inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Back to School PA Joins National Push to Keep Classrooms Open This Fall

Back to School PA PAC, an influential local parents’ rights group, has joined a national effort challenging the Biden administration to commit to keeping classrooms open in the fall, even if COVID-19 cases continue. It’s an attempt to force the Centers for Disease Control and other public health professionals to acknowledge the research showing the impact of closed classrooms was more damaging to children than the coronavirus.

The open letter was penned by a coalition of scientists, doctors and mental health professionals under the auspices of Urgency of Normal, a group that is concerned that COVID-19 mitigation measures are hurting rather than helping children.

The letter emphasizes that CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines for children do more harm than good and continue to cause significant disruption to children’s education and to working parents while providing no demonstrable public health benefit in limiting the spread.

“Currently, nearly all U.S. adults and children are protected by either vaccination or infection-acquired immunity, and the U.S. is seeing far lower hospitalization and mortality rates than in prior surges. CDC policies have serious unintended consequences–-such as school closures, increased school absences, forcing parents to miss work, and the expense and time of testing,” the group said in a press release.

“Our nation’s children suffered tremendous learning loss as a result of prolonged school closures and are battling a well-documented mental health crisis, and ongoing COVID-19 testing and isolation periods are causing additional harm,” the letter said.

Back to School PA supported school board candidates across the state in 2021 who believed schools should remain open. They endorsed more than 200 candidates and nearly 60 percent won their races. And their predecessor organization, Keeping Kids in School PAC, had a 98 percent success rate in the 2021 primary for the candidates it endorsed.

Beth Ann Rosica

“It’s a nonpartisan group of physicians and parent groups that are advocating to get back to normal for kids,” said Beth Ann Rosica, Back to School executive director. “A lot of these mandates that have been happening all over the country…So they put together a toolkit back in (the winter) to help schools and people who work with kids to put policies in place that would allow kids to experience a more normal childhood. And Back to School PA pushed that out to our parent groups. And I personally went to my own school board, trying to advocate for more normal policies for our kids.”

The letter asks the CDC and the White House to “enact policies that are more reasonable because, even though here in Pennsylvania most schools are unmasked, there are still issues impending,” said Rosica.

“Because we know that cases are going to go up again in the fall and many of the schools have policies that allow for masking up again at certain levels of transmission,” Rosica said.”

And certain school districts were requiring vaccinations for activities like participating in sports, she said.

The letter is “very much of our beliefs and philosophy,” said Rosica. “That parents should be making these decisions and not school districts or even necessarily public health officials. We think it’s a good message.”

“And it’s not political, even though some will say it is,” said Rosica. “These are liberal doctors, conservative doctors, all different kinds of community groups.”

“We have written this letter because the lives of children and their families continue to be disrupted by unnecessary COVID-19 testing, isolation, and vaccine requirements. With high levels of both vaccination and infection-acquired immunity, it is time to lift the COVID-19 mitigation measures that are preventing our children from unconditionally participating in school, camps, and sports,” said co-author Dr. Eliza Holland, a pediatric hospitalist in Charlottesville, Va.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

“Back to School PA” Funder Says Union-Backed School Board Members Should Recuse From Contract Approvals

The man who fueled a political action committee boosting school board candidates committed to in-person instruction took his fight directly into the heart of the arena [March 8], arguing that board members who accepted election funding from teachers’ unions should recuse themselves from upcoming contract negotiations.

Paul Martino, the multimillionaire funder behind “Back to School PA,” made his remarks in person at a Central Bucks School District board meeting, the district where two of his children are enrolled.

He set the table for allegations of hypocrisy by saying his own activism in school board races in 2021 had frequently been referred to as “unheard of” or unprecedented.

“Also of note: $40,000 was contributed in cash and in kind to the Democratic candidates by the PSEA [Pennsylvania State Education Association teachers’ union], the school board, the school teachers. This is a truly unheard-of amount of $8,000 per candidate,” he said.


“In my day job, I sit on a lot of boards of directors and that’s called conflicted interest,” he concluded while saying board members Dr. Mariam Mahmud and Dr. Tabitha Dell’Angelo should recuse themselves from the upcoming collective bargaining for a new multi-year contract.

Martino is a co-founder and managing general partner at Bullpen Capital, a venture capital firm.

