Monday, August 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 29: Ever wonder how we got charter schools in Pennsylvania?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 29, 2016:
Ever wonder how we got charter schools in Pennsylvania?



Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM



COUNCILWOMAN GYM, POWER TO HOST CITY HALL EVENTS TO SUPPORT FAIR FUNDING FOR PA SCHOOLS
SEPTEMBER 12: SING-IN
SEPTEMBER 13: FAIR FUNDING LAWSUIT HEARING
Philadelphia City Council



Blogger note:  Have you ever wondered how we got charter schools in Pennsylvania?  Two of the most pressing legislative issues now facing Pennsylvania, charter reform and pension reform, were inextricably linked during the Ridge administration….

“In 2001, Gov. Tom Ridge, desperate to get state charter schools, OK’d legislative leaders’ idea to give state teachers — and themselves, coincidentally — a big pension boost. The sweetener for teachers effectively quelled criticism of charter schools by their Democratic allies, but legislators forgot one small detail: how to pay for this.”
Brian O'Neill: The Pennsylvania pension slow-motion mess
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 28, 2016 12:00 AM
I try to be a good citizen so I thought I’d dive again into the murky waters of Pennsylvania’s pension morass.  That was dumb. One could probably explain the foolhardy nature of such a quest by making a pun from “morass,” but let’s not. It should suffice to say that 15 years ago our General Assembly — still America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature! — made the pension budget hole gape with an overly generous giveaway to teachers and state workers and then five years ago the lawmakers made it a little smaller by ending that deal for incoming workers. But is still large enough to keep biting taxpayers where it hurts.  Most of us haven’t been paying attention, despite ample coverage, but if you’ve found your school property taxes soaring in recent years, what follows are three of the reasons why.

The state is the real culprit in the fallout of rising pension costs, not teachers
Public Source August 27, 2016
After publishing our first story on school pensions last week, some readers felt we had blamed teachers for rising pensions costs and property taxes.  In fact, we made a chart that showed teachers and administrative staff have consistently paid into the pension system. It’s the state that has been less predictable. A decade ago, the statedrastically cut how much it contributed. In 2010, the state changed course and began contributing substantially more each year.  The first Facebook comment on our story was from someone who said they had been a teacher for more than than 37 years, described the amount of extra work that comes with the job.  “I had worked many hours preparing my room and lessons,” she wrote. “They were not in my ‘hourly’ rate. Grading papers and doing work at home.”  She added: “I loved teaching because of the children. I feel that I deserve my pension.”  One commenter came the defense of the teacher, writing, in part, “You deserve your pension because it was part of the compensation your employer offered to pay you in the future in exchange for your work at that time.”  On our website, one commenter wrote, “So when you read this story and then conclude that it's the teachers’ fault, and their pay should be cut, and their pensions gutted. Remember it wasn't them whose fiscal irresponsibility created this situation.”  How the pension system became underfunded is fairly complex, but here are a few key dates:

“The state’s contribution to school pensions doubled from roughly $500 million to $1 billion from 2010 to 2012. It doubled again to $2 billion by 2014. And doubled again to $4 billion this year. Over the next two years, pension costs are expected to slow and only increase about 15 percent.”
Why are your property taxes going up? Blame school pensions
Beaver County Times By Eric Holmberg PublicSource August 29, 2016
The state Legislature has put more money toward education in recent years, but a lot of that new money has paid for pensions.
Pennsylvania legislators about a decade ago passed a law to protect homeowners by limiting property tax hikes to the rate of inflation. Has the law, known as Act 1, worked?  Not for some homeowners. Exceptions were built into the law so school districts could raise property taxes as much as they needed only to cover certain rising costs, like pensions.  As a result, school districts have increased property taxes $465 million above the rate of inflation in the past decade and requested raising property taxes much higher.  What has been driving tax increases? Pensions. A 2010 pension reform law increased how much school districts and the state paid into the underfunded school pension system. That helped the pension fund, but increased the burden on schools. The result?

