Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Update: PSEA files civil rights complaint on behalf of Chester Upland students

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PSEA files civil rights complaint on behalf of Chester Upland students
Published: Saturday, March 10, 2012
The Pennsylvania State Education Association filed a federal complaint claiming the civil rights of Chester Upland School District’s 700 special education students are being violated by funding cuts and state special education and charter school laws.
The complaint, filed Friday with the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights, alleges that state laws force Chester Upland to issue inflated payments to charter schools, thereby draining the district’s financial resources.
According to PSEA, Chester Upland is required to pay more than $24,528 for each special education student who attends a charter school. That figure is nearly twice the $13,458 per-student subsidy Chester Upland receives for its special education students.

PRESS RELEASE: PSEA Files Federal Complaint To Protect the Civil Rights of Special Education Students in Chester Upland

PSEA Press release Harrisburg March 9, 2012
…..Chester Upland is forced to pay $24,528 for each special education student who attends local charter schools, an amount nearly twice the $13,458 per student special education subsidy the district receives for its own students. Enrollment numbers in at least one local charter school indicate that the charter school is identifying an unusually high number of students with mild disabilities and experiencing a payment windfall.

Vahan Gureghian was Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign contributor and a member of his Education Transition Team.  He owns Charter School Management Corporation, a private, for-profit company that contracts to manage the Chester Community Charter School’s finances.  It owns the buildings, leases them to the school, pays the teachers and, according to a 2008 report by the Inquirer, had collected $60.6 million in public funds since the school was started in 1999.

In 2006 the Philadelphia Inquirer filed a right-to-know request asking the Charter School to produce a number of salary and contract documents.  While public school employee compensation is public information, taxpayers have not had access to any information regarding the compensation of Mr Gureghian or his wife, who is general counsel for Charter School Management Corporation. 

In November, 2011 the Palm Beach Florida Daily News reported that the Gureghians had purchased two beachfront lots for $28.9 million.  Was this the “windfall” mentioned in the press release above?  We can’t know, because that right-to-know request is still unresolved.  While the Commonwealth Court recently ruled that the information must be disclosed, it is anticipated that the case will now go to the State Supreme Court.

Here are a few earlier related postings:

Commonwealth Court says Chester Community Charter School must disclose salaries under Right-to-Know request
February 29,2012


Charter school should reveal deal, court says

February 17, 2006 By Dan Hardy INQUIRER STAFF WRITER


Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11


Governor Corbett’s stark naked school choice: some moving out, some moving in, January 12, 2012

Lower Moreland directors oppose funding of charter schools
Published: Friday, March 02, 2012
Glenside News Globe Times Chronicle By Caitlin Burns
The Lower Moreland School District Board of Directors passed a resolution to oppose the payment of public funds to charter schools and cyber-charter schools at its meeting Feb. 21.
The resolution stated “Whereas the Lower Moreland Township School District places a high value on academic achievement, financial accountability and operational transparency for educating students at public expense,” as its main reason for opposing charter and cyber-charter schools.
The resolution by the board stated six additional reasons for why it opposes using tax dollars for funding charter and cyber-charter schools.

While we are cutting public school funding for the second year in a row, somehow there is $11 million available for the Governor and Legislature to spend on Voter ID, even though “neither (Senator) Pileggi nor any other senator cited a specific example of fraud.”
PoliticsPA commented that, “Indeed, between 2002 and 2005, according to the Department of Justice, 26 people in the United States were convicted of voting fraudulently. That’s 0.065 voters per state, per election.”
Take Action Now to Stop Costly Voter ID Bill: Call and Email Your State Representative
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives may vote as soon as next week on legislation that would enact a costly voter identification law in the state. After proposing large cuts to education, child care and homeless services, the Governor and Legislature want to spend $11 million on a measure that will put up barriers to people who want to exercise their right to vote.
The state Senate approved the bill by a vote of 26 to 23 on Wednesday. It now heads back to the House for a concurrence vote since it was amended in the Senate.  If passed by the House, it will go to Governor Corbett's desk for a final signature. Learn more in this Philadelphia Inquirer article.
This could be our last chance to stop this bill in the Legislature. Your action is essential!
Please email and call your House Representative today to tell him or her to oppose HB 934.

All-city performance makes case for keeping music education in public schools
Philadelphia Inquirer by Annette John-Hall Posted: Fri, Mar. 9, 2012, 3:01 AM
The orchestra's overture swells into the opening notes of Leonard Bernstein's haunting standard "Somewhere" from the award-winning Broadway musical West Side Story. Soon the harmonies of the choir seamlessly fold in, and the cascade of sound seems to literally descend from the rafters of Verizon Hall.
If your view of the city's public school students has less to do with achievement and more to do with violence, deprivation, and underperformance, just go to an all-city concert.

