Thursday, August 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 27: Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 27, 2015:
Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?



Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377



Bogger commentary:
If your public school district receives more in revenue than it spends in a year the excess money goes into the district's fund balance, where it is available for rainy-day emergencies and possibly eliminating or reducing future tax hikes.  School district finances are transparent and available to the public, who pay the bills.

In contrast, and as a backdrop to the financial difficulties playing out in the courts and the press this week, Charter School Management Company, which runs the Chester Community Charter School, has ignored right-to-know requests regarding its finances for several years.  Significant concerns have been raised regarding special education classifications and tuition rates.  Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the financially struggling Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?

Judge rejects state plan to rescue Chester Upland district and cut charter payments
the notebook By Laura Benshoff for Newsworks on Aug 26, 2015 09:25 AM; Updated | 11:30 a.m.
Delaware County Judge Chad Kenney rejected the key piece of Gov. Wolf's plan to rescue the troubled Chester Upland School District on Tuesday: slashing payments to charter schools for their special education students.  In a 13-page opinion, Kenney wrote that the two days of hearings showed that the state-mandated funding formula sends to Chester charters far more money than they need or use to educate these students.  Nevertheless, he concluded, Wolf's overall plan is "wholly inadequate to restore the school district to financial stability." It would not, he said, prevent a more than $20 million deficit from opening up before the end of this school year. He also noted that the district owes $8.7 million to charter operators, which the state did not include in its calculations.  Charters educate more than half the students in Chester, one of the poorest districts in the state. Charter school payments, especially those for special education students, are the major financial drain on the district, the Wolf administration argued. Chester Upland is running at a $22 million structural deficit, and the reduction in charter payments that the governor proposed would have saved about $24 million.  Kenney did approve three smaller measures included in the proposed recovery plan: an independent forensic audit of the school district, the hiring of a financial turnaround specialist, and a loan forgiveness agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Kenney also rejected Wolf's proposal to reduce payments to cyber charters.

Charter school chief declares victory for children in Chester Upland
Delco Times POSTED: 08/27/15, 6:17 AM EDT | UPDATED: 4 MINS AGO
CHESTER >> A day after a judge ruled against a plan that Chester Upland School District officials believed would have saved the public schools from a financial quagmire, the founder of the state’s largest charter school lauded the decision as a victory for all children.  In an emailed statement Wednesday morning, founder of CSMI, LLC Vahan Gureghian said that the ruling, which denied a proposal to significantly reduce tuition reimbursements to charter schools in Chester Upland, will help keep the charters operating. A little more than half of all students in the district attend charters, with most attending CCCS. CSMI manages the charter school.  “We’re, of course, pleased with Judge Kenney’s decision,” Gureghian wrote in a statement, referring to Delaware County President Judge Chad F. Kenney, who oversees Chester Upland’s receivership proceedings. He ruled on the amended financial recovery plan proposed by Receiver Francis Barnes Tuesday night after two days of testimony.  “The ruling ensures that Chester’s children will be able to return to their classrooms, next month, at the same time that the rest of the students across the Commonwealth will,” Gureghian wrote.

Delco Times Editorial: Is there a solution for Chester Upland?
Delco Times POSTED: 08/26/15, 10:25 PM EDT | UPDATED: 46 SECS AGO
Gov. Tom Wolf had about as much luck with Delaware County President Judge Chad Kenney on a financial recovery plan for the Chester Upland School District as he’s been having with the state Legislature on a new budget for the commonwealth.  In other words, not a lot.  The bucks – and the red ink – don’t stop. Not in Harrisburg, not in Chester Upland either. That does not bode well for the perennially broke district, not the families and students who are trapped in this never-ending financial morass.  After two days of testimony, Judge Kenney late Tuesday night rejected the key cog in the latest financial recovery plan proposed for Chester Upland.  While he gave the green light for a forensic audit of the district’s books and appointment of a financial turnaround specialist, those were just window dressing. The guts of this plan was money, specifically the outrageous amounts Chester Upland reimburses its charter schools for special education students.  Currently the district pays in excess of $40,000 for every special education student enrolled in a charter school. State Budget Director Randy Albright called that number “extraordinary,” one that “bears no resemblance to the actual costs it takes to educate these children.”

2 big questions loom for Chester Upland
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Thursday, August 27, 2015
There are two big questions looming over the Chester Upland School District this morning.
Parents and children have to still be wondering what will happen when - or maybe the correct word is 'if' - schools open next week.  The other is something the district has been dealing with for decades. What is the answer to the district's fiscal woes.  All of this is part of the fallout from this week's court ruling that saw a Delco judge reject the state's attempt to radically reduce charter school reimbursements.  State officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, had made it clear they were not sure if Chester Upland would be able to open without the changes they sought. And even if they did, they warned it was entirely possible the red ink the district is awash in would force them to close the doors before the end of the school year.  The district is looking at a $23 million deficit, one that state officials believe could balloon to $40 million by the end of the school year.  Wolf said he was disappointed in the ruling and is mulling his options at this point in terms of an appeal.

Inky Editorial: Wolf hasn't lost the war
INQUIRER EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2015, 1:08 AM
A Delaware County judge has blocked Gov. Wolf's attempt to apply some common sense to Pennsylvania charter school funding. One lost battle doesn't mean Wolf has lost the war, but if the dismal odds for success in the Republican-controlled legislature were better, he wouldn't have needed to take the case to court.  Wolf wanted to amend the Chester Upland School District's court-ordered financial recovery plan to reduce special-education reimbursements to charter schools from $40,315 per student, which is 50 percent more than the state average, to $16,152. But Judge Chad Kenney said the proposal lacked "meaningful" details justifying the funding reduction.  It's too bad the governor didn't present a stronger case, especially since even some charter proponents admitted that the special-ed reimbursements are too high. Among them was Donald W. Delson, president of the Chester Charter School for the Arts trustee board, though he said his school couldn't survive the cuts Wolf wanted to make.

