at the state Legislature’s approval of a two-year delay in requiring students to pass the Keystone exams in order to graduate.
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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 20, 2016.

 
Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:21 AM

The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would delay using Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement and study whether the proficiency tests should be a graduation requirement at all.
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Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 21, 2016.

 
Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:20 AM

A bill giving school districts more flexibility when closing their doors during bad weather and the unexpected, such as massive police manhunts, is nearing final passage.
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Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, Jan. 21, 2016.

 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 2:09 PM

HARRISBURG (Jan. 20) - The Senate wrapped up its business this week in short order on Wednesday, sending to Gov. Tom Wolf for his expected approval legislation that would delay for two years the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement exam.

The chamber voted unanimously to concur with changes made to Senate Bill 880 by the House.

The bill, which will give the state Department of Education and lawmakers more time (until the 2018-19 school year) to consider the future of the assessments, contains a provision directing the Education Department to submit recommendations to the General Assembly within six months on whether to reinstate the graduation requirement.

During floor remarks prior to the vote, Senate Education Committee Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said while it’s important to hold Pennsylvania’s students to a higher standard of achievement, how that effort is implemented is equally important.

Explained Smucker: “Some of the problems that we have seen with the implementation is with the project-based assessment. It is unwieldy and unworkable as it’s currently carried out. We know that not all students can test to the standards, so there must be some alternative path, like the project-based assessments, but not as it’s carried out today.”

The project assessment, lawmakers have argued, is costly and burdensome to students and school districts alike, due to additional staffing demands placed on districts to evaluate the projects once completed.

Those concerns necessitate “a pause to re-evaluate and re-establish exactly what those requirements should be,” Smucker said. To read more about the project-based assessments, CLICK HERE for the state Education Department’s FAQ about the assessments.

Senate Education Minority Chairman Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, who has been a vocal critic of the Keystone Graduation Exams (Algebra 1, Literature and Biology) for several years, said the student’s teacher isn't “trusted” to properly grade the project-based assessment.

Dinniman said by March of last year (the last testing window for the exams), 126,000 students had failed one of the Keystone tests.

“They [students] were to do a project assessment, and because they [state officials] didn’t trust teachers, every project assessment had to be corrected by two teachers at another school,” said Dinniman. “And because they [the state] had no money to pay the teachers, they told them they could give them [teachers] professional development credits for testing the students.”

Dinniman, noting the negative impact to the state’s education environment by relieving teachers of professional development requirements just for grading assessments, said it was inevitable the project-based assessments would fail. He indicated his preference to not have them, as well as the graduation requirement.

“This is not good assessment. This is not fair assessment. That’s why today we are overriding this …” said Dinniman about the “bad policy” embodied by the Keystone graduation requirement. He also pointed out “every education organization in this state objected to” the requirement.

Smucker took a different tack regarding the tests and the purpose of SB880.

“This legislation will give all stakeholders time to work together to improve the process, review commonsense recommendations and provide fair and effective options for students and parents,” said Smucker.

“… we need accountability in our schools, we should continue on the path of implementing Keystone Exams we currently have and for additional courses, we are certainly not abandoning that goal,” he concluded. “We are simply re-examining the timeline and we’re putting in place a better method of achieving the outcome.”

And with the first major snowstorm of the season bearing down on Pennsylvania, senators unanimously voted to return to the House another education bill that would give the Secretary of Education the power to declare weather-related, safety-related, and health-related emergencies on a school entity, charter school entity, county, or statewide basis.

The measure, House Bill 158, would provide school districts and charter schools included in the declaration greater flexibility in scheduling to meet the state’s 180-instructional day requirement without jeopardizing any of their payments or reimbursements from the Commonwealth.

The bill must return to the House because the Senate on Tuesday altered the measure to include language similar to that in Senate Bill 862, which amends the Public School Code to align criminal history background clearance requirements for school employees with the Child Protective Services Law.

The chamber also advanced to a potential final vote next week legislation, Senate Bill 1106, that would appropriate a bit more than $939.4 million for the Department of Corrections. That money would bring the department’s total appropriation to nearly $1.9 billion for correctional institutions, which is what had been included in House Bill 1460 prior to Wolf’s line-item veto. The rest of the Corrections Department’s budget requests were approved by Wolf as suggested by the General Assembly in HB1460.

On Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Corman and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, laid out the difference of opinion regarding the need for SB1106’s supplemental appropriation.

Costa voiced the Wolf administration’s opinion that funding could be continued to the Corrections Department by the Department of Treasury because of constitutional health, safety and welfare provisions, which had been employed during the current fiscal year when there was no state budget appropriation to continue the state correctional system’s operation.

Corman questioned whether the Treasurer’s Office has the ability to continue to appropriate dollars after a budget has been passed and signed into law.

The Senate will next be in voting session on Monday, Jan. 25, starting at 1 p.m. That’s also the next time the state House of Representatives will be in voting session.

Source: Capitolwire, Jan. 20, 2016.

 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 9:36 AM

A senior Pennsylvania Senate Republican is suggesting that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will need to be willing to negotiate changes to a bipartisan budget agreement struck last fall.
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Source: Associated Press, Jan. 19, 2016.


 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 9:35 AM

Legislation to delay the launch of using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years appears poised to clear the final hurdles to become law.
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Source: PennLive.com, Jan. 19, 2016.

 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 9:34 AM

Kenney and Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania's top education official, traveled Tuesday to a Northeast Philadelphia early childhood education center to tout the recent release of state funds that will pay for 1,500 new prekindergarten seats.  
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Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 19, 2016.

 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 12:02 PM

With the state's budget partially struck down by Governor Tom Wolf, state senators aren't sure they need to complete unfinished budget business. Pennsylvania has half a state budget and a number of related pieces of legislation still up in the air.
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Source: WITF, Jan. 18, 2016.

 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 12:01 PM

Republicans are pointing the finger at Democrats and Democrats are pointing the finger at Republicans, but Steve Robinson believes the continuing budget impasse resulting in the lack of full education funding is a “collective failure of government.”
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Source: The Penn State Daily Collegian, Jan. 18, 2016.

 
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