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 28, 2016: Focus on Charter/Cyber Reform

New Report Recommends Reforms to Address Significant Underperformance by Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools
National Alliance, 50CAN and NACSA propose specific policy recommendations for states to rein in poor practices in full-time virtual charter public school movement
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 6/16/2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) today released a report providing specific policy recommendations to help states better hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student results. While the report notes that some students do well in a full-time virtual charter school environment, too many of these schools are not providing a quality educational program to the vast majority of their students, while enrolling too many who are simply not a good fit for attending a fully online school.  The report, titled A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools, builds on previous studies by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), and Mathematica, that found that when compared to their classroom-based traditional public school counterparts, full-time virtual charter schools fail across nearly every metric. For example, in math and reading in a given year, full-time virtual charter school students learn essentially no math and less than half the amount of reading as compared to their peers in classroom-based traditional public schools. When comparing racial makeup, economic background, native language, and taking into account students with special needs, all subgroups performed worse than their classroom-based peers.  “Though some full-time virtual charter schools can effectively serve the unique needs of the students they enroll, overall, these schools are not producing great outcomes,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “A few states have opted to simply ban full-time virtual charter schools, but this solution risks limiting parental choice without giving otherwise high-performing virtual charter schools a chance to operate. This is why we need a better regulatory framework to govern full-time virtual charter schools.”  Currently, more than 180,000 students attend 135 full-time virtual charter schools in 23 states and the District of Columbia. By outlining the problems and offering a roadmap for legislators and authorizers for how best to combat them, the National Alliance, 50CAN and NACSA are calling for an overhaul to policies governing full-time virtual charter schools. Recommendations include:

The Property Tax Prison of Education Funding
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Sunday, August 28, 2016
Invisible though they may be to the naked eye, school district borders increasingly trap low-income students in cash-strapped districts struggling to provide the resources available to their wealthier neighbors.  I sometimes wonder how the inherent unfairness that exists in education funding continues without some kind of revolution taking place.  And then I wake up and remember I live in Pennsylvania.  Perhaps because its a bit complicated and takes more than 15 minutes to understand. Perhaps because not enough people feel any kind of connection with those most adversely affected. Or maybe its just the pall of overall apathy.  Usually, people tend to wake up a bit when faced with examples of kids getting the shaft. After all, we all want the best for our children right.  Maybe we need to broaden the definition of "our children" a bit.  Not that we needed any more evidence of the way cleaving to the property tax as the primary funding source for public education undermines students not fortunate enough to live in a wealthy zip code, but there's more anyway. It comes in the form of a new report by an organization called EdBuild, a non-profit national organization dedicating to bringing "common sense and fairness to the way states fund public schools."

Federal judge orders school district to let refugee students attend McCaskey
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Aug 26, 2016
Refugee students who took School District of Lancaster to court over their school assignment will get to attend McCaskey High School next week.  U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith on Friday ordered the district to enroll the students at its regular high school instead of Phoenix Academy, an alternative school where they said learning is "impossible" because of language barriers. Six refugee students, all with limited English proficiency, sued the district last month over their placement at Phoenix, as well as delayed and denied enrollment.  "We're thrilled the court recognized that the district must provide refugees and English language learners with equal educational opportunities till age 21. That's what this case is all about," said Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is one of the groups representing the students.  A spokeswoman said the district will comply with the order but did not give further details or comment.

“The state Supreme Court will hear the case Tuesday, Sept. 13 in Philadelphia.
"Let our children have their day in court to fight for their fundamental right to a high-quality public education," Duvall-Flynn said.  The suit was filed in November 2014 by six school districts: Lancaster, William Penn, Panther Valley, Johnstown, Wilkes-Barre and Shenandoah Valley. Co-plaintiffs are the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and NAACP PA.   These schools and groups are being represented in court by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center. “
NAACP PA continues fight against state Department of Education
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | cwoodall@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 27, 2016 at 5:50 PM, updated August 27, 2016 at 6:51 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf regularly touts historic increases in state education funding among his successes, but NAACP leaders say the extra $260 million in the 2016-17 is not enough.  However, they're pointing fingers at the General Assembly, not the governor.  The NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference of Branches "remains deeply aggrieved at the failure of the state Legislature to adequately and equitably fund" public education, said Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of NAACP PA. Along with the 2016 election, education funding was one of the top concerns during NAACP PA's quarterly meeting Saturday in Lancaster.

NAACP continues push for school funding changes
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By David Hurst dhurst@tribdem.com August 29, 2016
It’s been two years since Greater Johnstown and five other poor Pennsylvania public schools filed a lawsuit against the state pushing for an education funding system fix.  But the state’s NAACP leaders haven’t forgotten about it, their president, Joan Duvall-Flynn, said during the association’s annual state conference over the weekend.  “NAACP Pa remains deeply aggrieved at the failure of the state Legislature to adequately and equitably fund a ‘thorough and efficient public education’ for all children in this commonwealth,” Duvall-Flynn said in a release to media following the Lancaster conference. “We believe this stems from a failure to value all citizens the same.”  Greater Johnstown, Lancaster, Wilkes-Barre and three other eastern Pennsylvania schools filed the suit in November 2014 and are currently joined by NAACP Pa and the Pennsylvania Association of Small Schools, arguing that poor urban and extremely rural schools have been saddled by years of funding cuts because they are already dealing with unique challenges.  It’s to the point that the state’s support to some schools doesn’t meet the state Constitution’s education provisions, they argue.  This year’s budget, approved by state officials this summer, allocated approximately $200 million in additional funding dollars – and through a new formula that is aimed at directing new dollars to schools that need it most.  But NAACP Pa leaders say that’s not enough to fix issues created by a “broken system.”