Wolf school plan creates 'separate and unequal' policy
Inquirer Opinion By Paula Silver POSTED: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015, 1:07 PM
Paula Silver is chairperson of the Widener Partnership Charter School Board of Trustees and dean of the School of Human Service Professions at Widener University
In addressing the decades-long financial crisis facing the Chester Upland School District, Gov. Wolf has insisted that he is committed to educational reform, educational accountability, and fiscal accountability. However, the governor’s proposed recovery plan, rejected in Delaware County court on Tuesday, would have not only served to punish those who have practiced the very ideals to which he ascribes, it would have also created a separate and unequal application of state policy regarding education funding.  The Widener Partnership Charter School in Chester, the state’s first university-based, independent charter school, has a proven record of educational and fiscal accountability. The results of the school’s educational testing compared with district-operated schools, and the results of its annual financial audits, stand as solid evidence that effective, cost-efficient education is achievable in the district.  For too long, charter schools that serve the Chester Upland district have been lumped together and labeled as the key culprit of the district’s financial woes. The fiscal mismanagement in the district existed long before the charter schools. It was a combination of this mismanagement, violence in district-operated schools, substandard facilities, and the poor quality of education that prompted many parents to seek alternative opportunities, such as the Widener Partnership Charter School, at which to educate their children.

STATEMENT: PSBA disappointed with Chester-Upland decision
PSBA Press Release August 26, 2015
 PSBA is discouraged with the decision made by Common Pleas Court Judge Chad F. Kenney to reject the financial recovery plan proposed by the state for the Chester-Upland School District that would implement needed corrections to the overpayments being made to charter schools for special education services. These changes would have paved the way for the school district to end its $22 million deficit and appropriately align the payments being made with district pays to charters for the services actually rendered to students. The plan also would have placed a cap on overpayments to cyber charter schools.  “While this case is unique to the Chester-Upland School District, the fact is that all school districts are impacted by charter and cyber charter schools expenses, and statewide reforms need to be enacted,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “Charter schools continue to rely on emotionally charged rhetoric, ignoring the facts about the impact of the current flawed calculation because it allows them to profit at the expense of school districts and taxpayers.”

PA school choice advocates get a big win in court
Watchdog.org By Evan Grossman  /   August 26, 2015
School choice advocates won a victory in court this week when a Delaware County judge rejected Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to de-fund charter schools in the cash-strapped Chester Upland School District.  As a means to mend the district’s bleeding budget, Wolf proposed slashing special education funding to Chester Upland charters and other cost-cutting actions. Judge Chad Kenney ruled late Tuesday night Wolf’s proposal to slash $24 million in charter school funding was “wholly inadequate” and found the state’s lawyers offered a flimsy argument for doing so.   “It is certainly an affirmation that the recovery plan submitted was incomplete and was not well researched and ignored a lot of the costs that the district had,” said Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. “It focused purely on charter school costs. Is this a victory for charter schools? Yes.”  Blocking the state from going after charters to achieve cost savings will have a ripple effect across Pennsylvania, especially in larger, fiscally challenged districts like Philadelphia, home to most of the state’s charter schools.

"Parents are — justifiably — fed up with the failings of a district that has for nearly three decades mishandled its finances and offered a subpar education to nearly three generations of students.  Claiming that the “District’s entire structural deficit can be directly attributed to the tuition rates paid by the district for special education students in charter schools …,” the Wolf administration’s new financial recovery plan circumvents Pennsylvania’s lawmaking process by unilaterally dictating charter-school tuition rates at the expense of brick-and-mortar charter school students.  The Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools believes the process being used by the Wolf administration is a back-door way to rewrite Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law by ignoring the 253 members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and shifting the burden of the district’s financial failure to the community’s charter schools."
Letter to the Editor: Don’t blame charter school students for Chester Upland’s financial woes
Delco Times By Tim Eller, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 08/25/15, 9:31 PM EDT 
Tim Eller is Executive Director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools
It should come as no surprise that the Wolf administration is taking an anti-school choice approach as it attempts to “rescue” a failing school district in Delaware County — one that has consistently failed students and families of Chester City, Upland Borough and Chester Township for nearly 25 years.  Long before brick-and-mortar charter schools became an option, Chester Upland School District was — and continues to be — fiscally mismanaged and failing academically, forcing parents to flock to charter schools for a better education for their children.  Since the community’s first charter school opened in 1997, parents have increasingly moved their children from the classrooms of district-run schools to those of charter schools.  In the 2013-14 school year, more than 60 percent of the students who resided in the Chester Upland School District were enrolled in a charter school. Sixty percent! Has anyone asked or ever wondered “Why?” Obviously, something is seriously wrong when 60 percent of students are fleeing the district.

"The poll of more than 600 registered voters performed between Aug. 17 and 24 shows 54 percent hold lawmakers responsible while 29 percent say it's the governor's fault.  That finding came as no surprise to the poll's director G. Terry Madonna given that the governor is emphasizing ideas that previous polls show are favorable with the public – a severance tax on natural gas drillers and more money for schools."
Who's to blame for late state budget: governor or lawmakers?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 27, 2015 at 5:00 AM, updated August 27, 2015 at 5:06 AM
Pennsylvania is still waiting on Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature to finalize a state budget that was due by July 1.  So who's to blame for the late budget?
A Franklin & Marshall College poll released on Thursday finds that more registered voters point the finger at the state Legislature.  The poll of more than 600 registered voters performed between Aug. 17 and 24 shows 54 percent hold lawmakers responsible while 29 percent say it's the governor's fault.  That finding came as no surprise to the poll's director G. Terry Madonna given that the governor is emphasizing ideas that previous polls show are favorable with the public – a severance tax on natural gas drillers and more money for schools.  "The governor is out there nonstop aggressively pushing a popular agenda," he said. "And the governor demands a lot more attention than individual members of the Legislature so that's another reason."

