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March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars

march 2021 printable monthly calendars

Happy MARCH 2021 friends! I have another freebie for you today, it’s time for my monthly printable calendars! Download the March 2021 FREE Printable Calendars here and add a little fun into your homeschool day. 

mar2021calendar coah2
March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars 6

For kiddos who need more handwriting and number writing practice, I’ve created a traceable version where they can practice number formation and counting.

I’ve also created one with numbers already printed for students not ready for handwriting, or for students who already know how to write numbers well.

To use the traceable calendar: Have students use a marker or pencil to trace each number, then have student count up to today’s number.

To use the dot calendar: Have students a bingo dabber or small stickers to mark each day as it passes. Have students start back at one and count up to today’s number for counting practice. If they’re ready you might also encourage them to count only odd or even numbers.

Alternate advanced ideas:

Have students create a pattern as they write/mark their dates!

For example write odd numbers in red and even numbers in blue (ABA pattern). For more advanced patterns, use multiple colors to create more patterns.

You can also use stickers to create patterns, for example on day 1 put a star sticker, day 2 a smiley face, day 3 a star, and so on. See below for more pattern ideas.

mar2021calendar coah1
March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars 7

Here are a few patterns you can encourage your kiddos to use when working with daily calendars:

  • AAB (i.e.: red, red, blue)
  • ABBA (i.e.: red, blue, blue, red)
  • ABAB (i.e.: red, blue, red, blue)
  • ABC (i.e.: red, blue, green)

There are lots of ways to create patterns, so feel free to get creative with your calendars!

Weather: I’ve also included a small weather graph at the bottom of the monthly calendar as well. Have students either color one square or put an “x” in one square for the appropriate weather each day. At the end of the month compare each weather type to see which type of weather was most/least common.

–>> Download the March 2021 Printable Calendar pages here!

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you enjoy these monthly calendars and that they make your homeschool days a little more fun and engaging!

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10 Tips for Making Dinner Easier for Busy Moms

10 tips for making dinner easier for busy moms

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Written by LeAnne Varenkamp of Dream Dinners – The Original Meal Kit Company

Yesterday, was one of those days. Laundry on the couch for the second (or third…) day, a sick toddler, trying to help with high school algebra… Add in the ongoing effects of the seemingly never-ending pandemic, and I pretty much felt like I wasn’t getting anything accomplished! Then, I snapped at my fourth grader. I was feeling “mom guilt” all the way.

So I needed to stop, take a breath, and remind myself about what’s important. As a homeschool mom with eight kids, I believe it is more important to be a parent and to connect with my children rather than get everything on my to-do list done.

Dream Dinners Family Pic

Our job is to guide our children on their journey to becoming adults and to teach them how to navigate life when it doesn’t go as expected. We don’t get to choose our circumstances, but we do choose how to manage them.

Right now, we may see our kids all day long, yet we still need to pause and connect as a family, remembering who we are as a family unit. The family dinner is the perfect place to do that. There is something special about sharing a meal. It’s where everyone belongs and participates. It’s where we find joy.

Getting the family together at the same time and getting a meal on the table can be challenging in the best of times, let alone right now. As the owner of a Dream Dinners meal kit franchise, I’ve learned a great deal over the years about the importance of family meals. I’ve also picked up a lot of tips on how to make meals easier and more enjoyable to prepare.

Dream Dinners Meal

Here are 10 tips to help you through the pandemic and in the future.