DN editorial: Keystone exams still best way to see whether kids are learning
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: AUGUST 29, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
THE IDEA was hatched during the Rendell administration as a way to increase accountability. The plan was to require that students pass an exam in order to graduate high school.  The idea was embraced by the Legislature and various education interest groups. Ten exams were supposed to be created, but only three were completed: algebra, literature and biology. Students began taking the tests in 2012 and the program was due to go into effect for the class of 2017.  A funny thing happened on the way to implementation. Many students could not pass. Annual pass rates have been below 60 percent for more than half all district and charter schools around the state, with even lower pass rates among poorer students and students of color. "Passing" in this case means "Proficient," the students have shown a firm grasp of the content of the courses.  People began to grumble about the tests, and this year, the Legislature delayed implementation until 2019 and had the Department of Education conduct a policy review of the Keystone exams, as they are called.

Pa. student’s viral speech on transgender bathroom law highlights challenge for school districts
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF AUGUST 29, 2016
Incoming Emmaus High freshman Sigourney Coyle had already been offered an accommodation to avoid changing in the school locker room when her speech to the school board about transgender inclusive policies went viral.  "I'm here to discuss the letter that [President] Obama sent," she began. "I'm a woman, I identify as a woman, and you can't make me change in front of someone I don't identify with and who is physically male."  In the letter she refers to, often casually referred to as the "transgender bathroom law," the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education assert transgender students are protected by Title IX and provide a framework for how to comply with that new classification.  "A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity," according to the most hotly debated portion of that guidance, kicking off lawsuits around the country.  As those lawsuits work their way through the courts, school districts hoping for a clear answer on how to interpret the mandate are in a bind.

Pa.'s fall legislative races shaping up to feature contests in 124 of the 228 races
Penn Live by Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2016 at 2:36 PM, updated August 27, 2016 at 3:37 PM
*This story was updated to include the Democratic nominee for the 31st state senatorial district who was added to the candidate list on Friday.
Ninety-seven incumbent state House and Senate candidates are virtually assured of victory in the Nov. 8 election because they will have no opponents listed on the ballot.  They include 85 House members – 42 Democrats and 43 Republicans – and 12 senators – five Democrats and seven Republicans.  Seven newcomers also appear to have a likely lock on their bids to get elected to six House and a Senate seat since they too will have no opponents, at least the way it looks on the latest list of candidates on the Department of State website.  As for the remaining 112 in the House and 12 in the Senate that are up for grabs, let the games begin.  The list of candidates is close to being finalized by the Department of State now that deadlines have passed for candidates who won their party's nomination in the April primary to withdraw and for parties to identify a replacement if they chose to do so

Community Schools: Erie schools reopen on positive note
Ge Erie By Valerie Myers 814-878-1913 etnmyers August 29, 2016 04:25 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- After months of doubt about the future of Erie public schools, schools Superintendent Jay Badams is smiling.  Serious financial problems remain, but all 18 Erie schools will open Monday, some in better shape and with expanded services.  Wayne and Pfeiffer Burleigh schools and Edison, McKinley and Emerson-Gridley elementary schools will offer health care, dental care, after-school programs and other services for students and families in partnership with United Way of Erie County. United Way, GE Transportation, Hamot Health Foundation, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and an anonymous donor will fund the initiative over the next three years.  Lead agencies in each of those "community schools" will hire a director and coordinate services.  "We're not starting from zero. A lot of agencies already provide services in our schools, but they're not coordinated," Badams said. "Lead agencies now will coordinate services and take work off principals' shoulders for after-school and other programs. It will bring services into schools where students need and have access to them, and will allow principals and teachers to focus more on educational programs and seeing that fewer kids slip through the cracks."  The new community schools are expected to be up and running by late September. Badams expects high demand for their services. 