Wolf cancels state budget negotiations, no more talks this week
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2015 at 1:14 PM, updated August 26, 2015 at 1:51 PM
The way Tuesday's state budget negotiations ended left Republican legislative leaders anticipating that when talks resumed on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf would finally give them an answer as to whether he would accept a potentially budget-impasse-breaking offer that the GOP put on table last week.  Instead, Wolf cancelled the 1 p.m. meeting.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed Discusses What He Sees Are The Possible Choices The Governor HasReed, R-Indiana, advises that Gov. Tom Wolf cancelled Wednesday's budget talks when the GOP legislative leaders had hoped to get Wolf's answer to the offer they put on the table last week. They saw their offer of $400 million more in basic educati...  House and Senate GOP leadership said the meeting was not rescheduled but were told it would not take place later this week.  Wolf's spokesman Jeff Sheridan placed the blame for the need for more time on the Republicans. "Republican leaders changed their numbers regarding pension savings three times during yesterday's meeting and cannot provide clarity on the details of their pension reform plan," Sheridan said.    He also made it clear that the House's failed attempts to override 20 budget lines on Tuesday didn't help.

Cancelled budget meeting blasted by House GOP leadership
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Call it cancelled or postponed, Wednesday’s previously scheduled 1:00 p.m. meeting to discuss the state budget and the GOP offered pension-for-basic education funding proposal was nixed by Gov. Tom Wolf just hours before it was supposed to begin.  While Wolf spokesperson Jeff Sheridan in an email to The PLS Reporter said the meeting has been merely postponed, House GOP leaders speaking to the press Wednesday morning said the meeting was cancelled and not expected to be rescheduled anytime this week.  “Certainly, we’re a little bit concerned about that,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana). “The governor has had our proposal for a little over a week, it’s time to get a response to that proposal.”  Rep. Reed said that response could have come in any number of ways, even in the form of a counterproposal.  “The response could even be: ‘We’re not fully supportive of that pension proposal, we have some tweaks we want to make to it, we’re willing to change our education number accordingly’,” he said.
This represents a decided change in tone from last week's take-it-or-leave-it rhetoric by Republicans following the initial proffer of the plan.

"I'm not excusing the suffering some are having to go through or will go through but it's not global and that's what it is obviously going to have to take," Madonna said. "There has to be an imminent pressure that makes them make this deal."  Some say it's when schools are in danger of not being able to open that'll create that kind of pressure.  Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Business Officials Association, said he anticipates school districts will be able to get by for now. But if they miss their state subsidy payment in October, that will leave some in a significant financial bind."
Pa. budget impasse now on Day 57. Does anyone care?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM, updated August 26, 2015 at 6:21 PM
Pennsylvania will end August in the same position it started, with no finalized state budget in place.  After this week's failed attempts to nudge budget negotiations along, prospects of breaking this budget impasse — which entered its 57th day Wednesday —  certainly aren't looking brighter.  But some argue the impact of not having a budget in place has yet to be felt by many Pennsylvanians, which is playing a part in the lack of forward progress.  Just to recap, Gov. Tom Wolf met with legislative leaders on Tuesday and asked for another day to mull over what Republicans put on the table last week and saw as a potential budget-impasse-breaking offer.  That delay contributed to House Republican leaders' decision to proceed that afternoon with holding override votes on 20 lines in the GOP-passed budget that Wolf vetoed in its entirety on June 30. This effort failed.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed Discusses What He Sees Are The Possible Choices The Governor HasReed, R-Indiana, advises that Gov. Tom Wolf cancelled Wednesday's budget talks when the GOP legislative leaders had hoped to get Wolf's answer to the offer they put on the table last week. They saw their offer of $400 million more in basic education funding in exchange for pension reform as having the potential of bringing an end to the 57-day budget impasse if the governor accepted it.  GOP leaders went into Wednesday expecting to get an answer on their offer from Wolf.The governor cancelled the meeting and left it up in the air when they would meet again. 

"Our leaders in Harrisburg need to reach a compromise that funds Pennsylvania schools adequately and fairly, that reforms Pennsylvania’s underfunded pension systems, and that gets the state out of the liquor business.  Given that there should be savings on pensions and revenue from selling off the state liquor stores, moving the ball on education funding should not be that heavy a lift.
Call your lawmakers and tell them that their message to their leaders should be to reach a compromise. Call the governor’s office and tell him to do the same."
Tell them: Eight weeks late is long enough. Get back to work. Stay in the room until a deal is reached. Then, and only then, take off for Labor Day.
LNP Editorial: Hey 'leaders:' Get a Pennsylvania budget done
Lancaster Online Editorial The LNP Editorial Board
THE ISSUE: Pennsylvania has gone eight weeks without a budget. The state’s resulting failure to pay $11 million in reimbursements for state-mandated programs since July 1 led to an emergency meeting Wednesday of the Lancaster County Salary Board. Seeking to preserve funds while Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders continue to be at odds, the board adopted a hiring freeze for noncritical positions. It also discussed more drastic actions affecting county employees if the stalemate continues, including furloughs and four-day workweeks for some.
The standoff in Harrisburg has gone on long enough.
Faced with what he considers a lack of clarity on the savings the GOP’s pension proposal will produce, the governor on Wednesday  indefinitely postponed a budget negotiation with Republican legislative leaders.  Republican leaders — including House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler of Peach Bottom — say the governor had a week to review the proposal. Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan says Republicans gave conflicting answers on the savings — questions he expected them to be able to answer about their own proposal. Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher says the savings are about $10 million, and the Senate GOP has offered confirmation of that number from four actuaries.  One would like to be in the room to hear how these negotiations are going. The hope from outside is that the talks are going better than the two sides’ public rhetoric would suggest.