  1. Prioritize family mealtimes. Choose the ideal number of weekly family meals that makes sense for your family. Every family is different. The important thing is that you are being intentional. If work and school schedules make dinners hard, have family breakfasts or lunches.
  2. Avoid “food court chaos” and the temptation to make multiple dishes to keep everyone happy. Teach your kids to be concerned about others, not themselves. Each meal may not be their favorite, but they need to learn they don’t always get what they want. This also helps reduce “picky eater” problems.
  3. Engage the entire family in creating the menu and preparing the meal. As moms, we’re teachers and trainers, not servants. Involving the kids in the whole process, even budgeting, teaches them life skills. Start by having them with you in the kitchen during pre-school. At first, they help, but use the opportunity to train them. Soon enough, they can take the lead. With practice, junior high schoolers can make dinner on their own.
  4. Fix and freeze dinners in advance. Dream Dinners pioneered the fix-and-freeze meal kit concept nearly 20 years ago. Customers visit one of Dream Dinners’ 70 local kitchens where in about an hour they prepare a month of meal kits that are then frozen. (Due to COVID restrictions, kits currently are being made for customers by Dream Dinners’ staff and picked up or delivered.) You can use the same process to save a huge amount of time, especially if you involve the kids in the prep. Once they are old enough, they can thaw and cook the meals themselves.
  5. Coordinate meals with unit studies, especially unit studies covering history, world cultures, math, and life skills. For example, when studying the history and culture of Italy, create different meals from each region of the country. And look for meals with lots of measurements when your children are learning about fractions.
  6. Make meals fun! Eating breakfast foods for dinner while dressed in PJs or creating theme dinners complete with costumes and table decorations are great examples of turning mealtime into an enjoyable event.
  7. Enforce a “no device rule.” The average American right now is streaming eight hours of media content every day! In our house, all devices have to go into a basket and be turned off before everyone sits down. This way, everyone is fully present, and we are not allowing our devices to control us.
  8. Master the art of table talk. Good conversation begins not with speaking but with listening. The key to connecting with your kids is empathy. Work at eliciting their feelings. Show you care, and the conversation will flow.
  9. Curb the conflict. Choose your battles, focusing on what’s really important while avoiding defensiveness. Be respectful of your kids, no matter their ages, and encourage them to do the same. Teach them the power of saying, “I’m sorry,” and don’t be afraid to apologize yourself. Last, set – and enforce – a no yelling policy.
  10. Instill manners. Teaching kids to behave well is one of our most important – and difficult – challenges, especially at the end of a long day when we’re tired. Dinnertime, nonetheless, is a great time to reinforce kindness and respect and demonstrate good manners. A few suggestions: set limits on acceptable conversation topics and establish house rules, such as washing hands before dinner and asking to be excused before leaving.

Homeschooling is all about teaching children to run on their own batteries. Too often, moms try to do it all when we should be teaching kids how to be self-sufficient and how to contribute to family life. Involving them in dinner, from planning through clean-up, is a wonderful way to accomplish this. It also creates opportunities for older children to grow by guiding younger siblings through the meal preparation process.

Perhaps even more important is the role dinner plays in building up each family member and helping each one find a place of belonging and security, especially during such a difficult time.

I strongly recommend The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal, co-authored by my dear friend Tina Kuna, who founded Dream Dinners with Stephanie Allen. It’s available here on Amazon.

Stay well and bon appétit!

Dream Dinners author infoHi, I’m LeAnne Varenkamp! I’m married to my kindergarten sweetheart, and I am mom to eight awesome kids. I also work outside the home for a great company whose mission is to help families gather around the dinner table. As a family, we have a heart for community and serving others, and we are always on the lookout for ways to encourage people to thrive. Right now, our homeschooling adventure includes restoring our 100+ year old farmhouse. For more information about Dream Dinners, please visit my website.

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Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

why unit studies are ideal for gifted learners

When my daughter finds a topic she loves she latches on like a dog to a bone. She wants more and can’t seem to get enough. Maybe you can relate? This is where unit studies come in.

Unit studies are the perfect way to engage an intense kiddo.

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

When we began homeschooling I tried to rush through her interests to get back to my homeschool plans. I never stopped to realize the damage I was doing by squashing her curiosity. I slowly saw her love for learning fading a little more each day. 

One day, that little girl looked at me with so much passion in her eyes I thought they would burst and said, “Mom, wouldn’t it be fun to do school with Jack and Annie?”. Jack and Annie are characters from the Magic Tree House book series. They were her favorite books and had become friends to her through their stories.