In Upper Darby, it's back to school, and racial allegations
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: AUGUST 28, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
On Monday, 12,000 Upper Darby students will head back to class in a district still embroiled in its summer-break drama - one that publicly opened with the surprise ouster of its superintendent and flared into a dispute over alleged racial imbalances that has drawn the attention of the NAACP.  The root of the ruckus, however, goes further back to the past school year, Superintendent Richard F. Dunlap Jr.'s third - and last - at the helm of one of the most diverse districts in the region.  Dunlap had floated a plan that would have relieved class overcrowding at certain elementary schools by assigning children to schools outside their neighborhoods. But after a closed school board meeting July 20, he abruptly left his $194,866-a-year post. Some in the community contended that his proposal, and its potential to change the racial makeup of some mostly white schools in the township, was his undoing.

York Suburban Middle School adds new positions under Fair Funding Formula
Abc27 News By Samantha Galvez Published: August 25, 2016, 6:37 pm
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – York Suburban School District approved three new positions this year at its middle school with additional funds under the Fair Funding Formula.  The hallways are full; not only with students but smiles.  “We’re happy because students are here, students are engaged,” middle school principal Dr. Scott Krauser said.  The same goes for the back to schoolers, who are seeing fewer faces in the classroom.  “They can’t hide anymore like they used to be able to do in the class of 30 kids. They could kind of sit back and fall away, but they can’t do that anymore and I think they’re enjoying the fact that they can’t do that,” said Alicia Kowitz, head of the middle school Math Department.  The school added those three positions to their math and science programs, scaling back class size to the low 20s. The new formula distributes cash more evenly to schools. Governor Tom Wolf signed the legislation this summer.

Liberty HS Mystery Mailer?
Charter school loan documents give another link to Atiyeh
By Jim Deegan | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2016 at 2:52 PM, updated August 26, 2016 at 3:05 PM
Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua released loan documents Friday that identify the lender as Charter Solutions LLC, a limited liability corporation at 1177 Sixth St. in Whitehall Township — the same address as Atiyeh's Whitehall Manor.  Atiyeh also is the fledgling school's landlord at 330 Howertown Road in Catasauqua.  The loan documents provide the latest link yet between Atiyeh and the charter school amid a swirling controversy about who's responsible for a mystery mailer that promoted the charter school and denigrated Liberty High School.
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2016/08/charter_school_loan_documents.html#incart_river_index

Dirty tactics smear efforts of charter schools | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff on August 28, 2016 at 6:00 AM
Is this any way to promote a charter school?
The pending debut of the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua in September might have been uneventful, considering school officials said they had met their goal of enrolling 300 students for the sixth-to-12th-grade school.  Then a newspaper ad in the Morning Call and an anonymous mailer raised the school's profile dramatically. They touted the drug bust of a Liberty High School student last year, asking parents" "Why worry about this type of student at school?" and advising them to "Come visit Arts Academy Charter School."  Reaction to the unsigned mailer, which listed the school's address, was immediate. Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy called it a low blow and an impetus for the Legislature to reform the state's charter school act.  Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a critic of the state's approach to charter schools, said he wants to know who drew up and authorized the promotions. He asked the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General to look into it.
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/08/charter-school_mailer_pushes_t.html


Pennsylvania: Charter Schools Spend Twice As Much on Administrative Costs as Public Schools
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch August 28, 2016 //
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association conducted a study of costs, comparing charter schools and public schools, and concluded that the charter schools have higher salaries for those at the top and spend twice as much on administration as public schools.
Furthermore, the bulk of their revenue–as much as 84%–is taken away from public schools, leaving them in worse condition.

WaPo Editorial: The NAACP’s ill-conceived opposition to charter schools
Washington Post By Editorial Board August 27 at 6:18 PM
“WHEN SCHOOLS get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America.” Hillary Clinton was booed at the National Education Association’s summer convention for that self-evidently sensible proposition. The reaction speaks volumes about labor’s uniformed and self-interested opposition to charter schools and contempt for what’s best for children. Now the union has been joined by a couple of organizations that purport to be champions of opportunity.
In separate conventions over recent weeks, the NAACP, the nation’s oldest black civil rights organization, and the Movement for Black Lives, a network of Black Lives Matter organizers, passed resolutions criticizing charter schools and calling for a moratorium on their growth. Charters were faulted by the groups for supposedly draining money from traditional public schools and allegedly fueling segregation. The NAACP measure, which still must be ratified by the board before becoming official, went so far as to liken the expansion of charters to “predatory lending practices” that put low-income communities at risk.  No doubt that will come as a surprise to the millions of parents who have seen their children well-served by charters and to the additional million more who are on charter schoolwaiting lists for their sons and daughters. “You’ve got thousands and thousands of poor black parents whose children are so much better off because these schools exist,” Howard Fuller of the Black Alliance for Educational Options told the New York Times.

