Substitute Teacher Legislation Signed Into Law

On Friday, Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 91 of 2021 into law. Act 91 is intended to assist with the current substitute teacher shortage. Highlights of the bill include:
  • For the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, allows a school employer to hire a retiree if there is an emergency or shortage of day-to-day substitute teachers.
  • Allows individuals holding day-to-day substitute permits to serve as a substitute in any certificate area for up to 20 days substituting for the same teacher. If the service exceeds 20 days, a long-term substitute permit is required. An individual may serve as a day-to-day substitute for more than one educator as long as each assignment does not last more than 20 days.
  • Allows individuals holding a valid and active Pennsylvania certificate or comparable out-of-state certificate to serve as a day-to-day substitute in the individual’s certificate area for up to 20 days. If the service exceeds 20 days or if a certified individual is substituting outside of their certificate area, an emergency permit is required.
  • Expands the substitute teacher program for prospective teachers for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years by removing the 10-day limit to substitute for the same teacher and 20-day limit to serve as a substitute for multiple teachers.
  • Extends the time limit for an individual with an inactive certification to be employed as a substitute from 90 days to 180 days.
  • Allows individuals who have completed a teacher preparation program and are in the process of scheduling the required testing to be issued a temporary substitute certificate. For the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, the certificate may be used for assignments of more than 20 consecutive days.
  • Creates a new permit for a classroom monitor to deliver assignments that are pre-planned by a teacher. The monitor may not plan lessons, create or grade student work. The monitor must meet certain education requirements and/or be currently employed as a paraprofessional.

PMEA Endorses Arts Education for All Act

WASHINGTON, DC [10/15/21] – Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) introduced comprehensive legislation to increase access to arts education.

The Arts Education for All Act will support and encourage arts education and programming for our young children, K-12 students, and youth and adults involved in the justice system. It will help to close existing gaps in access to arts education, which has the potential to improve the lifelong health and success of both children and adults.

“The arts are a fundamental part of a well-rounded education, especially now when innovative thinking and creative problem solving are in high demand,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services and Co-Chair of the STEAM Caucus. “Providing all students with the opportunity to receive a quality arts education is a matter of equity. Arts education should be available to all students, not just those who have artistic families or the financial resources to pay for an arts education on their own. I envision a better future where everyone can enrich their lives through the arts, and the Arts Education for All Act will help make that a reality.”

“Arts education improves the lives of children, nurtures their creativity, and helps maintain their well-being. Yet the arts are often the first programs to be cut in schools. While I’m grateful for existing federal support for arts education, we should be making programs more accessible and encouraging students and educators to get more involved,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus and Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. “I’m proud to introduce this bill alongside Congresswoman Bonamici to help put the ‘A’ back in STE(A)M, and move full steam ahead on supporting arts programming and education access for all.”

“Art teachers across my district shared stories of the power that arts education has on our youngest children. It opens up a love for learning and allows them to thrive in new and exciting ways. The arts also help us celebrate our cultures, our identities, and communities,” said Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández. “I’m proud to join Rep. Bonamici on the Arts Education for All Act to give educators the support they need to expand arts programming experiences for children of all ages. It will ensure they can foster a learning environment that promotes creativity, expression, and healing through art.”

The Arts Education for All Act has been endorsed by more than 100 national, state, and local organizations, including the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, Americans for the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, and Grantmakers in the Arts.

The full list of endorsements can be found here.

“From her direct engagement throughout the arts sector, to successfully including pro-arts amendments in the Every Student Succeeds Act, Rep. Bonamici has once again proven herself to be a champion for arts education,” said Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts. “Americans for the Arts considers the “Arts Education for All Act” to be the most comprehensive arts education bill ever introduced in Congress and is proud to endorse it. We will work to advance this legislation alongside arts education stakeholders in music, dance, theater, visual, and media arts in order to pursue increased access and equity for all learners.”

“The Arts Education for All Act will help bring the power of arts education to early childhood programs, low-income K12 students and systems-involved youth on a scale we haven’t seen before,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “By empowering childcare, K12 schools, and programs serving systems-involved youth, this bill has the potential to enrich lives and expand educational opportunities for millions,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “The arts community, but most importantly the children of our nation, owe a great deal of thanks to the innovative leadership of Representative Bonamici for introducing this critical legislation.”

