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American Rescue Plan provides historic school funding

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11, authorizing unprecedented federal investments in K-12 and higher education, support for state and local governments, and programs that will slash child poverty for children under 18 by nearly 50 percent.

The single largest federal investment ever in public education, the historic aid package includes $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges and universities, with $6.46 billion of those funds earmarked for Pennsylvania.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

In the fall of 2020, PSEA established a Task Force on Racial Justice and Equity in PSEA (Task Force) charged with:

1) Developing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Statement for the Board’s consideration, and;

2) Overseeing an equity assessment of PSEA’s organizational operations, policies, and practices. The first step – the development and adoption of a DEI Statement - is foundational for ensuring PSEA’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion are realized in our culture, practices, and policies.

PSEA's Center For Professional Learning

  • Webinars
  • Book Discussions
  • Wellness Events
  • Micro-credentials and other online learning portals

Keep up-to-date on all of the ways PSEA is prepared to meet your professional learning needs.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

Our schools and communities are all focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. 

PSEA, federal, and state officials have created a number of resources aimed at educating members and the public about the virus and advising Pennsylvanians about how we can prevent it from spreading.

Stay Connected

Keeping Connected is an e-newsletter for PSEA members to stay informed during the COVID-19 coronavirus school closures. In each issue, you'll receive the latest legislative and policy updates from your association, helpful links, and inspiring stories of educators going above and beyond to make the best of an extraordinarily difficult time.

Rich's Notebook is a blog intended to periodically update PSEA members on what is on the PSEA President's mind. In each post, you'll read about Rich's priorities, his thoughts on important topics, or inspiring stories of educators going above and beyond.

Latest post: School districts across PA will be making big decisions soon about what school will look like post-pandemic — and PSEA members must have a seat at that table.

Over the next couple of years, K-12 schools in Pennsylvania will have nearly $5 billion in federal resources through the American Rescue Plan that must be spent to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dee Scales, the 2021 ESP of the Year!

There’s no better time than American Education Week to celebrate our hardworking ESP members. And none more deserving of recognition than Dee Scales, the 2021 Dolores McCracken PSEA Education Support Professional of the Year.

“I am honored to receive this recognition,” Scales said. “It means a lot because support professionals do a lot of work, not only within our schools but in our communities, as well. Many support professionals live in the communities where they work so they have a great rapport not just with students but with students’ families, too.”

Scales has worked as a paraprofessional in the Woodland Hills School District for the past 26 years, including working with students having special needs in life skills, learning support, and emotional support classrooms. She currently works with students in an emotional support classroom in the Dickson Preparatory STEAM Academy.

Colleagues praised Scales’ dedication and ability to draw out the very best in her students.

Dee on a recent episode of PA Newsmakers explaining the roles of paraprofessionals and support staff in schools.

Central Bucks member named 2021 School Psychologist of the Year

Congratulations to Central Bucks School District member Julia Szarko for being named the 2021 School Psychologist of the Year at both the state and national levels. Throughout her 25-year career, Szarko has been a strong advocate for her students. She has worked tirelessly to meet students’ individual academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs and push for improvements across the school system. She’s even taken her advocacy work to Congress.

This week is typically when members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) head to Washington DC for “DC Hill Day,” a week of advocacy training and Hill meetings with lawmakers. This year it's being held virtually, but that hasn’t slowed down Szarko. 

“I’ve been very focused on, for a long time, expanding access to school mental health services,” Szarko said. “Also we are facing a huge national shortage of school psychologists. So our big advocacy focus is remedying the shortages.”

Szarko has been working with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick to encourage passage of HR 4025, the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act of 2019, which was reintroduced this year. 

“That is a bill that would provide a funding stream for students going into school psychology and school mental health field,” Szarko said. “So it’s something where the federal government would match with the graduate institution’s direct funding towards tuition. We’re one of the states with the most school psychology programs,” she said. “So we could obtain a good number of students receiving funding through this bill if we can get it passed.”

Senate Bill 1

The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 733.

Senate Bill 1 is sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin that would divert huge amounts of taxpayer dollars from Pennsylvania’s public schools every year to spend on private school programs, tax breaks for businesses, and a massive expansion of charter schools.

Senate Bill 733 is the latest attempt to establish a tuition voucher program in Pennsylvania and could easily cost school districts almost $600 million. Read a letter from Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers.

