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.

Call to Action: Federal Funding Is Available NOW for Education

As part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (EESER) has been established providing over $13 billion to schools.  The ESSER allocates funds to states which are then allocated to school districts.  The funding can be used for any program that are already allowable under guidelines of other federal education programs.

School districts and charter schools in Pennsylvania can now apply for this funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. NOW is the time for you to talk to your administrators about ESSER funding and how you can use the funding for your music program.

Here are some questions to think about so you can ask for ESSER funding.

  • Are all of my music students receiving equitable access to instruction?
  • Are there plans for equitable instruction in the future?
  • What additional equipment does my program need to ensure music instruction?
  • What cleaning protocols are necessary to ensure the safety of music students? Do instruments need to be sent out for repair? Do you need to purchase extra reeds or mouthpieces for students?

As we have talked about when it came to ESSA, Title IV funding, you can do a needs assessment of your program to ensure you are asking for the correct use of funding.  What needs does your program have NOW to ensure students have and will continue to have access to music education?

Once you’ve determined those needs, have a conversation with your administrators AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and ask that you receive some of the ESSER funding.  Applications are now open for school districts and charter schools so time is critical to communication with your administrators so they can include music education in their use of funding.

View proposed allocations to school districts and charter schools on PDE’s website.

If you have any questions, contact us at advocacy@pmea.net and we’ll do our best to assist.

Advocacy Update: State Budget

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires the state to pass a budget by June 30th each year.  This year, the budget came in just under the wire and was signed into law in time to start the new fiscal year. The $34 billion budget is a nearly 4 percent increase from last year’s $32.7 billion budget with no increases in sales or income tax rates.

Here are some of the key highlights of the budget as they relate to education:

  • This budget provides $160 million more for basic education for a total of $6.2 billion.
  • $50 million more is allocated for special education.
  • Early intervention programs will see a $15 million increase.
  • An additional $7 million is provided for career and technical schools and $3 million more is allocated for related equipment grants.
  • $60 million for school security grants.
  • The four state-related universities, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and community colleges will see a 2 percent increase for a total of $1.3 billion.

PMEA had advocated for an increase of $225 million in the state’s basic education subsidy.  While the budget did not meet that target, we are thankful to the General Assembly for a $160 million increase.  That money will be distributed to school districts to be used in their local budgets and can be used to support music and arts programs.

Governor Wolf proposed a reduction in funding for the school safety program while PMEA advocacted for it to reamin at last year’s funding level.  The final budget does not reduce that amount and keeps it at last year’s funding level of $60 million.  Not only is that money useful for school safety initiatives, it allows school districts to use other monetary resources from the local, state, and federal level for other education expenses that they would have otherwise used for school safety.

PMEA also advocated for at least a $7 million-dollar increase to the State System of Higher Education schools to support the work they are doing to educate Pennsylvania’s future music educators.  The General Assembly exceeded that amount and provided over $9 million to the State System schools.  PMEA will continue to work with our members at State System schools to advocate for their programs.

2019 PMEA Music Education Advocacy Day Press Conference

PMEA held a press conference on April 29, 2019 celebrating Music In Our Schools Month and discussing PMEA’s 2019 policy asks.

Speakers Include:

  • Mark Despotakis, PMEA Advocacy Council Chair
  • Dr. John Bell, Superintendent – Delaware Valley School District, 2019 PMEA Outstanding Superintendent
  • Representative Eddie Day Pashinski
  • Hannah Brown, Student – United Senior High School
  • Kathy Melago, Associate Professor of Music Education – Slippery Rock University
  • Kalista Heidkamp, Sophomore Music Education major – Slippery Rock University
  • Tina Bennett, Music Teacher – Clarion-Limestone Area School District, PMEA President

Learn About PMEA’s 2019 Music Education Advocacy Day on April 29th


8:30 a.m. – PMEA Registration Table Open in Main Rotunda
9:00 a.m. – Advocacy Council Meeting (108 Irvis Office Building)
10:00 a.m. – Hollidaysburg Area High School Jazz Ensemble Performance (East Wing)
10:30 a.m. – PMEA News Conference – Main Rotunda
11:30 a.m. – Delaware Valley High School Performance (East Wing)
12:20 p.m. – Seeds of Faith Academy Performance (East Wing)

Thank you for planning to join us at the 2019 PMEA Advocacy Day in Harrisburg on April 29, 2019.  Your voice is valuable in our goal of making music and arts education a reality for every child in Pennsylvania.  Here are some important documents to help you in planning to join us at the state capitol in Harrisburg.