A one-page summary of the Arts Education for All Act can be found here. The text of the legislation can be found here.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Bishop (D-GA), Bowman (D-NY), Cárdenas (D-NY), Cicilline (D-RI), Cohen (D-TN), Cooper (D-TN), Jayapal (D-WA), Jackson Lee (D-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), McGovern (D-MA), Norton (D-DC), Raskin (D-MD), Ross (D-NC), and Titus (D-NV).

Pennsylvania Masking Order

Important Information About the Pennsylvania Department of Health
School Masking Order
  • On August 31, 2021, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health signed an Order requiring face coverings to be worn in all school entities, including school districts, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers, intermediate units, and early learning and other child care settings, effective Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
  • The order spells out specific exemptions to wearing face coverings – including playing instruments. You may want to make your administrators aware of this language.
  • Mitigation strategies are available for the music classroom. Download a poster for your classroom or to share with your administrators, students, and community members about ways to make music with COVID-19 precautions in mind. This poster has been updated to reflect updated guidance from July 2021.
  • Instrument bell covers and a three foot distance is still recommended in addition to other mitigation guidance.
If you have questions or need specific assistance, you can always reach out to us at

Back To School Resources from PMEA

Resources from PMEA to Begin The 2021-22 School Year
Updated COVID-19 Precautions
  • As most schools and students return to in-person instruction, we believe it is appropriate for students to participate in music making activities in individual and ensemble settings provided appropriate precautions are taken based on local guidelines and the comfort level of those involved. Just this week NAfME & NFHS released New Resources to help music educators, stakeholders and decision-makers ensure that music education is available to all students and provided safely.
  • Currently, there is no mask mandate in Pennsylvania. However, local school districts may require masks or other mitigation strategies. It’s important to be aware of the current guidance in your school or community.
  • Download a poster for your classroom or to share with your administrators, students, and community members about ways to make music with COVID-19 precautions in mind. This poster has been updated to reflect updated guidance from July 2021.
  • Instrument bell covers and a three foot distance is still recommended in addition to other mitigation guidance.
Education Funding
  • As decisions are being made in schools, it’s important for you to know funding realities. This information is designed to arm you with the knowledge to make the case if there are threats to your program.
  • Schools have been faced with an unprecedented amount of challenges in the last year and a half. Many of those challenges caused school budgets to be strained. The good news is that there is more money flowing into education to help schools.
  • In Pennsylvania, $200 million was added to the basic education subsidy that schools receive. And $100 million was added as part of the “Level Up” initiative which provides funding to the most underfunded districts in the state. Your school district likely has received more funding from the state than they did last year.
  • The federal government has provided relief funds specifically for education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). These funds can be used through September 2024. You can view a PMEA webinar about these funds.
  • The United States Department of Education specifically called out how these funds can be used for music education in guidance published in May.
  • These funds may also be used to support an educator’s salary. If a program was hurt because of COVID-19 (ex. low recruitment numbers for music programs) and a school district wants to reduce or eliminate a position because of the impact of COVID, ESSER funds can be used to support the salary of an educator as they rebuild the program to pre-COVID levels when the school district was able to fully fund the position.
  • The biggest challenges music programs may face this year is scheduling. There is a possibility that remediation in some subject areas will cut into learning time in music and the arts.
  • The Pennsylvania ESSER Guidebook provided to school districts specifically states that schools should provide equitable opportunities for students. This language is another tool for you to share with decision makes if music programs are marginalized by other subject areas.
  • The guidebook states that schools should:
  • Refrain from scheduling tutoring or other supports at times when students would need to miss opportunities for enrichment and critical and creative thinking in order to participate. Rather, create more opportunities for disproportionally impacted students to close opportunity and access gaps.
  • Take care not to make students feel inferior because of their participation in interventions to address educational harms.
  • Avoid punishing students by taking away their recess, specials, or other social activities to gain learning time.
  • Provide opportunities for students to be immediately successful with accelerated learning activities. Build on student strengths.
  • Ensure that school time is used especially well to maximize learning time. Extended learning time can only be effective if time during the regular school day is also used as effectively as possible.
PMEA will continue to work with various stakeholders and advocate for music programs as we face continuing and varying challenges of the pandemic. The science shows us there are ways to mitigate risk while making music. We know the value of music making for our students and ourselves. To that end, PMEA will continue to to work towards providing opportunities for in person music making across Pennsylvania.
If you have questions or need specific assistance, you can always reach out to us at

Pennsylvania 2021-22 State Budget

Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania 2021-22 state budget and other laws this week. Here is a breakdown of impacts to education.