I immediately dismissed her like I always do. But later I started thinking about the passionate look in her eyes and how quickly it faded upon my dismissal. So, I did what any mom would do. I reread all of the books and wrote out a plan. A plan that would allow us to study the Magic Tree House books as unit studies.

I will never forget the joy she had when I told her that for first grade we would be doing Jack and Annie school. I had reignited her love for learning.

Related: 8 Ways To Foster A Love of Learning In Your Children

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

 

Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

The following school year we did nothing but unit studies. We studied things like dinosaurs, medieval times, Ancient Egypt, pirates, and more. I could have never planned the rabbit trails we went down or the immense learning that took place. It was at that moment that I realized unit studies were the perfect way to homeschool her.

In the years that followed unit studies became our main form of learning. Unit studies focus on topics or themes my daughter is truly interested in. That way, she is more likely to remember the things she learns. It’s also a great way to satisfy her desire to know all the things on a specific topic.

This has made such a significant difference in her learning. It really is an ideal way to support a gifted learner. 

So, what does this really look like in our day to day homeschooling?

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

 

My first step is always a plan. Some of them are much more involved than others, but my unit study plans usually follow the same basic process. 

How To Plan A Unit Study

Choose a Topic

I think it’s really important to focus on my child’s interests if at all possible. However, I think you can also pick something relevant such as a field trip you know you have coming up or maybe a holiday. 

Search Your Home

Collect all the things you already have that match the topic or theme of your study. I usually walk around my house searching for applicable resources such as books, games, hands-on activities, and manipulatives.

Don’t Forget Technology

Search all of your streaming services (Curiosity Stream, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+) for documentaries that would compliment the topic you are studying about. Make a YouTube playlist. And look in the app store for a new app too. 

Getting it All Done

I like to place all of my unit study materials in a basket or bin and let my daughter pick and choose. I mean it is her education she should have some say in it. And because I am the one gathering the material I know it is all appropriate. 

I know chances are we won’t get to everything I have planned for us to do. But, that’s okay! We just work through the materials answering all of her questions and diving in as deep as she wants. When she is ready to move on, we do.

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

 

The Incredible Advantages of Unit Studies

Love of Learning

Unit studies help an intense child love learning. Especially if you choose a topic they are interested in. It is like saying that you hear them and value their opinions and interests. You are helping them learn about things they love and in return they develop a love for learning in general.

Relationship

The frustration that came when I tried to force my plans was ruining our relationship. Many times our homeschool days ended in tears. Since incorporating unit studies as our main method of homeschooling the tears happen less frequently. That has allowed our relationship to flourish. Our relationship has taken such a big turn that she now knows she can say “Hey Mom, let’s spend a year at Hogwarts” and I will totally oblige!

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

Beautiful, Engaging Unit Studies To Save You Time

A Note From Colleen:

Isn’t Jessica an absolute natural in creating this type of learning? We have been using her unit studies off and on over the years and I am constantly amazed at what she comes up with and the professionalism of her products. 

She is a true friend in writing this for me here at Raising Lifelong Learners, but I also want to make sure you know that she is THE SOURCE for beautiful engaging unit studies on her own site, The Waldock Way. 

Jessica Waldock is a writer, photographer, and homeschool mom of one living in sunny Florida. She founded The Waldock Way as a way to give back to the homeschool community that she loves so much. At The Waldock Way Jessica shares tips, tricks, inspiration, and unique resources that help ignite a love of learning in children that will last a lifetime. She inspires families to engage in homeschooling as a lifestyle where relationships come first and interested led learning prevails. Jessica also has a fabulous collection of unit studies on her website and shares generously on her YouTube channel.

unit studies for gifted kids

You can find Jessica and The Waldock Way online at all the following sites:

Blog: www.thewaldockway.com
YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/thewaldockway
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thewaldockway
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thewaldockway

Take a look at all she has to offer. I know you will be as impressed as I am! ~ Colleen

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How Districts Plan to Address Pandemic ‘Learning Loss’ in the Coming Year

how districts plan to address pandemic learning loss in the coming year
Illustration of a brain made up of gears.