Quinn bill would keep needy schools off hook during budget impasse
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, Staff writer Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:15 pm
Should the state budget stalemate continue into the fall, school districts without deep capital reserves may need to take out loans to pay bills.  New legislation in Harrisburg would prevent districts most in need from having taxpayers foot the bill for the fees and interest payments associated with the loans.  The measure — House Bill 1487 — sponsored by state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-143, Doylestown, would help counties and municipalities as well as the districts.  It would amend the fiscal code to provide the Treasury Department with the authority to make credit available to schools and human services provided by counties.  "This would prevent the interruption of critical program services," Quinn said. "Politics shouldn't come into play when it regards funding education and human services."

Mastery charter grows its network with North Philly 'turnaround of a turnaround'
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY AUGUST 26, 2015
Scholar Academies operates one the highest-performing charter schools in Philadelphia, Young Scholars Charter School.  So when the school district gave the organization the keys to one of its own chronically struggling schools in 2010 through the renaissance initiative, it expected to see significant improvement.  But five years after the transfer, the school has changed hands once again.  After being operated by Scholar Academies for five years, Frederick Douglass Elementary School in North Philadelphia opened anew Wednesday as one of Mastery Charter's growing portfolio of schools.  "We think that the school was doing OK, but it needs to get a lot better," said Courtney Collins-Shapiro, Mastery's chief innovation officer.  While most charters take in students through lotteries that draw students from all over the city, the "renaissance" distinction means the schools are neighborhood schools that must serve all students within certain boundaries.  Since 2010, the district has handed 20 of its schools to charter operators through this process. While some have seen gains on state tests, Mastery has had the most success in maintaining growth.

Bad News for Testing Advocates
It only gets worse for testing advocates, who cannot seem to get out of their own way.  First we learned that 20% of 3rd-8th grade students in New York State opted out of the state testing this Spring, and now two national polls show that even more than 20% of adults approve of opting out.   Bear in mind that current federal law requires that 95% of students be tested. Districts where more than 5% of students opt out can be punished.
The annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll reports that 41% approve, while a poll conducted by EdNext puts the figure at 25%. Some who oppose opting out are spinning this as a defeat for the protestors because more oppose opting out than support it, but that’s just plain silly because of the fed’s 95% rule.  Both 25% and 41% are a long long long long way from 5%.
What’s even more revealing is how tone deaf the testing advocates seem to be.  Saying stuff like “Yes, perhaps there are too many tests, but these tests are important so please don’t skip them,”  That’s not leadership. Strong leaders would be taking steps to reduce the number of tests and suggesting alternatives ways of assessing.  Other so-called leaders are issuing vague threats against parents and educators who support opting out, which is never a good idea.

K12, Inc. has been the management company running Pennsylvania's Agora Cyber Charter.  Beginning July 2015 Agora is reportedly moving to self-managing.
K12 has historically received about 13 percent of its revenue from Agora.
Agora's SPP scores for 2013 and 2014 were 48.3 and 42.4; a score of 70 is considered passing by PDE
Executive Salaries at K12, Inc.
Diane Ravitch's BLog By dianeravitch August 26, 2015 //
While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.  Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.
The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.
The former CEO made $4 million.
The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.
The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.
The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.
The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.
Numbers are rounded.
Remember: It is all about the kids.

Big Hype, Hard Fall for News Corp.'s $1 Billion Ed-Tech Venture
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: August 25, 2015
The global media giant News Corp. sought to push its way into the K-12 marketplace five years ago by betting big on technology.  Now, despite a $1 billion investment and a steady stream of brash promises to radically disrupt the way public schools do business, the company's education division, known as Amplify, is deeply in the red and on the auction block.  Veteran observers of the fickle K-12 ed-tech market say they aren't surprised.  "There's a long history of education entrepreneurs who have crashed on the rocks because the market was not what they thought it would be," said Douglas A. Levin, a consultant on the ed-tech market and the recent head of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.  Earlier this month, it became clear that the highly publicized venture had become a financial albatross. When News Corp. announced that it would write off the education division's $371 million in losses over the past year and look to sell off Amplify, investors cheered, sending the parent company's share price up 7.5 percent, to $14.89.