“New York City charter schools make up 81 percent of the charter schools in the state. Only 4 percent of New York’s charter students are English Language Learners, as compared with over three times as many — 13 percent — of the 3-8 students in New York City public schools. Fifteen percent of charter students in Grades 3-8 are students with disabilities, as compared with 22 percent of the students in New York City traditional public schools.  These differences in who attends charters are part of a national pattern.
Some of the gaps result from initial enrollment, and some are a result of charter attrition. Then there are differences in the degree of disability—a child with a mild learning disability is very different from one with severe autism or emotional problems. A 2013 study of Philadelphia schools by the Education Law Center provides important insights into distribution patterns by disability in charters— students with multiple disabilities, emotional disabilities, and autism were under-enrolled, with some at nearly half the expected rates.”
Will the thing that charter schools love so much be their undoing?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 26 
John Oliver, on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” did a funny, biting segment on the charter schools, which educate a fraction of American school children — somewhere around 5 percent — but get a great deal more attention from policymakers then the numbers would predict.
Here’s a new look at charter schools from Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year in 2013. She has been chronicling botched school reform efforts in her state for years.
In a recent post, she explained why putting the word “public” in front of “charter school” — which are funded with tax dollars but sometimes considered private by courts — is “an affront” to people for whom public education is a mission. In this post, Burris looks at whether charter schools can properly be compared with district public schools — as they often are.


NEW: Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
PSBA website August 25, 2016
Take a more active role in public education advocacy by joining our Legislative Roundtable
This is your opportunity for a seat at the table (literally) with fellow public education advocates to take an active role in educating each other and policymakers.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, along with regional legislators, will be in attendance to work with you to support public education in Pennsylvania.  Use the form below to send your registration information!

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference website:www.paschoolleaders.org.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
The Early Bird Discount Deadline has been Extended to Wednesday, August 31, 2016!
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 28, 2016: Focus on Charter/Cyber Reform

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 28, 2016:
Focus on Charter/Cyber Reform



Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM



COUNCILWOMAN GYM, POWER TO HOST CITY HALL EVENTS TO SUPPORT FAIR FUNDING FOR PA SCHOOLS
SEPTEMBER 12: SING-IN
SEPTEMBER 13: FAIR FUNDING LAWSUIT HEARING
Philadelphia City Council



Delco Times Editorial: It’s time for reform at Pa.’s charter schools
Delco Times POSTED: 08/27/16, 11:02 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
The two stories sat side by side on the same page earlier this week. The placement could not have been more ironic.  On the same day that Gov. Tom Wolf made good on another campaign pledge, this time to establish a division inside the state Education Department to keep tabs on the state’s burgeoning charter school industry, the CEO from a cyber charter school was in court to plead guilty to tax fraud charges.  Charter schools, set up in Pennsylvania by the Charter School Law - Act 22 of 1997, to offer Pennsylvania families an alternative to public schools that increasingly fail to offer families, usually in struggling communities, an adequate alternative, too often have failed to do so. In fact, too often test scores at charters have varied little from their counterparts in the public schools.  What has changed is the huge economic impact the desertion of those children – and the state funding that follows them – has had on public schools.  And of course, the bottom line for charter schools and their backers. The business of charter schools has proved in many cases to be quite lucrative.

“Two years ago, Mr. DePasquale called for an overhaul of charter law to make the schools more effective and accountable. It is time for the Legislature and Education Department to take a hard look at his suggestions, which mostly have fallen on deaf ears.  Improvements could help to ease school districts’ concerns about charters, give new energy to the charter movement and repair some of the damage caused by Trombetta’s callow plunder.”
Post Gazette Editorial: Charter school caper: Trombetta finally admits guilt, but mess remains
Post Gazette Editorial By the Editorial Board August 27, 2016 12:00 AM
Pennsylvanians struggle with high property taxes, yet school districts still labor to make ends meet because of inadequate state funding and the encroachment of nontraditional charter schools. Every penny counts. By diverting public money for personal use, Nicholas Trombetta hurt the state’s schoolchildren, taxpayers, school districts and the charter school movement he helped to create.   Trombetta, founder of the Beaver County-based Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to a count of tax conspiracy. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The U.S. attorney’s office alleged that he diverted $8 million of taxpayer money for personal use, spending the money not on education, U.S. Attorney David Hickton said, but on “condos and airplanes.” Trombetta didn’t even have the decency to fold when the jig was up. He fought the charges for three years before entering his guilty plea, wasting resources the authorities could have devoted to other cases. The case is sad partly because PA Cyber had given wind to the charter movement and brought attention to Beaver County.