An EdWeek Market Brief survey asked district officials what kinds of strategies they anticipate using to take on student academic losses during the pandemic — the so-called “COVID slide.”

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The E-Rate Program: Three Pivotal Issues for Education Companies

the e rate program three pivotal issues for education companies
market trends 02242021 960517256 02 02

Many school systems applying for E-rate funding this year are focused on a new set of needs, and their shifting priorities have implications for ed-tech companies.

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100 Hints That Your Child May Be Gifted

100 hints that your child may be gifted

Admit it, you’ve thought about it. You see your precious little one handling blocks with expert dexterity. Your heart swells as they garble through their ABCs. Your pride and joy is walking already or handles math problems with ease and you wonder, Could my child be gifted?

Maybe.

There is a growing community of support for gifted children, but still a lot of murky information about how to actually tell if your child is gifted. ~Raising Lifelong Learners #gifted

There is a growing community of support for the families of gifted children, but still a lot of murky information about how to actually tell if your child is gifted. I remember when my oldest was still a toddler, I was reading a popular parenting magazine and came across a one-page article discussing giftedness in children. Intrigued and convinced that my precious firstborn was obviously a genius, I began comparing him to the checklist they provided… and promptly discovered that he didn’t match a single criteria. Oh well, I thought. I wouldn’t know what to do with a genius. He’s fine how he is.

Years later, surprise! Not only is he gifted, but so is his brother… and his sister. It took a teacher telling us that they were likely gifted – and multiple test results – to convince me. As we began to learn more about what it meant to be gifted, hindsight became more and more clear. The signs were always there, I’d just been wholly misinformed as to what they were!

100 Hints That Your Child May Be Gifted

Here you’ll find 100 real-life and classic hints that your child may be gifted. Since gifted kids are as unique from one another as they are from the general population, not every one of these will be true for every gifted child, and there will definitely be anecdotes experienced by gifted families that aren’t mentioned here. But in general, you may very well have a gifted child on your hands if:

  1. The word “intensity” drums up your child’s image. Intensity is the hallmark of gifted children. Intense feelings, intense reactions, intense drive. Intensity is the word when it comes to gifted kids.

  2. Your child learned to read at an early age, or

  3. they taught themselves how to read.

  4. The questions never, ever stop.

  5. She often seems wise beyond her years, but

  6. sometimes she can seem to behave younger than her actual age, especially when it comes to social and emotional issues.

  7. He experiences fears that children his age don’t.

  8. They are aware of their own mortality.

  9. He sleeps less than other children. Less than the parenting articles say he needs. Less than you need to maintain your sanity.

  10. He takes hours to fall asleep – often because he can’t “turn his brain off”.

  11. She can draw inferences from data, evidence, or Sesame Street.

  12. She can grasp metaphors at a young age.

  13. He can understand and appreciate sarcasm.

  14. He is sarcastic.

  15. She isn’t content to simply absorb information and often asks “why?” what she’s learning is important

  16. They experience anxiety.

  17. He is able to grasp concepts quickly.

  18. She is observant.

  19. He has a large, diverse vocabulary.

  20. She does well in math and can easily apply mathematical concepts to new challenges.

  21. He can’t learn enough. His desire to investigate and ask questions and immerse himself in a subject is insatiable.

  22. She has a rich, vivid, active imagination.

  23. They make up their own elaborate rules to games… or even make up their own elaborate games.

  24. He has a strong sense of justice and becomes particularly upset when faced with inequality.

  25. She can pay attention for long periods of time, especially when compared to her age peers.

  26. He has an excellent memory and can recall facts and information accurately.

  27. Others commented on what an alert infant she was.

  28. He has an intense curiosity about just about everything.

  29. They experience intense reactions to pain.

  30. He corrects others, sometimes rudely, and is usually right.

  31. She has an increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli – noises are louder, smells are more offensive, sock seams are evil.