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State Budget

The $40.8 billion budget is a spending increase of $1 billion, or 2.6% from last year’s budget when supplemental spending and federal stimulus spending is included.

The budget utilizes about $1 billion of the $7.3 billion the state received in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, with the General Assembly opting to hold the balance of that money which is allowable and  can be used over the next three years. In addition the state had nearly $3 billion in surplus revenue to work with.

The state made a $2.52 billion deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance to a historic $2.76 billion. The record-high boost to that fund was made possible because of surplus revenue plus the previously noted $7.3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

Included in the budget are:

  • $200 million increase for basic education, the main stream of state dollars for school districts. The money will be distributed through the state’s fair funding formula passed into law in 2016.
  • $100 million for Level Up, a new initiative providing additional funding to the 100 most underfunded districts in the state. This additional $100 million was a compromise measure as Governor Wolf unsuccessfully pushed for a substantially larger amount of money for education this year in an effort to have all money going to K-12 education funnel through the fair funding formula.
  • $50 million increase for special education.
  • $30 million increase for early education, which includes $25 million to expand Pre-K Counts and $5 million to expand Head Start.
  • The Pennsylvania State Higher Education System, was level funded at $ 477.5 million. However, the system received $50 million from the federal ARP funds to be dedicated to the system re-design. That re-design has not been approved and has been controversial. PMEA continues to monitor the re-design process and how it may impact music education programs at state system schools.
  • The proposed Nellie Bly scholarship that was designed to provide scholarships for students attending Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools is not included in the budget.
  • The budget includes a $225 million allocation — a $40 million increase — toward the state Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which gives tax credits to businesses that fund scholarships for private schools.

This spreadsheet from the Pennsylvania Department of Education spells out district funds coming from the state to districts as well as level up amounts.

Any increase in the basic education subsidy is a win as Pennsylvania continues to fall behind other states in the percentage of state support for public education.

Other Notable Legislation

Renewal of Substitute Teacher Provision for Prospective Educators
Intermediate units and area career and technical schools may utilize individuals training to be teachers to serve as a substitute teacher, provided the individual has valid clearances and at least 60 credit hours.

Optional year of instruction due to COVID-19
This bill provides extended special education enrollment as well as an optional year of education for students due to the pandemic. Parents must elect to enroll the student by July 15, 2021. The PA Department of Education will create a standard election form for parents to use.

Under the bill, a special education student who has reached age 21 during the 2020-21 school year or before the start of the 2021-22 school year may continue to be enrolled for the upcoming year.

The bill also permits any student under the age of 18 to repeat a grade level of instruction for the 2021-22 school year at the parent’s request; a child at or over the age of 18 may also make a request. The student may continue to participate in academic or extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics.

PMEA Sends Letter to PA Superintendents About Federal Funding

In our on-going push to raise awareness of how federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) stimulus funds can be used for music and arts education, PMEA sent a letter to every school district superintendent in Pennsylvania reminding them of the ESSER funds and asking them to reach out to the federal program coordinator in their school district to remind them about how these funds can be used for music and arts education.

You can download a copy of the letter here and we encourage you to send a copy to your superintendent as reinforcement of the message of the value of these funds.

Learn more about how you can request these funds for you music program here.

Congratulations to the Best Communities for Music Education Pennsylvania Designees!

Congratulations to the 686 school districts that are among the Best Communities in the nation for music education and the 80 schools that received the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA) from The NAMM Foundation! The award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education.  Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.

Learn more at

Here are the Pennsylvania Best Communities and SupportMusic Merit Award designees. Congratulations!