After being frustrated with the at-home telelearning his children endured at the start of the pandemic, he began to pour some of his political discontent into the PAC, Back to School PA. BTSPA then took Martino’s contributions and doled them out in smaller increments to even smaller PACS across the commonwealth dedicated to races within a single school board.

BTSPA executive director Beth Ann Rosica told Broad + Liberty that 113 candidates supported by the PAC won their races in November.

In his runup to asking for the recusal, Martino tried to draw a contrast between how his own political activism had been treated in the press and elsewhere compared to monies raised and distributed by unions and their allies.

“I’m here to tell you that Democrat candidates raised $122,000 compared to our $95,000 — outspending us by $30,000 or by 30%. It was the Democrats who spent an unprecedented amount of money on this race, not the Republicans. And they did so in a convoluted way, through ten different PACS, hiding the ball.”

Martino put his claims in a white paper produced and published on the BTSPA website. Although Broad + Liberty has not had the opportunity to factcheck all of Martino’s assertions, campaign finance reports obtained and shared by BTSPA show that the PSEA did provide at least $38,000 to the PAC that supported the Democratic slate of candidates, CBSD Neighbors United. The PSEA also made smaller donations in the race to complete the $41,000 referenced by Martino in his remarks at the board meeting.

Neither the PSEA nor the Central Bucks School District returned requests for comment.

The current contract for teachers in Central Bucks expires on June 30, according to this copy of the contract posted online.

Meanwhile, the district has been without a contract for support professionals since June, according to a January report from the Bucks County Courier Times.

“While specifics have not been discussed publicly, the stalemate appears to be at least in part due to pay increases that employees have said need to reflect the added work brought by the pandemic since 2020,” the paper said.

Martino’s activism last year drew even national coverage from outlets like Vice, amidst a year in which education was a pivot point for many voters nationally. Pundits pointed to the surprise victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s race as proof. That race seemed to hinge on a gaffe in which former Governor Terry McCauliffe said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Prior to last year’s fall elections, the Inquirer reported on Martino and his PAC, quoting critics who said his efforts were bringing “toxic politics to the local level.” A story in Philadelphia was headlined, “Inside the Ridiculously Vicious and Increasingly Nasty Local Elections in Bucks County.”

A podcast from the New York Times highlighted Martino’s influence.

“It’s a lot of money, but what may be most new and noteworthy is that so much of the money sloshing around in these races is coming from one guy,” Times national correspondent Campbell Robertson said. “Typically, a lot of the money in school board races comes from small donors, though the local party will give some money to the teachers’ union sometimes. Well, this year, in Bucks County, just one local PAC had put $50,000 into the races in the county by mid-October. And almost all of that came from Martino.”

But at the Tuesday board meeting, Martino seemed clearly irked by how he thought campaign finances had been portrayed.

“I was not the source of dark money. My contributions were clearly marked,” he said. “It was the other team that was hiding the ball.”

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.

Rosica Named Executive of Back To School PA  

For the November 2021 general election, Back to School PA, a bi-partisan PAC, awarded close to $700,000 in funding for school board races across the state.  Back to School PA supported 54 local PACs in 17 different counties, ranging from the Southeast to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Erie and included suburban, rural, and urban districts. Back to School PA funding supported over 200 candidates and achieved a 60 percent success rate for its first endeavor. PACs were awarded funding solely based on their mission to keep schools open and hold those accountable who kept schools closed.  Funding decisions were not made based on political party or winnability of the election.

Back to School PA is pleased to announce that Beth Ann Rosica is the new Executive Director, effective December 1, 2021.  Rosica served as the Chief Strategy Officer since the PAC’s inception in July 2021. She worked closely with Clarice Schillinger, the former Executive Director. Schillinger spearheaded the grassroots initiative by identifying community advocates, assisting them to set up new PACs, providing funding and training for school board candidates, and serving as a resource throughout the entire electoral process. Back to School PA is eternally grateful to Schillinger for her dedication, leadership, commitment, and hard work to ensure that our schools are never closed again.  Stay tuned for more information on Schillinger’s next steps in January.