  32. He can retain information, not just sit through it.

  33. She experiences intense empathy for others in pain or peril.

  34. He thinks so far outside the box that sometimes the box is no longer visible.

  35. They offer creative solutions to basic – or complex – problems.

  36. She often has great insight into situations.

  37. He forms strong attachments – to people, to stuffed animals, to trains, to shoes, to a favorite toothbrush, to anything.

  38. She is able to identify connections between information, facts, and people.

  39. He’s just so original. Your kiddo is quirky and awesome and there doesn’t seem to be anyone like him.

  40. She requires fewer repetitions to master a new skill.

  41. They have passionate interest in (sometimes unusual) topics

  42. He can be pretty argumentative. Any disagreement is apparently an invitation to debate, and

  43. He oftentimes win those debates (whether you tell him or not is up to you!).

  44. She becomes frustrated with repetition and review. Spiral instruction is not for her.

  45. He lacks patience or understanding when others struggle with a task he’s mastered.

  46. She frequently finds school boring.

  47. They have very high standards for everyone around them, but they are often highest when it comes to what they expect from themselves. This often leads to

  48. Struggles with perfectionism.

  49. She daydreams.

  50. He craves and appreciates novelty.

  51. She has a deep self-awareness – though may lack the ability or language to actually identify and describe her inner experiences.

  52. He has an interest in politics and enjoys discussing the latest issues.

  53. They often speak quickly. Their little mouths sometimes can’t keep up with their excitement and ideas.

  54. He’s the classic absent-minded professor – brilliant and disorganized, smart but scattered.

  55. They have a parent or sibling who has been identified as gifted.

  56. She could carry out multi-step instructions from an early age.

  57. He’s very picky – food, textures, smells, oh my!

  58. She asks deep questions.

  59. He has little need for instruction and can often master skills on his own.

  60. She frequently seeks out older children or adults for conversation.

  61. He might have excessive energy, almost like he’s driven by a motor inside.

  62. She’s skeptical, sometimes cynical.

  63. They work well independently and

  64. May even prefer to work independently.

  65. She’s so creative.

  66. He’s aware of how different he is from the kids his own age.

  67. So. Much. Talking.

  68. He expressed an early interest and/or understanding of time.

  69. Her development is asynchronous.

  70. He spoke early… and well.

  71. She exhibited early mastery of motor skill functions.

  72. They hit several developmental milestones early.

  73. She has a deep need to learn, create, go, do…

  74. He has a laser-like focus and

  75. He’s able to multitask successfully.

  76. She has a great sense of humor.

  77. He appreciates puns and dad jokes, long before becoming an actual dad.

  78. She’s able to recognize problems and

  79. She’s able to propose solutions.

  80. “Why?”

  81. They have a wide knowledge base that comes from interests in multiple areas.

  82. He’s able to understand cause and effect relationships.

  83. She can imagine multiple outcomes to situations, which often causes her to

  84. Overthink instructions. In fact, she probably

  85. Overthinks everything.

  86. He can apply new concepts to multiple areas.

  87. She struggles socially, often because of the differences between her and her peers.

  88. He creates his own ways to solve math problems.

  89. They exhibited early pattern recognition.

  90. She’s often a square peg in a round hole world.

  91. He has a strong fear of or preoccupation with death.

  92. She is highly critical of herself.

  93. He doesn’t just get interested in a topic, he obsesses.

  94. They unknowingly dominate their peers.

  95. Their standards and expressive skills often push them towards natural leadership.

  96. She deeply experiences her surroundings.

  97. He doesn’t blindly accept unproven authority.

  98. What’s normal for her sounds like you’re bragging to others.

  99. He has a low threshold for frustration.

  100. She thrives on complexity.

Related: If He’s REALLY So Smart… When Gifted Kids Struggle

100 hints your child may be gifted

 

Is My Child Really Gifted If They Are Struggling In School?