As students return to class, some recommendations to improve cyber-charter schools: Lawrence Feinberg
PennLive Op-Ed  By Lawrence Feinberg on August 26, 2016 at 2:00 PM
Lawrence A. Feinberg, of Ardmore, Pa., is serving in his seventeenth year as a school director in Haverford Township.  He is the founder and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition.
If it sometimes seems like "tuition-free" cyber charter ads are running non-stop, consider that in just one year your tax dollars paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter, just one of Pennsylvania's 13 cyber charters.   And far from being tuition-free, total cyber tuition paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.  Those commercials were very effective, especially if you were an executive at K12, Inc., a for-profit company contracted to manage the cyberschool.  According to Agora's 2013 IRS filing, it paid $69.5 million that year to K12, Inc.   According to Morningstar, total executive compensation at K12 in 2013 was $21.37 million.  Not so effective for kids or taxpayers, though.  What the ads don't tell you is that they are paid for using your school tax dollars instead of those funds being spent in classrooms, and that academic performance at every one of Pennsylvania's cyber charters has been consistently dismal. 

School Performance Profile Scores for PA Cyber Charters
2013, 2014, 2015
Source: PA Department of Education website.
A score of 70 is considered passing

CEO of Agora Cyber Charter calls for reforms
In response to a recent commentary piece, Conti rebuts criticisms of cyber charters.
The notebook Commentary by Dr. Michael Conti August 23, 2016 — 2:48pm
In response to the recent commentary piece in the Notebook that asks the question “How can we improve the performance and accountability of Pennsylvania cyber charters?” (Lawrence A. Feinberg, Aug. 18) we feel it absolutely necessary that we reply, as Agora was the only one of the Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charter schools that was mentioned specifically in this piece.  First, it should be known that Agora admits it has endured a tumultuous year. However, our administration and board have always done what is in the best interest of our students. In 2015, Agora severed its management relationship with K12 to become an independently managed school. When we open our virtual doors on Sept. 6, our primary relationship with K12 will be limited and the firm will serve as a provider of curriculum and support services.
To argue that cyber charters are alone in contracting with for-profit companies is quite misleading. School districts everywhere use for-profit companies to purchase textbooks for classrooms, keep technology on the cutting edge, and stock vending machines in their brick-and-mortar cafeterias. These expenses are not unique or out of the ordinary– they are simply part of maintaining a successful school or district.

“A study released this summer by 50CAN, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Organizers — typically advocates for school choice and charter schools — called for chronically low-performing cyber charters to be closed. Reports from Mathematica Policy Research, the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes and the University of Washington Center on Reinventing Public Education last year slammed cyber charters for their students' lack of year-over-year improvement and limited instruction time.  The report looked at more than 100 full-time cyber charter schools in 17 states, including Pennsylvania, plus Washington, D.C., and was an attempt to gather first-of-its-kind information about the rapidly growing cyber charter sector, said James L. Woodworth, the lead author and a quantitative research analyst at Stanford.  The study found that cyber charter school students in Pennsylvania on average progressed as if they had received the equivalent of 101 fewer days of instruction in reading and 167 fewer days in math compared to students in traditional schools in a 180-day school year, he said. Nationally, cyber charter students progressed as if they had an average of 180 days less of instruction per year in math — really not at all.”
Study: Cyber charter students don't keep pace with counterparts in regular classrooms
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, 9:40 p.m.
When Judy Cremone and her husband adopted their teenage son three years ago, his behavioral issues made it impossible for the Turtle Creek couple to enroll him in a traditional school.
They enrolled the boy, now 15, in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. The ability to do his work online and at his own pace seems to be good for him, said Cremone, 48. He earns A's and B's, an improvement.  “Education is vital to me,” Cremone said. “He has got to get a good education, and he is extremely smart. But he wouldn't survive in public school.”  Cremone's son was among about 30,000 students across the state enrolled in a cyber charter school last year, up from about 27,000 in 2011-12. State data show about 25 percent of Allegheny County's charter school students attend cyber charters, which provide classes online rather than in traditional classrooms. But as enrollment in cyber charter schools has grown, so has criticism about the schools' ability to adequately educate their students.

Trombettta's legacy a complicated one
Beaver County Times By The Times Editorial Board August 27, 2016
The legacy of Nick Trombetta will be a complicated one to document for future generations.
His supporters will tell you the man saved the dying steel town of Midland, transforming it into a state-of-the-art education complex that created hundreds of jobs and became home to his creations -- the PA Cyber Charter School, the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, several spinoff entities, and the crown jewel of his empire, the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center.  His critics will point out that he is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty to siphoning off some $8 million in taxpayer funds for his own benefit and that of family and friends. They will tell you he created a spider web of connected companies that he controlled, directly or indirectly, and that his every move was self-serving, done to build his own personal wealth and wield incredible power over the people who owed him their livelihoods.  If you were to try to summarize Trombetta’s contributions to Midland, and to public education in general, it would come down to this: The man did some very good things, and the man did some very bad things.