The 2021 Best Communities for Music Education program logo

Abington Heights School District Clarks Summit PA 18411
Abington School District Abington PA 19001-4535
Armstrong School District Kittanning PA 16201
Avon Grove Charter School West Grove PA 19390-8908
Avonworth School District Pittsburgh PA 15237-1223
Bald Eagle Area School District Wingate PA 16823
Baldwin-Whitehall School District Pittsburgh PA 15236-1817
Bellefonte Area School District Bellefonte PA 16823-1613
Bensalem Township School District Bensalem PA 19020-1829
Bermudian Springs School District York Springs PA 17372-8807
Big Spring School District Newville PA 17241-9466
Boyertown Area School District Boyertown PA 19512-9699
Burrell School District Lower Burrell PA 15068
Cambria Heights School District Patton PA 16668
Centennial School District Warminster PA 18974-5455
Central Bucks School District Doylestown PA 18901
Central Valley School District Monaca PA 15061
Central York School District York PA 17406-1554
Chartiers Valley School District Pittsburgh PA 15220-1698
Clairton City School District Clairton PA 15025
Colonial School District Plymouth Meeting PA 19462
Conewago Valley School District New Oxford PA 17350-1206
Cornwall-Lebanon School District Lebanon PA 17042-7505
Council Rock School District Newtown PA 18940-2202
Cumberland Valley School District Mechanicsburg PA 17050-1711
Curwensville Area School District Curwensville PA 16833-1533
Delaware Valley School District Milford PA 18337-9454
Downingtown Area School District Downingtown PA 19335
DuBois Area School District DuBois PA 15801-9022
East Allegheny School District North Versailles PA 15137
East Stroudsburg Area School District East Stroudsburg PA 18301-2150
Easton Area School District Easton PA 18040-8186
Exeter Township School District Reading PA 19606-2839
Fox Chapel Area School District Pittsburgh PA 15238
Franklin Regional School District Murrysville PA 15668
Freeport Area School District Freeport PA 16229
Gateway School District Monroeville PA 15146-3377
Gettysburg Area School District Gettysburg PA 17325-8548
Governor Mifflin School District Shillington PA 19607
Greater Latrobe School District Latrobe PA 15650
Hanover Public School District Hanover PA 17331
Hempfield Area School District Greensburg PA 15601-6411
Hollidaysburg Area School District Hollidaysburg PA 16648
Kiski Area School District Vandergrift PA 15690-1466
Kutztown Area School District Kutztown PA 19530-9693
Lewisburg Area School District Lewisburg PA 17837-1296
Lower Merion School District Ardmore PA 19003
Lower Moreland Township School District Huntingdon Valley PA 19006-6208
Loyalsock Township School District Williamsport PA 17701
Manheim Township School District Lancaster PA 17606-5134
Marple Newtown School District Newtown Square PA 19073
Methacton School District Eagleville PA 19403-1096
Mifflin County School District Lewistown PA 17044-1197
Montoursville Area School District Montoursville PA 17754
Moon Area School District Moon Township PA 15108
Mount Pleasant Area School District Mount Pleasant PA 15666
Mt. Lebanon School District Pittsburgh PA 15228-1128
Nazareth Area School District Nazareth PA 18064-2397
Neshaminy School District Langhorne PA 19047-3240
New Hope-Solebury School District New Hope PA 18938
Norristown Area School District Norristown PA 19403-2745
North Allegheny School District Pittsburgh PA 15237-5391
North Hills School District Pittsburgh PA 15229
North Penn School District Lansdale PA 19446
North Schuylkill School District Ashland PA 17921-9301
Northeastern School District Manchester PA 17345-1436
Norwin School District North Huntingdon PA 15642-2403
Oley Valley School District Oley PA 19547
Palisades School District Kintnersville PA 18930-9657
Parkland School District Allentown PA 18104-9643
Penn-Delco School District Aston PA 19014
Pennridge School District Perkasie PA 18944-1898
Penns Valley Area School District Spring Mills PA 16875
Perkiomen Valley School District Collegeville PA 19426-2042
Phoenixville Area School District Phoenixville PA 19460-4475
Plum Borough School District Plum PA 15239
Pocono Mountain School District Swiftwater PA 18370-0200
Port Allegany School District Port Allegany PA 16743
Pottsgrove School District Pottstown PA 19464
Pottstown School District Pottstown PA 19464
Red Lion Area School District Red Lion PA 17356-9185
School District of Lancaster Lancaster PA 17603-5396
School District of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 19130
School District of Springfield Township Oreland PA 19075-2418
Shaler Area School District Glenshaw PA 15116
Shenandoah Valley School District Shenandoah PA 17976-1401
Shenango Area School District New Castle PA 16101
Somerset Area School District Somerset PA 15501-2513
Southern Huntingdon County School District Three Springs PA 17264-8537
Southern Lehigh School District Center Valley PA 18034-8439
Southmoreland School District Scottdale PA 15683-1066
Spring Grove Area School District Spring Grove PA 17362
Spring-Ford Area School District Royersford PA 19468-2732
Springfield School District Springfield PA 19064
State College Area School District State College PA 16801-4899
Stroudsburg Area School District Stroudsburg PA 18360-1397
The School District of Haverford Township Havertown PA 19083
Upper Dublin School District Maple Glen PA 19002
Upper St. Clair School District Upper St. Clair PA 15241-2304
Wallingford-Swarthmore School District Wallingford PA 19086
Warwick School District Lititz PA 17543-1814
West Allegheny School District Imperial PA 15126
West Chester Area School District Exton PA 19341-2850
Williamsport Area School District Williamsport PA 17701-4137
Wilson School District West Lawn PA 19609-1300
Woodland Hills School District North Braddock PA 15104-2418
Wyomissing Area School District Wyomissing PA 196
Yough School District Herminie PA 15637-1226