Top K-12 Education Policy People on Social Media 2015
As I foreshadowed last week, it’s time for my annual list of top Twitter handles in education policy. (Last year’s ishere.) Today we’ll look at the rankings for top people; later this week we’ll release the results for top organizations and media outlets.  We tried to be much more inclusive this year in terms of the universe of folks included in our analysis, asking the edu-sphere to nominate people and organizations to examine. You came through in a big way; in the end we looked at almost 500 Twitter handles. (The whole list is here.) However, a couple of the same caveats remain from previous years: We wanted to limit the finalists to those who tweet primarily about K-12 education policy, and not education technology, higher education, parenting, or other related topics. And sometimes that meant making tough judgement calls. (More on that below.)
So without further ado, here are the top education policy people on social media, as measured by Klout scores(which looks at Twitter, Facebook, and several other platforms):
http://educationnext.org/top-k-12-education-policy-people-on-social-media-2015/

The Melting of Mark Zuckerberg’s Donation to Newark Schools
New York Times By JONATHAN A. KNEE AUG. 26, 2015
The national debate over how to best educate our children is usually undertaken at a high level of abstraction. Constructive dialogue is often hampered by intense philosophical preconceptions that drive the perceptions and characterizations of all key players in the underlying drama: union leaders, charter operators, philanthropists, school administrators, politicians and teachers. The great strength of Dale Russakoff’s heartbreaking and disheartening book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) is its steadfast insistence on avoiding generalities and explaining realities.  In place of the cardboard figures that often dominate education narratives, Ms. Russakoff provides nuanced portraits of flawed but largely well-meaning human beings. It is not just sticking to the facts and the avoidance of taking sides that makes “The Prize” such a moving and thought-provoking book. It is the painstaking specificity with which she describes the lives of those strangely absent from many more ideological tracts: the children.  Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark public schools in 2010 provided the perfect canvas on which to examine a failing urban school district. Although not an education expert as such, Ms. Russakoff’s long tenure in The Washington Post’s New York bureau earned her access to all of the protagonists in the unfolding tragedy. Many may question their decision to be quite so open after reading “The Prize,” whose only heroes are individual teachers and principals working with particular children and their families to occasionally overcome breathtaking odds.  Watching the $200 million iceberg (Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation was contingent on raising a matching amount) slowly melt into an ocean of recrimination over the course of 256 brisk pages can be a sometimes painful exercise.


Save the Date: Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging at the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day — your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and then plan to meet with your elected officials from 1-3 p.m., scheduled by PSBA . There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online, which will be available in the next few days. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award close Aug. 28th
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openAug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration is live at:

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 26: Judge rejects Wolf challenge to charter funding; So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 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 for August 26, 2015:
Judge rejects Wolf challenge to charter funding; So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?




Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377



School Funding Case Before Justices May Have Wide Impact
Maura McInerney, The Legal Intelligencer August 24, 2015
Education is the greatest civil rights issue of our time. The promise of a public education system is that it opens doors to all students and provides them with the opportunity for success in life regardless of the circumstances of their birth. It is an essential feature of our democracy and the lodestar that guides and guards our right to the "pursuit of happiness" guaranteed as "inherent" in both our federal and state constitutions. But Pennsylvania's public school system is in crisis, leaving many of our poorest students without the means to pursue that happiness.  A majority of our schools are significantly underfunded and students pay the price. Pennsylvania's method of funding schools is one of the most inequitable in the nation, as the state's poorest school districts receive 33 percent less funding than the wealthiest school districts—the single largest gap in the country.  Unequal funding has led to unequal success. This year marks the fourth straight year of declines in standardized test scores and currently a majority of Pennsylvania students are unable to pass the trio of Keystone exams adopted by the legislature as graduation requirements beginning in 2017.  How did we get here? In part, it is due to decisions to slash nearly $1 billion dollars in state school funding and to abandon a highly promising fair-funding formula that was based on the documented needs of students. Pennsylvania is currently one of only a handful of states without an operating school-funding formula.

"The district pays local charter schools about $64 million in tuition payments - more than it gets in state aid - to educate about half of its 7,000 students."
Judge rejects Wolf challenge to charter funding
MARI A. SCHAEFER AND CAITLIN MCCABE, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 9:41 PM
A Delaware County judge ruled Tuesday that the Chester Upland School District must abide by the state's charter school funding formula and keep paying the charter schools that now educate about half of the struggling district's students.  After a hearing that stretched two days, Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney said the commonwealth's plan was "wholly inadequate" to restore the district to financial stability. He also faulted the state and district's lawyers for failing to provide "meaningful specifics or details" as to how they arrived at the plan.  Kenney did approve two smaller requests: He said the district can hire a turnaround specialist and a forensic auditor.  The ruling was a setback for the Wolf administration and the district's state appointed receiver, Frances Barnes, who had contended Chester Upland schools might not be able to open next week without a change to the formula. It was not clear if they would seek to appeal Kenney's ruling.

Judge derails Pa. plan for Chester Upland recovery
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 08/25/15, 10:33 PM EDT 
CHESTER >> Just minutes after a public meeting with the receiver of the Chester Upland School District ended with an impassioned plea for support of the public school system, a Delaware County judge denied proposals to alter charter school funding which would have eliminated a $22 million structural deficit.   President Judge Chad F. Kenney denied portions of a plan proposed by Receiver Francis V. Barnes, with the support of Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Education, that sought to reduce payments to charter and cyber charter schools that educate Chester Upland School District. Barnes was seeking to cap the regular education tuition reimbursement for cyber charter students at $5,950, and to reduce the tuition reimbursement for special education students in brick-and-mortar charter schools from $40,000 to $16,000. Both changes would have been consistent with the recommendations of two bipartisan school funding commissions. Other portion of the plan calling for a forensic audit, a financial turnaround specialist and the delay of a loan repayment were approved.

Expert: Chester Upland drowning in red ink
By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 08/25/15, 10:13 PM EDT 
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Even if President Judge Chad F. Kenney approved a plan from Chester Upland School District Receiver Francis Barnes to reduce charter school payments, the district would still find itself $20 million in the red by the end of the 2015-2016 school year, according to financial consultant Dean Kaplan.  That revelation came late in a full day of testimony as a court battle pitting charter schools against the district played out before the specter of a looming $23.8 million shortfall. The judge later ruled against a crucial element of the state recovery plan.  Kaplan noted that the plan put forward by Barnes would eliminate $20 million in payments to charters for special education students, though it would not address prior debt already owed, which continues to accumulate.  Without the judge’s approval, however, Kaplan said the district would remain in the same untenable position that it now finds itself in next year, but with a deficit that has ballooned to $45 million.