You may notice that among the 100 traits listed above, not once were grades mentioned as an indicator of giftedness. Being a gifted child is not all about straight-A’s and perfect test scores, it’s a neurological difference that affects many, many areas of their lives and really turns up the intensity knob.

Sure, many gifted kids have impressive report cards, but they also have struggles, fears, and unique experiences that set them apart from the crowd.

No question, It is a unique set of complex circumstances that creates a unique family dynamic and educational challenges. 

But please know, you are not alone in it. 

Are You Homeschooling A Gifted Child?

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them cope and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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Testing Providers Could Be Forced to Pivot Quickly as Result of Biden’s State Testing Policy

testing providers could be forced to pivot quickly as result of bidens state testing policy
Testing Group IMG
Cropped view of a multiracial group of young men and women sitting in a row at a table, writing with pencils on paper. They are taking a test or filling out an application. Focus is on the hand of the young man in the middle in the gray shirt.

The Biden administration’s recent guidance for how states should carry out federally mandated tests is likely to have implications for the testing industry, potentially affecting everything from the work required to design the exams to scheduling them to companies’ bottom lines.

In a letter to states, the U.S. Department of Education this week informed states that they won’t be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year — unlike last spring, when they were given the right to shelve end-of-year exams.

But the agency gave states the right to propose shortened versions of state exams in English/language arts, math, and science, and is allowing them to delay the assessments, potentially even until next school year.

Typically, test scoring is done over a three-week time period, but a longer testing window increases the chances that the process becomes less efficient, which could raise test providers’ costs, said Barry Topol, managing partner of Assessment Solutions Group. His organization provides assessment cost, management and state accountability systems analysis and consulting to states and other entities.

“The big costs of scoring are the variable costs of monitoring those [test] raters and readers, and training them and having them score,” he said in an interview with EdWeek Market Brief.

Though the department’s letter to states said it won’t invite state requests for blanket waivers of assessments akin to the broad waivers issued by the department last spring, the agency did say it will allow states to seek waivers from federal requirements for school accountability, which would include a waiver from the requirement that states test 95 percent of eligible students, as my Education Week colleagues reported Monday.

And despite the department’s decision to not invite applications for broad assessment waivers, states could still seek them.

For instance, Pennsylvania state lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Biden administration to waive assessment requirements this year because of the pandemic.

Reworking State Contracts

If states take advantage of the administration’s permission to delay this year’s assessments, that could increase logistical and hiring costs for assessment providers.

Asked whether longer testing windows would make it more difficult to efficiently hire test scorers for this cycle, Cambium Assessment President Steve Kromer said the scenario is one that the company can adapt to meet. Scorers are generally receptive, he said, to offers to extend their contracts if necessary.

Cambium Assessment currently has 27 different contracts with states for summative types of assessments, and provides mostly computer-based tests, he said.

As there were last year, there could be contract renegotiations between Cambium and its customers as these states explore the possibilities of delaying or modifying aspects of this year’s tests, Kromer said.

“We would need to understand what the impact of a change would be, in terms of how we adjust our capacity based on our anticipated volumes of helpdesk calls and volumes of computer-based tests,” Kromer said. “We’re going to — as any business — look at adjustments to our capacity.”

If assessment providers are administering tests remotely, an extended test window could place additional cost burdens by requiring extensions of leases for test facilities and computers, Topol said.

On the other hand, if states desire shorter assessments, it could challenge companies to quickly compress the length of these exams while still ensuring the tests are still robust, Topol said.

“One way to do it would be to eliminate those constructed response items, but then you’ve got some issues with are you providing adequate content coverage?” he said. “The later in the school year… that you do that, the faster the vendors have to respond, the more expensive it is, and the more you introduce more chances for human error somewhere in the process.”

Cambium Assessment’s revenue took a hit when standardized tests were canceled last year. The company could sustain some revenue impacts this cycle as well, potentially associated with longer testing windows and modifying test structures, Kromer said.

But other costs could fall, Kromer said.

“You may not have to pay the cost to have [physical test books] taken to one of the states and have all those test books delivered and pick them back up,” he said. “There are costs that would go away.”