“We are extremely disappointed that so many education committee members want to take hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools where 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s students learn,” PSEA President Rich Askey said. “Members of the education committee should be helping public schools, particularly on the heels of the challenges students and educators have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sen. Scott Martin’s bill could be the largest transfer of taxpayer dollars out of public schools in Pennsylvania’s history — and just about the worst attack on public education we’ve ever seen.

“At a time when educators and communities across Pennsylvania are talking about the need for greater accountability for charter schools, this bill will bypass local decisionmakers and throw what little accountability there is out the window.”

Contact your state senator TODAY

School staff program vaccinates 112,000 in four weeks

Thanks to PSEA members’ advocacy and persistence, Pennsylvania’s school staff vaccine program vaccinated more than 112,000 school employees in March.

Vaccinating 112,000 people in less than four weeks is a tremendous success, and a turning point in this pandemic. We are so pleased that Gov. Wolf and the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force recognized how essential school staff members are.

PA House Passes Bill to address substitute teacher shortage

Recognizing the need to address the substitute teacher shortage, the state House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation to give schools more flexibility in hiring day-to-day substitutes.

House Bill 412, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Gleim, would:

  • Allow people with inactive certificates to serve as substitute teachers for up to 180 days, rather than the current limit of 90 days;
  • Allow substitutes with day-to-day permits to serve more easily in schools; and
  • Extend the authorization for prospective educators enrolled in teacher preparation programs to serve as day-to-day substitute teachers.

The bill, which now goes to the state Senate, is a significant step toward ensuring that schools have access to substitute teachers when they need them. It also recognizes that there is a serious teacher shortage in Pennsylvania.

American Rescue Plan provides $6.5 billion to Pennsylvania schools

The landmark American Rescue Plan, which Congress approved during the week of March 8, will direct $6.5 billion in much-needed federal funding to Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools, helping schools to hire more educators and support professionals and reduce health risks in school buildings.

“The American Rescue Plan provides dedicated education funding that will help schools make in-person instruction as safe as it can be,” PSEA President Rich Askey said. “This funding will support efforts to modify school buildings to better accommodate social distancing and improve ventilation, furnish personal protective equipment to employees, and intensify support and instruction for students who have experienced delayed learning.

“We know that there is a lot of work to do, and these resources will help educators and support staff address the academic, mental health, and emotional support needs of our students going forward.”

The new law, which will allocate more than $130 billion to K-12 schools across the nation, will give schools the resources to reduce health risks and keep students and educators safe. The plan also makes extraordinary investments that will lift countless children and families out of poverty. Funds can be used to:

  • Hire more teachers, support professionals, custodians, nurses, and counselors:
  • Implement safety protocols and acquire PPE;
  • Improve ventilation and HVAC systems;
  • Help students deal with lost opportunities to learn they’ve endured this past year;
  • Put devices and the internet in the hands of students who have been locked out of online learning; and
  • Feed hungry students and provide assistance for homeless students.

Now that Congress has passed the American Rescue Plan, state and local leaders must work to get all students the support and resources they need and ensure schools have the tools needed to meet CDC guidelines and keep our students, educators, and schools safe.

School staff vaccine program is a huge success

The vaccination program for school staff members that PSEA has advocated for is going extremely well.

As of March 22, nearly 100,000 school staff members have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at intermediate units across the state. By early April, we expect that every school staff member who wants the vaccine will get it - a major step toward getting all of our schools open for in-person instruction. 

School staff members are essential. And the vaccination program for school staff members recognizes that.

NPR/Ipsos Poll

An NPR/Ipsos poll found that more than three-quarters of parents gave their children’s schools high marks for dealing with the challenges of educating students during the COVID-19 pandemic, even while they acknowledge that education has been disrupted.

The poll indicated that 79 percent of parents believed that “my child’s school has handled the pandemic well” and that 82 percent found that schools had communicated clearly with them during the school year.

In addition, 62 percent of parents acknowledged that their children’s education had been disrupted during the pandemic and that four of five parents favored extra, targeted services to help their students catch up.

School social worker creates donation room

The students and families of Mill Creek Elementary School in Bristol Township School District can now get their basic needs met year-round thanks to school social worker Joy Stickney-McDonald’s creation of a dedicated community resource room.

What began as an annual outreach project to help distribute gas and food around the holidays crystalized into something more substantial and permanent following a recent tragedy.

“When we returned from the holiday break in January, we actually had a family that had a house fire,” Stickney-McDonald said. “So we came together as a school and contributed financially. And some people also donated some clothes that were gently used and other items.”