Chester Upland charters struggle to account for $40,000 price tag for special education
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF AUGUST 25, 2015
In court Tuesday, charter schools in the Chester Upland district defended their claim to $40,000 in tuition for each special-education student they enroll.  According to Pennsylvania's calculations, the charters need -- and, in fact, currently spend -- well below that on those students.  The debate about how much money charters need to fulfill federal requirements for a "free appropriate public education" for special-education students is at the heart of reforms proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf and the district's receiver, Francis Barnes, last week.  And it's at the center of a battle in Delaware County court this week between state and charter school officials.  Witnesses for the state Department of Education said Tuesday that none of the schools claimed spending more than $25,000 per special-education student in annual self-reports.  http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/85551-chester-upland-charters-struggle-to-account-for-40000-price-tag-for-special-education

So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?
Keystone State Education Coalition August 25, 2014
Here's the bottom line on Chester Upland charter school special education funding.  Would this have been allowed to go on for years if charter schools were "public" in more than name only and were subject to taxpayer scrutiny on a regular basis?    Right-to-know requests for financial information regarding the operations of Charter School Management Company have been blatantly ignored for years.

Tuesday's talks end with no break in state budget impasse
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 25, 2015 at 1:51 PM, updated August 25, 2015 at 3:27 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf left Tuesday's scheduled budget negotiating meeting with legislative leaders with more questions and no answer as to whether he was going to accept the Republicans' offer that would move talks along.  Wolf said his questions center around the savings that would be derived from the GOP pension reform plan that was placed on the table last week.  The answers he has heard about how much savings would be achieved from the plan "seems to change depending on who was answering the question," Wolf said.  Republican leaders left the meeting seemingly perturbed that the governor wasn't ready to say if he was willing to accept their offer of pension and liquor reform in exchange for giving Wolf the $400 million increase in basic education funding that he is seeking.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said the governor wants 24 hours more to think about it.

House GOP veto override attempts fall short
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, August 25, 2015
A move by the House Republican Caucus to attempt to override certain line-items of Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a GOP-crafted, June-passed budget plan fell short Tuesday.  The caucus brought up line items related to funding rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, school food service, and other education, social service and human services line items.  While debates on the merits boiled down to Republicans urging support for the override votes to help get money to centers that are struggling to make ends meet during the budget impasse, Democrats argued the override attempts were unconstitutional and offers of necessary help were just a ploy.  “We will fight for additional funding for rape crisis centers to make sure they have adequate funding to do their job,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) during the floor debate Tuesday. “We will not support an override of a veto…this is nothing but a scam and you know it. It’s a stunt and it’s about time you get called on it.”  House Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) agreed.  “We need to be talking about a budget in its entirety,” he said. “Let’s just shoot this down, let’s go on, and let’s come up with an agreed-to budget that we’re willing to sit down with you and come to an agreement on.”  Democrats also released an advisory opinion from the Legislative Reference Bureau stating the veto override attempt is unconstitutional.

Pa. GOP tries to override only part of Wolf's budget
ASSOCIATED PRESS LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 1:06 AM POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 6:38 PM
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's budget impasse remained firmly in place Tuesday after the Republican majority failed during hours of debate to persuade Democrats, in a series of 14 votes, to override any portion of Gov. Wolf's budget veto.  Republicans defended the perhaps-unprecedented legislative method of holding override votes on individual line items even though Wolf had not exercised his line-item authority when he rejected the GOP budget plan in late June. The $30.2 billion plan did not include more taxes for education and human services spending, as Wolf proposed.  Democrats argued that line-item votes would violate the state constitution, and prevented their opponents from getting the two-thirds majority required for an override.

House defeats GOP bid to override parts of Wolf budget veto
MARK SCOLFORO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 7:39 PM POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 6:41 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's budget impasse remained firmly in place Tuesday after the Republican majority failed during hours of debate to persuade Democrats in a series of 14 votes to override any portion of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's budget veto.  Republicans defended the perhaps unprecedented legislative method of holding override votes on individual line items even though Wolf had not exercised his line-item authority when he rejected the GOP budget plan in late June. The $30.2 billion plan did not include more taxes for education and human services spending, as Wolf proposed.

House Majority Leader: 'I'm not sure where we go from here' after failed veto override attempt
Penn Live by Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com  on August 25, 2015 at 7:39 PM
Republicans will be heading back to the negotiating table with Gov. Tom Wolf after 20 budget veto override proposals failed to gain enough support on Tuesday.  Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives attempted to override lines of Wolf's budget veto. The proposals were meant to free up money for certain services and programs related to education, human services, agriculture and health.  "In all honesty, I'm not sure where we go from here," according to House Majority Leader Dave Reed.  Reed said the reason they moved forward with the override votes -- which received 115 out of the necessary 136 votes -- on Tuesday rather than sooner was because agencies are now struggling and running out of money.