Why John Oliver may help change Pennsylvania’s ‘worst charter school laws in the nation’
Billy Penn By Mark Dent August 26, 2016  at 10:30 am
Eugene DePasquale’s phone started buzzing during the most recent episode of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”  It was younger family members calling and texting to say they saw the clip of him saying “Pennsylvania has the worst charter school laws in the nation.” DePasquale had no idea, of course. He’s not a subscriber.    “Maybe I need to get HBO,” he said, “but it’s an extra cost and I’m trying to be fiscally responsible as your auditor general.”  For the last several months, DePasquale has railed against Pennsylvania’s charter laws. He came out with an audit of Philadelphia’s charter situation earlier this year and has continued to stress the need for reform throughout the summer. Just yesterday he gave a press conference about a faulty payment appeals process that overly benefits charters at the expense of school districts.  So he’s continually tried to bring awareness. But getting featured on Oliver?  “That 18-minute segment has probably done more than people could imagine,” DePasquale said. “There’s something going on out there that needs to be looked at.”  Here’s what DePasquale finds to be the worst aspects of charter schools in Pennsylvania, a few ways to improve them and why he’s optimistic change might finally happen to Pennsylvania’s charter laws, which date back to the late 1990s.

Pa. senator says HBO's John Oliver 'went too far' with charter school rant
Inquirer by Tommy Rowan, Staff Writer  @tommyrowan AUGUST 26, 2016 10:31 AM EDT
Apparently, as HBO's John Oliver was poking fun at Pennsylvania's charter school system, Pennsylvania Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams wasn't laughing.  On Wednesday, Williams (D., Phila.) sent the Last Week Tonight host a "Dear John" letter, questioning an assertion on his Sunday show that Pennsylvania's "charter schools are terrible."  "I really do enjoy your wit and informative style," Williams wrote, "but you went too far with your segment on Pennsylvania's charter schools."  On his program Sunday, Oliver used Pennsylvania laws and Philadelphia schools as examples of why he believes charter schools are something of gamble when it comes to education.  “Charter schools unite both sides of the aisle more quickly than when a wedding DJ throws on ‘Hey Ya,’ ” Oliver said to kick off his piece, further noting that the first charters emerged 25 years ago as a way to explore new approaches to education.  Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the state has “the worst charter school law in the United States."  Oliver agreed.

Pa. department of education enhancing oversight of charter schools
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY AUGUST 25, 2016
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that he's beefing up the state's oversight of charter schools by creating a new division within the Department of Education devoted solely to the sector.  "Charter schools play an important role in our education system, but that role must be accompanied by sufficient oversight," Wolf said in a statement. "Establishing this new division within the Department of Education will allow us to maximize our resources to not only ensure charters are being properly supported, but that they are being held accountable to taxpayers."
The Wolf administration says the new division more rigorously monitor the fiscal and academic integrity of charters.  "Establishing a division within the Department is the next step to further streamline communication with charter schools, help ensure they receive needed technical assistance from the Department, and ensuring that all public schools in the commonwealth are held to the same high-quality standards," said state education secretary Pedro Rivera in a statement.  Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the move will simply bring the charter sector in line with the oversight the department gives the state's 500 traditional districts.  "All of those things already happen with traditional public schools," said Sheridan. "They do not currently happen in the manner that they should with brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools."

Capitolwire: Charter officials skeptical of Wolf’s new division of charter schools.
PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools website By Christen Smith Staff Reporter Capitolwire August 26, 2016
HARRISBURG (Aug. 24) — Gov. Tom Wolf’s new division of charter schools got off to a bad start Wednesday, just moments after the administration announced the new office within the state Department of Education.  “The fact that no charter school has been consulted in the creation of this office is not a good start, but we will see how the office is funded and staffed and watch closely what it actually does,” said Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. “We are cautiously optimistic, but the charter community has been burned before and our honest initial impression is that it may be another effort to undermine school choice in Pennsylvania, regardless of the statements in the press release regarding improving quality and accountability.”  Fayfich, an outspoken critic of the administration’s treatment of charter schools over the last two years, wasn’t alone in his skepticism.
“While the Keystone Alliance welcomes the Wolf administration and the department’s willingness to work and partner with brick-and-mortar charter schools, as the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the detail’ as it relates to the administration’s actual intent with the creation of this division,” said Tim Eller, executive director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools a former PDE spokesperson with the Corbett administration. “While the department already has statutory oversight of cyber charters, by law, oversight and accountability of brick-and-mortar charters currently is under the purview of the school district(s) that granted the charter.”