Wouldn’t it be better, she thought, if the school had a dedicated room of resources – things like non-perishable food, clothing, hygiene items – that if there was a student or family in need, they could quickly get them those resources instead of waiting for donations?

Shaler Area SD counselor named top in the state

The pandemic has put an acute focus on mental health, especially for our students. And it’s made the work of our school counselors and psychologists that much more vital. Lezlie DelVecchio-Marks – a member in the Shaler Area School District – was recently recognized as the Pennsylvania School Counselor of the Year by the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association (PSCA).

DelVecchio-Marks has been a counselor for 19 years and worked in the district for the past 14. She currently splits her time between Burchfield Primary and Reserve Primary Schools and has made it her mission with these young students to reinforce notions of kindness, tolerance, self-esteem, and positive body image through a number of schoolwide programs like No Makeup Day (for staff), No Name-Calling Week, Girls Rock, and more. She even hosts schoolwide “Showcase Night” theatrical performances – including a virtual performance this year – that serve to reinforce these themes throughout the school community.

We caught up with DelVecchio-Marks to talk about her experience over the past year for the March 2021 issue of The VOICE. 

Delegates to the National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA) have elected Becky Pringle of PA as the association’s president.

Originally from Philadelphia, Pringle is a middle school science teacher on leave from the Susquehanna School District in Dauphin County. She currently serves as vice president of NEA and previously served as secretary treasurer.

“Becky has long been a force for positive change here in Pennsylvania and on the national stage,” PSEA President Rich Askey said. “She is a devoted advocate for social and racial justice, a powerful voice for American educators and support professionals and the students we serve, and a valued friend and respected colleague."

“On behalf of PSEA’s 180,000 members, I congratulate Becky and look forward to continuing to work with her to transform the education professions and improve student learning.”

#ICYMI: Remote Instruction

Did you miss the terrific webinars we offered through PSEA’s Summer Learning Series?

If you did, you can still check them out. We recorded all our remote instruction webinars, and you can view them at your convenience and receive Act 48 or Chapter 14 credit at the link below.

PSEA Vice President Aaron Chapin Rallies to Raise the Minimum Wage

PSEA Vice President Aaron Chapin joined a host of lawmakers, community members, and activists from across the state at a capitol rally on September 17 to demand an increase in the state's minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.  The event, hosted by We The People Campaign, was an opportunity to emphasize the importance of this initiative to PSEA members, their families, and to all of Pennsylvania.
PSEA continues to work closely with Gov. Wolf and other lawmakers on this important issue, which directly affects a number of support professionals in our public schools. It remains a top priority for our organization going into this new legislative session.

In new poll, large majorities of PA voters view public schools, teachers favorably

Nearly two-thirds of registered Pennsylvania voters expressed satisfaction with the public schools in their communities, and more than 7 in 10 have positive impressions of teachers, according to a poll conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research for PSEA and other organizations.

Poll respondents were also more likely to support raising the state’s minimum teacher salary after hearing that Pennsylvania has licensed far fewer new teachers annually in recent years and that raising the minimum salary will allow public schools to recruit and retain the teachers Pennsylvania needs.

Threat Assessment Legislation

In addition to providing continued school safety grant funding in the state budget, policymakers adopted some important school safety initiatives in a separate school code bill. One of these intiatives requires public schools to establish threat assessment teams to assess and prevent violence before it starts.

Establishing threat assessment teams was among the recommendations included in PSEA’s 2018 report “Safe Havens of Learning: PSEA policy recommendations to enhance safety in PA schools.” Read the full report at

“These measures will definitely make a difference in our schools,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “We encourage lawmakers to continue the good work they’ve done on school safety initiatives and send these bills to the governor’s desk.”

Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians favor raising minimum teacher salary, poll finds

Raising the minimum teacher salary will help Pennsylvania school districts attract and retain the best and brightest to teach in our schools and change the lives of students. Pennsylvanians understand that and support a proposal to raise the minimum teacher salary in Pennsylvania from $18,500 to $45,000 per year.

Two-thirds of likely voters in Pennsylvania favor the minimum salary raise and nearly half of respondents “strongly favor” the measure, according to a poll conducted by Harper Polling for PSEA.

View the Feb. 21 memo from Harper Polling.

Show PSEA pride. Save money. Get the PSEA Visa card

PSEA members can now get cash back and earn rewards on every purchase with the PSEA Signature Visa card.

In our Locals

Learning Lessons: VR in the classroom

Flexible teacher remakes classroom

Putting food in hungry young stomachs

Mifflin County educators aid homeless students

Five things I know for sure about teaching

Issues & Action