OP-ED: Pa. needs sensible budget compromises
York Dispatch by Mark Price POSTED:   08/26/2015 01:45:12 AM EDT
This op-ed was written by Mark Price, Ph.D., economist and interim research director of the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday that Pennsylvania created 66,500 jobs in the last 12 months. At 1.1 percent, that's the fastest year-over-year job growth reported in any July since 2005. Relative to the 50 states, that's the 34th fastest pace in the country and the best Pennsylvania has ranked since July 2011 when it was in 26th place.  July 2011 is of note because former Gov. Tom Corbett's first budget was signed shortly before the stroke of midnight on June 30, 2011. While on time, the budget was even more remarkable because it cut $1 billion from education funding and set off a wave of school district layoffs that, as of the end of the last school year, tallied to 33,000 jobs.  Not surprisingly, layoffs on that scale delivered a body blow to a state economy still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. The body blow dropped Pennsylvania's job growth ranking within a year to 44th and by July 2013 to 48th.  So what we learned this Aug. 20 is that job growth in the commonwealth is finally back to normal — Pennsylvania has ranked, on average, 35th for job growth since 1990. The future of the Pennsylvania labor market, however, is cloudier than it should be thanks to deadlock over this year's state budget.

Budget stalemate tosses uncertainty into Western Pennsylvania teacher negotiations
Trib Live By Katelyn Ferral Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, 11:12 p.m.
Teachers and Belle Vernon district leaders averted a strike early Tuesday, reaching a last-minute deal after more than 400 days without a contract.  A strike threat hastened negotiations there, but teachers aren't likely to picket during contract talks happening in more than 30 districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.  
“(Striking) is a tool, but it's not a tool that you want to use hastily,” said Matt Edgell, advocacy coordinator for Allegheny County for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “You can only pull that trigger once, so you better be ready to do it ... labor and management should be ready for the consequences.”  Teachers without new contracts are hoping to reach an agreement amid a budget stalemate in Harrisburg that's frozen funding and left many school officials wary of committing to long-term contracts with employees.  Districts statewide are set to miss a key payment from the state next month, which will likely continue to delay contract settlements, district officials and labor leaders said Tuesday.  “What's happening at the bargaining table in Harrisburg trickles down to the bargaining table in every school district in the state,” Edgell said.

Governor Wolf and Secretary Rivera Announce $23.5 Million in School Improvement Grants for Nine Pa. Schools
PDE Press Release HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 
Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Education Pedro A. Riveratoday announced that nine schools across the commonwealth will receive a combined $23.5 million in School Improvement Grant funding.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education awarded these federal grants through a competitive process. Applications were reviewed and scored by a panel of peer reviewers who then made award recommendations.  For a school to be eligible for funding, it must be among the lowest-achieving schools in Pennsylvania that has not made substantial progress on state assessments, or has a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for at least two of the last three years.  As part of the competitive application process, eligible schools must adopt and implement one of four reform models developed by the federal government: Transformation, Turnaround, Restart, and School Closure.

"In the early 1990s, my older daughters' academic progress was measured by nationally normed standardized tests chosen by the local district that measured literacy and math skills and took two to three hours (not days) to complete. The results gleaned from these shorter tests still gave me a clear picture of how my daughters were learning compared to their peer group locally and nationwide.
What I want as a parent has not changed.  However, poorly conceived public policy in the form of excessive state-mandated standardized testing coupled with a punitive approach to teacher and school performance make it ever more difficult for teachers to focus on cultivating their students to grow as both learners and as young people."
Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy: New education policies test teachers, students
Morning Call Opinion by Joseph Roy August 24, 2015
My 5-year-old daughter starts kindergarten at the end of this month at Lincoln Elementary School in the Bethlehem Area School District. Believe it or not, my older daughters entered kindergarten in 1993 and 1997, respectively.  As both a parent and educator, I can't help but reflect on what has changed and what has remained the same in education between the 1990s and 2015.  My hopes and desires for what I want my daughters to experience in their schooling have not changed. In the 1990s, I wanted my daughters to feel loved in school and to explore, create, think, discover and pursue their passions. I want the exact same for my daughter in 2015.  I also want to know how my daughter's learning compares with her peers both locally and nationwide, but not at the expense of what is developmentally appropriate. I don't need my young daughter to be pushed to learn in second grade what my older daughters learned in fourth grade and then be evaluated by flawed mandatory state tests.

PA Core Standards test gets mixed reviews as Lower Bucks districts brace for lower scores
Bucks County Courier Times By Joan Hellyer Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 3:30 am | Updated: 6:22 am, Wed Aug 26, 2015.
The new Pennsylvania Core Standards initiative has its positives and its negatives, according to a co-chairman of Pennsbury High School’s mathematics department.  The good part is that students are expected to understand the concept behind each problem, said Matt Groden, the PHS mathematics department co-chairman. "There is a lot of struggle in that, but when that struggle meets with discovery, it is more rewarding."  But there are some downsides to the new approach, he said. One of them is that the new state standards, based on the national Common Core Standards, take a "one size fits all" approach to learning, Groden said.

Schools warn lower PSSA scores coming
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt Staff writer Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:30 am | Updated: 6:28 am, Wed Aug 26, 2015.
School districts have been warned that this year’s Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, the first tests fully aligned with Pennsylvania Core Standards, have resulted in lower scores.  While the official results likely won’t be released until the fall, a July letter from state Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera alerted school officials that the numbers won’t be pretty.  “I assure you that we understand that standardized test results should not be the sole indicator of a student’s or school’s success, and will be part of a larger conversation on accountability, and how we best serve our students,” he wrote.  The reasons for the decline, school officials said, include more rigorous standards combined with a scoring adjustment that makes it more difficult for a student to earn a “proficient” or “advanced” score.