Rosica holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and has dedicated her career to advocating on behalf of underserved and at-risk children and families. Under her leadership, Back to School PA has expanded its mission from keeping schools open and holding those accountable for closing schools to addressing the large learning loss and mental and behavioral health issues related to school closures.  Pennsylvania children have suffered immensely over the last 22 months, and it is imperative that we work tirelessly to get them caught up academically and back on track emotionally and behaviorally.  Back to School PA will be providing resources to assist parents, teachers, and school districts to address these issues.

In addition to serving as a Think Tank for Pennsylvania in 2022, Back to School PA has also identified several other states where our mission and strategy could be replicated.  In an analysis of states that were most impacted by school closures that have school board races in 2022 and do not have a governor race, there are four targeted states:  Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky.  Back to School PA will be identifying potential partners and community advocates in those states to assist them in replicating the success experienced in Pennsylvania. Back to School PA remains committed to keeping our schools open and addressing the consequences of extended school closures.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or

Pro-Parent PAC Wins Big in PA School Board Elections, Predicts More Victories Ahead

A pro-parent organization had a blockbuster night in Tuesday’s school board elections, winning a majority of its races and with more victories to come when final tallies are released, organizers told Delaware Valley Journal.

“Sixty percent of our candidates won,” said Paul Martino, the Bucks County dad and venture capitalist who bankrolled the Back to School PA PAC. “What we did by showing up, we put the other team on notice we were here.”

Martino put in $500,000 of his own money and nearly $200,000 more came from other sources.  Martino’s vision was to give $10,000 to slates of local school board candidates statewide who supported parental rights and in-person education. Thanks to the additional funding Back to School was able to support 60 slates of candidates, 10 more than the additional 50 originally planned.

As of Friday morning, 113 out of 171 candidates backed by the pack were winners, bringing the percentage up to 65 percent. However, some races, particularly in Montgomery County, have not been called due to problems with 6,000 misprinted ballots. There are 30 still pending, Martino said. So that number could go even higher.

Horsham mom Clarice Schillinger, who founded Keeping Kids in School PAC, was also happy with the results. “I am thrilled that we activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in their (kids) well-being, for their kids and their education. And I don’t think this is a one-time thing.”

Schillinger has joined forces with Martino and is now the executive director of the Back to School PA PAC.

“Look at what happened in Virginia,” Martino said. “The exit poll in Virginia said that 70 percent of the people who voted in Virginia, the number one issue was related to schools, curriculum, etc.”

“What we did here in Pennsylvania, what happened in Virginia, etc., shows we are finally waking up parents as to how important school districts are and local races are,” said Martino. “Usually people only get this excited about the presidential elections. If people get this excited about odd-year school board elections, this is good. This is stuff that affects you and your kids. I know everyone gets animated about who the president is, but who your school board member is might matter more to your kids than who the president is.”

“The school boards in Pennsylvania have the right to authorize new taxes,” said Martino. “These are powerful positions, even though they are unpaid and sometimes below the radar. I am thrilled that we’ve now activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in the well-being of their kids and their education. I don’t think this is a one-time thing. I think these parents are now woken up and they are going to pay attention to these elections for years to come.”

Asked about the pushback he received since getting involved in local school politics, Martino said, “I am disappointed by it but I am not surprised,” said Martino. “Make no mistake. I knew this would happen.”

“I told my wife and kids, ‘If we go do this, they’re going to paint us to be the villains.’ It’s amazing, with all the money that’s in local school board races, from local C-4s [non-profit organizations], unions, etc.,  somehow all of that money is okay, but when Paul Martino, a concerned dad,  shows up at bat, it’s a problem,” Martino said.

“That’s what really galls me a little bit. They have every right to write those checks. I have every right to write those checks. Why was I the bad guy and they were the good guys… (I’m) disappointed with the villainization I got.”

Martino says the education issue breaks down partisan barriers.

“Even though I am a Republican, a lot of our candidates were Democrats and a lot were Democrats who switched to Republican because they couldn’t get endorsed by their own party,” said Martino. “This was a bipartisan group we created…a good 30 percent of our candidates were Democrats, they still try to paint us as right-wing villains…Unbelievable! You can’t make it up.”

But that’s not going to stop him.

“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do next but Clarice and I are going to keep Back to School going,” Martino said. “We’ve not built a statewide, grassroots organization. We know there’s going to be a second act…We managed in six months to have candidates in a third of the state. We’re thrilled with what we did.”


Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or