Audit finds Pa. education department oversight on charter school payments insufficient
BY KATIE MEYER, WITF AUGUST 25, 2016
Pennsylvania's process to address appeals of charter school payment is unclear, according to an audit that recommends it be re-examined.  Pennsylvania's charter schools receive part of their money from the public school districts in which they're located. The charter submits a bill, and the district can approve or deny it.  But under current law, if the district denies payment, the charter can go directly to the state Education Department for the funding.  According to the audit report, the department then approves it, no questions asked, and it's paid out from the district's state subsidy.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said it's not easy for districts to get back money they think has been wrongly routed to charters.  "A school district's only option," he said, "is to enter into a lengthy, confusing, nonsensical, rabbit-hole world that is [the education department's] charter school payment appeals process."

Charter school loan documents give another link to Atiyeh
By Jim Deegan | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2016 at 2:52 PM, updated August 26, 2016 at 3:05 PM
Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua released loan documents Friday that identify the lender as Charter Solutions LLC, a limited liability corporation at 1177 Sixth St. in Whitehall Township — the same address as Atiyeh's Whitehall Manor.  Atiyeh also is the fledgling school's landlord at 330 Howertown Road in Catasauqua.  The loan documents provide the latest link yet between Atiyeh and the charter school amid a swirling controversy about who's responsible for a mystery mailer that promoted the charter school and denigrated Liberty High School.

Dirty tactics smear efforts of charter schools | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff on August 28, 2016 at 6:00 AM, updated August 28, 2016 at 9:21 AM
Is this any way to promote a charter school?
The pending debut of the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua in September might have been uneventful, considering school officials said they had met their goal of enrolling 300 students for the sixth-to-12th-grade school.  Then a newspaper ad in the Morning Call and an anonymous mailer raised the school's profile dramatically. They touted the drug bust of a Liberty High School student last year, asking parents" "Why worry about this type of student at school?" and advising them to "Come visit Arts Academy Charter School."  Reaction to the unsigned mailer, which listed the school's address, was immediate. Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy called it a low blow and an impetus for the Legislature to reform the state's charter school act.  Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a critic of the state's approach to charter schools, said he wants to know who drew up and authorized the promotions. He asked the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General to look into it.

OPED: Get charter school reform right
York Dispatch OPED by James Paul, Commonwealth Foundation1EDT August 25, 2016
 “Back to school” can be an emotional time for students. Some greet the school year excited to learn and socialize, while others regretfully say goodbye to summer. Over the next nine months, many will have their lives transformed for the better. But for thousands of other children, this time of year is defined by disappointment.  They are trapped in schools that don’t meet their needs — effectively held hostage by a system that limits choice and opportunity.  Nearly 20 years after charter schools were introduced in Pennsylvania, 130,000 students benefit from the educational choice offered by these independently managed, publicly funded schools.

PSBA Report: Examining Pennsylvania charter school revenues, expenditures and transparency
 Charter schools were created with the intent of allowing communities to establish public schools independent from existing traditional public schools as a means to improve student performance, increase learning opportunities, encourage innovation, create professional development opportunities for teachers, and to provide expanded school choice, particularly to provide opportunities for children that were being underserved.  Under current Charter School Law, school districts are responsible for authorizing the creation of, assessing the performance of, and periodically reauthorizing brick-and-mortar charter schools located within their boundaries. Charter schools receive the bulk of their funding via payments from the school district where the charter school student resides. Many of the laws, regulations and other mandates that dictate what school districts are required to do, how they must do it and, ultimately, how much will be spent to get it done do not apply to charter schools.  PSBA’s report takes a closer look at how charter schools and school districts are spending public funds and highlights some of the issues encountered by PSBA in obtaining information from charter schools under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. The full report is available here.
The records submitted by charter schools as part of the RTK request can be accessed here:https://www.psba.org/charter-rtk-docs.


NEW: Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
PSBA website August 25, 2016
Take a more active role in public education advocacy by joining our Legislative Roundtable
This is your opportunity for a seat at the table (literally) with fellow public education advocates to take an active role in educating each other and policymakers.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, along with regional legislators, will be in attendance to work with you to support public education in Pennsylvania.  Use the form below to send your registration information!

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference website:www.paschoolleaders.org.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
The Early Bird Discount Deadline has been Extended to Wednesday, August 31, 2016!
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.