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.

Yes! You Can Get Federal Stimulus Money for Music Education in Pennsylvania

In April 2021, PMEA presented this webinar detailing how music educators can receive federal funding for music education in Pennsylvania.

In the past 12 months, there has been an unprecedented amount of money the federal government has provided to schools (like once in a lifetime amount of money!) Much of this money comes with very few limitations and can easily be accessed for music education programs. You simply must ASK FOR THE MONEY!

We’ll show you how easy it is to access this money and how you can put it to use in your music programs. The money is there – you simply have to take advantage of it! PMEA’s Director of Public and Government Affairs Mark Despotakis is joined by PMEA’s 2020 Outstanding Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Ralston from the Avonworth School District and Dr. Dorie Martin-Pitone from the Marple-Newtown School District who will give us the insiders views on how to access and use these funds.

For more detailed information, you can view NAfME’s ESSER funding toolkit.

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 www.nammfoundation.org

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.)

12/11/20 State Gathering Guidance Clarification

1/4/21 UPDATE: Governor Wolf has allowed this guidance to expire.
We want to provide you with a brief update about the new state guidance that Governor Wolf announced Thursday afternoon.
In the New Guidance, extracurricular activities including music are specifically mentioned. The new guidance takes effect Saturday (Dec. 12) and ends Monday, January 4, 2021.
In-Person Extracurricular School Activities
  • Voluntary activities sponsored or approved by a school entity’s governing body or administration are suspended, however these extracurricular activities may be held virtually. This includes, but is not limited to, attendance at or participation in activities such musical ensembles, school plays, student council, clubs and school dances.
We interpret this guidance to mean only activities held outside of the school day. If you are meeting in person in some way during the school day, then you can continue to do that in a safe way. Rehearsals and other events happening outside of the school day are what we interpret as being subject to this new guidance. We encourage you to discuss any specific concerns with your administration. Of note is that school sports have also been paused.
PMEA has been in conversations with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to include music making guidance from the state as we move into 2021. Our hope is to have that guidance come from the state to place emphasis on the ability to safely make music. We will keep you updated on that process.
If you have any questions or concerns, please email advocacy@pmea.net

Learn about PMEA’s Virtual Advocacy Day

Thank you for participating virtually with us for the 2020 PMEA Advocacy Day in Harrisburg on June 8, 2020.  Your voice is valuable in our goal of making music and arts education a reality for every child in Pennsylvania.

2020 PMEA Legislative Recommendations

Pennsylvania Public School Funding History – A history of education funding in Pennsylvania put together by the Education Law Center.

Pennsylvania Arts Education in Public Schools – A review of arts education requirements in Pennsylvania put together by David Deitz.

PA Passes Budget Level Funding Schools One Month Before Budget Deadline

On Friday May 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year that begins July 1st.  A large piece of the budget is short-term and funds government operations through November.  That was done for a variety of reasons but mainly because the state won’t fully know what deficit will be in place as income has slowed with the state allowing taxes that would normally have been due April 15th to be due July 15th.

Most noteworthy to PMEA members is that the budget does fund K-12 and higher education for the entire 2020-21 school year.  This is a major victory for schools as it provides school guidance on the amount of funding they will receive from the state before their local budgets are due on June 30th.  Education funding in the budget is level funded at the 2019-20 budget year levels.  This is another major victory and one of PMEA’s legislative asks.  With the current state of the economy, the commitment from the state to education is extremely noteworthy.  Other states are already calling to cut billions of dollars from the education budgets.  For Pennsylvania to maintain education funding in current times is extraordinary.

This does not mean our advocacy work is over.  School districts will still have to make tough decisions as they determine local tax revenues and how that relates to their state and federal funding, and their reserve funds.  It is important that you monitor your school district’s budget situation over the next month.

On June 8th, during PMEA’s Virtual Advocacy Day, we will ask you to join us in thanking members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly for putting education first and providing predictability and funding to school districts as we enter the 2020-21 budget and school years.

Here are some other important budget highlights:

The $25 billion General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 allows the state to provide immediate funding for necessary programs in Pennsylvania while allowing time for the state to assess and manage the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the course of the next year. PMEA applauds the General Assembly for their work to pass this budget which provides much needed assurances to school districts so they can plan for the 2020-21 school year.

The General Assembly also took action on budget-related bills amending the Fiscal and School codes, which are the companion bills to the budget that explain how budget monies are to be spent.

The basic education subsidy is funded at $6.74 billion and the special education subsidy at $1.186 billion. The Ready to Learn Block Grant remains at $268 million, career and technical education at $99 million, and $5.5 million for career and technical education grants.

Click here to see the district-by-district subsidies provided by PSBA for basic and special education and estimated Ready to Learn Block Grant, and School Safety and Security eligibility amounts

On note of interest to school districts is language authorizing transfer of up to $300 million in federal funding from the CARES Act to the state Property Tax Relief Fund (under Act 1 of 2006), which is normally funded by state gaming revenues, enabling the state to restore up to $621 million to provide property tax relief to homestead and farmstead properties.

With state gaming revenues down due to the pandemic, the certification was revised in May at just $400 million, significantly less than had previously certified in April. A reduction in available gaming revenues for homestead/farmstead property tax credits would have decreased the amount of those credits and resulted in increased property tax bills for millions of Pennsylvania homeowners. By using federal funds to supplement the Property Tax Relief Fund, this unintended consequence of the pandemic can be avoided.
Minimum number of school days — Provides that beginning with the 2020-21 school year, the 180-day minimum required number of school days shall apply even during a disaster declaration issued by the governor.
School Health and Safety Grants: The budget provides a significant boost to schools for school safety and mental health initiatives. A combined $215 million is allocated for the grants under different bills, with the bulk of the funding coming from the $2.6 billion that Pennsylvania received under the federal CARES Act.

The School Code bill, allows the School Safety and Security Committee to provide for 2020-21 COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School Health and Safety Grants.  The funding provided to school districts can be used for:

  • Purchasing of cleaning and sanitizing products that meet Center for Disease Control (CDC) or Department of Health criteria;
  • Training and professional development of staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious disease;
  • Purchase of equipment, including personal protective equipment, thermometers, infrared cameras and other necessary items;
  • Modification of existing areas to effectuate appropriate social distancing to ensure the health and safety of students and staff;
  • Providing mental health services and supports, including trauma-informed education programs for students impacted by the COVID-19 disaster declaration;
  • Purchasing education technology for distance learning to ensure the continuity of education; and,
  • Other health and safety programs, items or services necessary to address the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

The committee must allocate grants to each school entity that applies on or before July 15, 2020. Each school district will receive a minimum of $120,000 and each intermediate unit, career and technical center, charter school, regional charter school and cyber charter school receives $90,000. Any funds remaining after these minimum distributions will be distributed to school districts pro rata based on the districts’ 2018-19 average daily membership. The bill also outlines provisions concerning applications and audit and monitoring and stipulates that these grants need not be included when school districts calculate the amount to be paid to charter schools.

House Bill 1210 also provides $7.5 million for grants to be targeted to nonpublic schools by allowing intermediate units to make applications to the School Safety and Security Committee on behalf of nonpublic schools within the IU. The committee must allocate grants to IUs on behalf of nonpublic schools that make applications for grants by August 1, 2020. Each grant will be limited to no more than $10,000. In addition, House Bill 1210 provides $7.5 million in grants to be distributed from the School Safety and Security Fund by the School Safety and Security Committee for programs to reduce community violence.