Saucon Valley School Board rejects arbitrator's report
By Christina Tatu Of The Morning Call Tuesday, August 25, 2015
The Saucon Valley School Board voted down a neutral arbitrator's report Tuesday, saying salary recommendations would have teachers earning more than in the affluent Parkland School District, and that portions of the report regarding health care, retirement incentives and pay earned for continuing education credits were confusing.  School Director Ralph Puerta spoke at the beginning of the meeting, addressing an audience packed with union members.  . Despite "thoroughly dissecting" the report leading up to Tuesday's meeting, directors were still confused on several key points and felt the salary schedule recommended by arbitrator Timothy Brown was too high.  "We are not Parkland School District," Puerta said, noting that according to Brown's proposed salary schedule, Saucon Valley teachers would be earning more than Parkland teachers during most years of the six-year contract.  "It has nothing to do with my appreciation and respect for you … I would ask you sincerely to take a look at that salary schedule and ask whether it is appropriate," he said.

Mastery tapped to turn around Douglass Charter School
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 1:06 AM
Mastery Charter Schools has been awarded $1.5 million from the Philadelphia School Partnership to help it turn around the Frederick Douglass Charter School in North Philadelphia.  The grant from the partnership's Great Schools Fund was scheduled to be announced Wednesday - the first day of school for students at Douglass and at Mastery's 14 other campuses across the city.  "We're delighted to have the support of the Philadelphia School Partnership and to get the resources we need to provide the best quality education for the children at Frederick Douglass," said Scott Gordon, CEO of the nonprofit Mastery Schools.

Principals fired in test cheating win back jobs through arbitration
the notebook By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Aug 25, 2015 07:16 PM
Two Philadelphia principals fired for their roles in a standardized-test cheating scandal, Marla Travis-Curtis (top) and Michelle Burns, have won favorable arbitration rulings.   Two principals fired by the Philadelphia School District in the wake of the statewide standardized-test cheating scandal have won favorable rulings through arbitration that could return them to school leadership.  Michelle Burns, formerly principal at Kensington Urban Education Academy, won a ruling reinstating her as a district principal. Arbitrator Ralph Colflesh said the District is to provide back pay less wages from a 60-day suspension.  Burns was principal of Tilden Middle School, where there was evidence of cheating in 2009 and 2010.
Marla Travis-Curtis, formerly principal of Lamberton Elementary School, won a ruling that could return her to the District, but demote her to assistant principal.  Arbitrator Alan Symonette ordered the district to provide Travis-Curtis back-pay at an assistant principal rate less a 30-day suspension.  Both Burns and Travis-Curtis are also to receive compensation for any money they spent on benefits due to their termination.  "At this time, the school district is reviewing all its legal options in response to the arbitration findings," wrote district spokesman Fernando Gallard in a statement.

Vote on partnership between Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh Public School possible in October
Trib Live By Katherine Schaeffer Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, 11:12 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg School Board could receive a draft, possibly in September, of what a potential partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools might look like, school board Chairman Ed Donovan said Tuesday.  “We're still in the fact-finding and discussion stage,” Donovan said at the end of the school board meeting, in which the partnership was not discussed by the board.  Officials at Pittsburgh Public and Wilkinsburg schools have said they plan to form an internal group to explore how the districts might work together.  They would draft a potential agreement for how Wilkinsburg could pay to send students in grades seven through 12 to a Pittsburgh middle and high school, and they will determine which Pittsburgh school would be a feeder school for Wilkinsburg students.  If the Wilkinsburg School Board receives a draft in September, it could vote on the agreement in October, Donovan said.  Wilkinsburg middle and high school students could attend Pittsburgh schools as early as 2016-17 if both boards agree to partner.

Why so many teachers quit, and how to fix that
Centre Daily Times BY KRISTINA RIZGA August 25, 2015 
Every year, thousands of young and enthusiastic teachers all over the country start their first day of work. Within the following five years, at least 17 percent of them will leave the profession. Teacher attrition is especially high in poor, urban schools, where on average about a fifth of the entire faculty leaves annually — that’s roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in more affluent schools.  Not only is recruitment and retraining expensive, costing the United States about $2 billion each year, but research also shows that teacher stability is crucial for building strong relationships between staff and students.  What’s pushing so many teachers out of the profession? Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has been trying to answer that question for years. He’s found that teachers often cite long hours and low pay as contributing to their dissatisfaction. But teachers are even more upset by their lack of say over key decisions affecting classrooms. Volumes of other research echo this theme. In a 2014 Gallup Poll, teachers ranked last among 12 professional groups in agreeing that their opinion at work matters.

State Takeover of Schools Harms Black, Latino Communities, Report Contends
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Corey Mitchell on August 24, 2015 4:35 PM
A new report from The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a group including the nation's two largest teachers' unions, argues that state takeover of schools and school districts is "stripping political power" from black and Latino communities.  The report traces the history of what the group calls "market-based intervention and reform," from the state takeover of three New Jersey school districts in the late 1980s and mid-1990s to the present-day push to allow state-run schools in Georgia. The authors contend that the growing number of state takeovers and achievement districts has increased segregation, dismantled community schools, and undermined the financial stability of the affected school districts.  The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools asserts that local resistance to mayoral control of education policy in large urban districts has now given way to a broader strategy focused on usurping local control.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 19 - 25, 2015
Submitted by fairtest on August 25, 2015 - 1:07pm 
"Testing Lacks Public Support," the headline on the Phi Delta Kappan's summary of its just published 2015 Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, says it all. The annual survey clearly shows that a majority of Americans are fed up with politically mandated overuse and misuse of standardized exams, just as FairTest and allies have repeatedly stated.
FairTest Reaction
http://www.fairtest.org/fairtest-reaction-2015-annual-gallupphi-delta-kapp
Complete PDK/Gallup Poll Data
http://pdkpoll2015.pdkintl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/pdkpoll47_2015.pdf


The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award close Aug. 28th
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openAug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration is live at:

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.