How To Request A Meeting, Logistical Information (4/23/19 Update) – Pease review this how to guide showing you how to request meetings with members of the Pennsylvania legislature, the advocacy day schedule and logistical information.

2019 PMEA Legislative Recommendations

2019 PMEA Legislative Recommendations With Talking Points

 What to Expect in a Legislative Meeting if You Are Dropping Off An Information Packet – Some quick information about what you might expect in a legislative meeting.

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.

Important Links

Harrisburg Parking Information – parkharrisburg.com

Harrisburg Weather – Accuweather.com

Harrisburg Dining – visitharrisburghershey.org

See Examples of How Pennsylvania Schools Used Federal Title IV Money for Music Education

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) became the nation’s education law in 2015, PMEA began notifying members about the new federal grant program under Title IV of ESSA – know as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.  Generally known as Title IV, this federal grant program is designed to provide equitable access to a well-rounded education to all students.Photo Courtesy: Rob Davidson Photography

The federal law defines a well-rounded education as including a list of subject areas including music and the arts.  That means music educators can access these funds to expand their programs.  We have provided a variety of resources on pmea.net explaining the program but also explaining how you can access the funds for the program.  Now that we’re through a full year of grant applications, we have some success stories of how Pennsylvania districts applied for Title IV funding and used that funding for music programs.  This is not a complete list but a sampling of ideas that could help you apply for and use these funds for your program.

Remember, when you are applying for funds, you are required to do a needs assessment of your program (as simple as looking at your district wide program and identifying deficiencies), and then work with your administration and apply for funding for a specific item or project that would provide access and opportunity to music for students in your school.

Here are some of the success stories we heard in Pennsylvania that were funded by federal Title IV dollars in the last year:

  • A band and drama camp workshop.  This school hired a new band director and felt adding this supplemental camp would be beneficial for the students and the new director to begin the marching band season.  The drama workshop allowed for additional drama skills.  Prior to the workshop, the only drama skills were those taught for specific roles in the high school musical production.  This workshop was supplemental and provided extra drama learning.
  • Additional equipment for the band and chorus program. The school districts music program has been growing and some schools were teaching without proper equipment to allow the program to continue to grow and provided a well-rounded music education.  Equipment was purchased and used to fill the gaps in schools where there was a deficiency in adequate equipment for all students.  By presenting an argument that all students were not receiving equitable access to a proper music education, the district was able to use the federal Title IV money for equipment at specific schools.
  • A new piano. One district showed the need for a piano that would benefit students in the band, chorus, and orchestra program.  By showing that having a piano would benefit many students and that it was supplemental to the regular budget in the school district, the music department was able to justify the use of Title IV funds for a new piano.
  • A pilot theater program with a community theatre. A program between a community theatre and a second-grade glass was designed to introduce the second graders to theatrical performances as well as audience behavior and expectations.
  • A variety of things. One district used a part of their Title IV funding for the music program but decided to use that part on a variety of things.  In addition to purchasing supplies, they funded arts teachers attending workshops during in service days.  In one particular district, in addition to professional development, they realized a need for an additional genre of music that wasn’t initially budgeted for and if one building covered the cost with current funds and another didn’t, then a case was made to use Title IV funds to make sure the course was offered equitably across all schools.

You can tell that some of these examples range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.  Each district receives a different allocation based on a formula.  And districts have the option on how they spend this money and are able to split up their allocation in a variety of areas.

As a music educator, you can take the first step and begin conversations with the rest of your music department to discuss where you find need for supplemental items, activities or experiences.  Once you do that, you should have conversations with your administrators – especially those handling federal funding in your district – about how to access federal funds.

Remember, even if you don’t receive these federal dollars for your program, simply by doing your homework, you may present a compelling enough case that your district will fit your request into their regular budget allocations.