Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Governor Corbett’s stark naked school choice: some moving out, some moving in

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Governor Corbett’s stark naked school choice: some moving out, some moving in
Some moving out of troubled Chester Upland School District
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Tue, Jan. 10, 2012, 3:01 AM
With Delaware County's beleaguered Chester Upland School District nearing insolvency, some parents are moving out of the city or placing their children in other schools.
Ieasa Nichols Harmon, the mother of three children and until last month a school board member, moved to Wilmington two weeks ago, wary of what might happen after Wednesday. When the district's 508 employees collect their paychecks, there will be only $100,000 left in the bank, with no immediate prospects for an infusion of cash.

Since for-profit management companies that contract to run charter schools in Pennsylvania have virtually no fiscal transparency requirements, taxpayers have no idea how much they have contributed to the $28.9 million Palm Beach purchase by Charter School Management Company owner Vahan Gureghian, Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.  His Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick and mortar charter, already enrolls about half of Chester Upland’s students.  On the 2009-2010 PSSA they performed better than some and worse than some of the regular CUSD elementary schools.

On July 21, 2011 Benjamin Herrold reported in the Notebook that the Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) was among the 89 school across the state that are to be investigated for statistical irregularities on the 2009 PSSA.  Almost six months later we are still waiting for the results of that investigation.

In the August 2011 issue of Philadelphia Magazine, Jason Fagone reported that “According to Republican State Representative Mike Vereb, who considers himself a friend of Gureghian, "The language that Vahan was looking to do (in a pending charter school reform bill) had to do with vendors of a school … contractors." The effect of such language would be to hide details of the financial operations of charter schools from public scrutiny. Presumably, this would make it harder for Gureghian's competitors to copy his financial "recipe.""

Some moving in: Palm Beach Florida Daily News, November 3, 2011

There’s finally word about who bought 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. and the lot next door for a combined $28.9 million — the year’s second-largest Palm Beach residential purchase by a single buyer.

Pottstown SD Budget draft: 4.1% tax hike
Pottstown Mercury by Evan Brandt Published: Saturday, January 07, 2012 ebrandt@pottsmerc.com
POTTSTOWN — Closing the projected budget gap for the 2012-13 school year could cost the average taxpayer more than $113, according to the preliminary budget presented to the school board Thursday night.

BTW, Pottstown could be next…….
"Should that new paradigm involve Gureghian's takeover of Pottstown's elementary education, it would also have meant, by Lindley's estimates, a $19.2 million windfall in Pottstown tax dollars for Gureghian's company."
The Pottstown Mercury, Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011
By Evan Brandt, ebrandt@pottsmerc.com
Andrew Dinniman, D-19th Dist. told The Mercury that with Harrisburg battling over school vouchers and a difficult state budget that it is unlikely any action would be undertaken on the charter school reform bill before the fall. ...

FYI, Jeffrey S. Yass, Managing Director, Susquehanna International Group, LLP who funded the pro-voucher Student’s First PAC to the tune of $1,727,166.00 is a member of the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute.
JANUARY 9, 2012
EITC: An Alternate Way to School Choice
Wall Street Journal Letters By Adam Schaeffer, Cato Institute, Washington
Your editorial "Republicans for Monopoly" (Dec. 31) lamenting Pennsylvania's school-choice deadlock misses the real story: The Pennsylvania House passed a massive expansion of the state's Educational Improvement Tax Credit program—already the largest private choice program in terms of the number of students—by 190 votes to seven.

Report Finds No Accountability in Existing State EITC Program Funneling Tax Credits to Private Schools
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/
Despite receiving roughly a third of a billion dollars in taxpayer funds over the past decade, a state program that funds scholarships for students attending private and religious schools lacks fundamental accountability measures.
The Keystone Research Center made this finding in a new report assessing the state's decade-old Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program. View the Executive Summary and the full report, No Accountability: Pennsylvania's Track Record Using Tax Credits to Pay for Private and Religious School Tuition, at http://keystoneresearch.org/EITC-accountability.
The report is designed to help guide a growing debate around a plan to offer taxpayer-funded vouchers to all low-income school-age children for tuition at private and religious schools — and what accountability measures will be put in place in such a voucher program.
"With no educational or financial accountability in EITC scholarships for private school tuition, the state is simply not ready for a new voucher program with a price tag to taxpayers that is at least 10-times as big," said Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, the report's author. "Policymakers instead should focus on strengthening accountability in the EITC."

What is Pennsylvania’s EITC program and which organizations received contributions through this tax credit program for FY 2011?

Lehigh Valley educators warn legislators about state's cuts to school funding

Published: Saturday, January 07, 2012, 4:15 AM
Lehigh Valley Live.com By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times 
The Bethlehem school community stepped up when state budget cuts decimated local schools and social services.  But local educators warned state legislators Friday that the well is running dry and trouble looms if the state doesn’t step up and fulfill its responsibilities.
Educators shared the ramifications of Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget cuts with Lehigh Valley state Reps. Steve Samuelson and Joe Brennan Friday during a roundtable talk at the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley

WHAT WORKS: “The school's success is all the more remarkable because its pass rate as late as 2008 was just 53 percent. …."What it all added up to is: We created a culture shift that led to everything being focused on student achievement," he said.
Delaware County Tech rates among Pennsylvania's best
By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Mon, Jan. 9, 2012, 12:08 PM
In the region, school districts and schools such as Lower Merion, Tredyffrin/Easttown, Unionville-Chadds Ford, and Philadelphia's Masterman School are widely regarded as among the top public academic achievers in the state.
In the less-noticed area of career and technical education, the region can now boast of a school with a comparable ranking.

Alternet.org By Rania Khalek, January 8, 2012
Why Is Public Education Being Outsourced to Online Charter Schools?
Virtual charter schools are educating kids on computer screens, instead of in classrooms.
Virtual charter schools, which offer classes online instead of in a classroom, have become the fastest-growing segment of the charter school industry. And while data on their effectiveness is scarce, state legislators across the country are passing laws to expand cyber schools at the behest of privatization advocates and online education companies at an alarming rate, with little regulation.

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