Best Communities for Music Education

East Hills Middle School Bethlehem PA 18017-2761
Lancaster Catholic High School Lancaster PA 17601-4360
Propel Schools – East Turtle Creek PA 15145-1652
Somerset Area Junior and Senior High Schools Somerset PA 15501-2565
St. Francis School Clearfield PA 16830-2206


PMEA Policy Playbook

In anticipation of a year that will require advocacy for music and arts education like we’ve never seen before, PMEA has issued the 2021 PMEA Policy Playbook. This guide is designed highlight the issues PMEA will advocate for in 2021.

Of course, we realize the changing environment will require advocacy and information efforts in other areas as well and we will react to those accordingly.

Download a PDF copy of the 2021 PMEA Policy Playbook

Governor Wolf Unveils Proposed 2021-22 State Budget

Governor Tom Wolf announced his 2021-22 budget proposal yesterday. The plan calls for $1.5 billion more dollars for education. Most of his proposed increase in funding would flow through the fair funding formula enacted five years ago. $1.35 billion of his proposal would be distributed as part of the basic education subsidy, which allows schools to use the money for primary operations.

The proposal would bring the total distributed through the basic education subsidy to $8.1 billion. This would provide a significant increase to schools. However, it’s important to remember this is only Wolf’s proposal.

To pay for this large increase in education funding as well as other proposed initiatives, Wolf is proposing an increase in the personal income tax. That increase would not impact all taxpayers based on the proposal. Some tax payers would end up paying less taxes while the highest earners would pay more. Wolf is also calling for other income generators in the budget, however the personal income tax increase would bring in the most money.

Opposition to the budget has already begun. Tax increases are unpopular – even if a portion of the population won’t actually pay more taxes. And, there is a provision in the Pennsylvania Constitution that does not allow unequal tax rates. Budget hearings will begin soon to discuss Wolf’s most ambitious proposal yet.

Federal Funds Available for Schools

In December 2020, as part of COVID-19 financial relief, Congress allocated more funds schools can use to address issues related to the pandemic – specifically learning loss. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Round II (ESSER II) can be used for a wide variety of activities.

You can find your school district or charter school’s preliminary allocation on PDE’s website.

We suggest you begin conversations now with your administrators on ways to use some of the ESSER II funds for your music programs. You may also want to inquire about the allocation of the first round of ESSER funds in case there is unallocated funds in your district or charter school.

Here is a list of possible ways you can use the ESSER finds. Keep in mind the goal of these funds is to address learning loss during the pandemic.

  • Paying for remediation in music education – in school or after school programming
  • A learning “camp” to address learning loss
  • Purchase of software that assists with in person, hybrid, or remote learning and assessment
  • Facility repairs and improvements including proper ventilation
  • Instrument sanitizing supplies
  • PPE for music classes – masks, bell covers, etc
  • Purchase or rental of instruments for students that are financially unable to obtain them
  • Purchase or rental of instruments that were typically shared by students but more are needed to avoid sharing
  • Professional development for music educators related to in-person learning in a safe way

Materials needed to set up a classroom with a physical distance between students (sheet music, music stands, media cart, etc.)