Follow EdWeek Market Brief on Twitter @EdMarketBrief or connect with us on LinkedIn.


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Pennsylvania Governor Pitches School Funding Overhaul

pennsylvania governor pitches school funding overhaul
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Harrisburg, Pa., regarding the counting of ballots in the 2020 general election. Facing a deep, pandemic-inflicted budget deficit, Gov. Wolf will ask lawmakers for billions of dollars funded by higher taxes on Pennsylvania’s huge natural gas industry for workforce development and employment assistance to help the state recover. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

A number of governors have called for boosting education spending for the coming year’s budget, betting that the economy will lift their states’ revenues. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed an ambitious increase of his own, one that hinges not on economic conditions, but rather an overhaul of how the state funds schools.

The second-term Democrat says his plan would result in $1.3 billion more in aid flowing to K-12 schools across the state, through a combination of tax increases and a reworking of Pennsylvania’s school finance system.

Even strong supporters of the plan, however, say it faces tough odds in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, at least in its current form.

The core of Wolf’s proposal is a change to the method through which Pennsylvania funds schools. The state currently has a funding formula that was designed, in theory, to support underfunded districts. But only a small portion of the overall money flowing to K-12 systems, about 11 percent — by the governor’s estimate — goes through the formula, and the remainder is allocated separately, through a method that school officials say is tethered to antiquated school enrollment counts.

Wolf’s proposal would route all of the state’s basic education funding, which now stands at $6.2 billion per year, plus an additional $200 million he’s proposed for next year, through the funding formula.

The governor says the existing funding approach has punished tax-poor school systems and does not allow most of them to account for changes in enrollment and other costs that have spiraled over time. He has vowed that “no school will lose a single dollar” in state resource as a result of the change.

But it would require new revenue, and Wolf is calling for an increase in the personal income tax from 3.09 percent to 4.49 percent. It would shift the tax burden away from lower-income earners and increase them on those with higher pay, by adjusting exemptions.

“Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unfair to students, teachers and communities,” Wolf said in a statement. “The state still largely funds schools based on student enrollment from 30 years ago, which underfunds growing districts from our small towns to our big cities. My common sense plan restores fairness to school funding to ensure every community can provide the quality education students need to succeed in life.”

Eye on Personnel

GOP legislators, however, appear to be lining up in opposition to Wolf’s plan, arguing that it will hurt businesses and a state economy attempting to recover from the pain of COVID.

“The pandemic hit Main Street. More than anyone else they had to deal with the governor’s draconian shutdowns and now he wants to put more burden on them the largest tax increase in Pennsylvania history,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, according to the Tribune-Review.

“The mom-and-pop stores will bear the brunt of this proposal,” Corman said. “Small employers and middle-class families are what drive economic recoveries. Governor Wolf has put yet another target on their backs.” 

Mark DiRocco, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, said he did not expect Wolf’s proposal to make it across the finish line in its existing approach, despite Republican opposition.

“This has been an historic ask, and we don’t know where it’s going to go,” DiRocco said.

But many of his organization’s members – mostly top K-12 district administrators – are convinced that a change in the funding system is long overdue. Many districts across the state struggle to keep up amid a raft of costs that rise, year after year – in serving populations such as special needs students and English-language learners, and in shifting enrollment. The current funding scheme, he said, does little to help.

Emergency federal aid to schools, the latest round of which was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in late December, has bolstered Pennsylvania’s districts, and so would additional aid proposed by President Joe Biden if it comes through, he said.

But much of that aid has supported one-time purchases, such as COVID-related safety equipment and laptops. Changing the funding formula would get at districts’ underlying, core expenses, particularly around paying for personnel, said DiRocco. His organization’s 900 members say they have a particular need for mental health specialists, such as school psychologists and counselors, as well as staff who can address learning loss.

Wolf’s plan “starts the conversation,” he said, “and most of our members want to be part of that conversation.”

Photo: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at a news conference in November, by AP Photo/Julio Cortez.


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