Lehigh County legislators, education advocate discuss public school funding

Published: Friday, March 09, 2012, 12:02 PM By Precious Petty | The Express-Times 
Three Lehigh County legislators and an education advocate agreed Thursday night that public schools need more support from the state.  They disagreed, however -- sometimes along party lines -- about where to get the money and how to use it.

School districts gear up for PSSA tests; exams used to evaluate schools

Published: Friday, March 09, 2012, 10:51 AM
While Keystone exams are slated to replace Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams in high schools next year, midstate school districts aren’t taking them any less seriously this year.
Letters to parents, individual meetings with a teacher or principal, assemblies and incentives are among the efforts schools employ to help students score as high as possible on the PSSAs — in addition to teaching what students need to know.
Beginning in 2013, the biology, algebra I and literature Keystone exams will be implemented in high schools, said Tim Eller, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman.
But students in grades three through eight will continue to take PSSAs, Eller said.

Updated: Local option sales, income taxes could replace a portion of property taxes

Property tax reform debate will begin — again — Monday
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Property tax reform is something of a holy grail in state politics, but House Republicans are getting ready to begin the crusade once again.
On Monday, the House Finance Committee will get its first look at new legislation from state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, that proposes to give counties and municipalities the option to shift some of their property tax burden to personal income or sales taxes. 

Sen. Tom Harkin: Fixing Economy Starts With Early Education

Huffington Post  by Joy Resmovits and Saki Knafo First Posted: 03/ 8/2012 8:58 pm
When Sen. Tom Harkin asked a panel of education experts at a Thursday Senate committee hearing how they would improve the country's public schools, he was surprised by what they didn't say.  A Harvard University professor said he would improve “assessments," a Stanford University economist mentioned teacher evaluations, and a public policy expert called for a national high school exam modeled on the French Baccalaureate.
Harkin (D-Iowa) saw an omission. “Early learning,” he said. “Are we doing enough in the early years to get kids ready for school?”
Experts almost invariably answer no.

Forty States Prohibit Public Funding to Religious Schools

 Sean Cavanagh  
by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa
All but ten states have constitutions that prohibit state funding from going to religious schools, a February study from the Education Commission of the States shows.

Archbishop Chaput discusses Catholic schools' future with students
Catholic News Agency By Hillary Senour
Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 9, 2012 / 01:49 am (CNA).- After some closings and mergers, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia met with students in an online and in-person forum to discuss the future of Catholic schools in the archdiocese.  Students from 17 Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools were present to offer commentary, ask questions and show support for their institutions.
Archbishop Chaput said that the three most important parts of keeping Catholic schools in the Philadelphia archdiocese alive and well are the students, vouchers and benefactors.  School choice in the form of vouchers, or opportunity scholarships, is essential for making a Catholic education available to students who otherwise would not be able to afford it, Archbishop Chaput told students.

Studies Find Charters Vary in Quality, Creativity
Education Week By Jackie Zubrzycki Updated March 7, 2012
Twenty-one years after Minnesota passed the nation's first charter school law, researchers still disagree on whether such independent public schools are any more effective than regular public schools.
There is one point on which critics and proponents can all agree: There are plenty of good charter schools out there, and plenty of bad ones.  Much less is known, however, about how innovative charter schools turned out to be. March 8, 2012 3:08 PM
Obama, GOP governors share many views on education
WASHINGTON — A funny thing is happening between President Barack Obama and many Republican governors when it comes to improving America's schools: They are mostly getting along.

Arcadia University's Education Department presents:
Panel: Unpacking the PA School Budget: What Does This Mean for Me?
March 29, 2012 from 5:30pm to 8pm at Arcadia University
Website or Map:…
Join us for a panel discussion that will delve into details of the Commonwealth's School Budget as announced by the Governor in February 2012.  This event will tell you how the budget will affect your schools, community, and children.
Host:  Dr. Bruce Campbell, Coordinator, Educational Leadership Master's Program, Arcadia University
Moderator: Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy and Senior Staff Attorney, Education Law Center
Christopher McGinley, Superintendent, Lower Merion School District
Art Haywood, President, Board of Commissioners, Cheltenham Township
Nofre Vaquer, Director, ARC of Philadelphia
Hiram Rivera, Executive Director, Philadelphia Student Union
Dale Mezzacappa, Contributing Editor, Philadelphia Public School Notebook 
Dan Hardy, Contributing Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer
Please RSVP by March 12 to

The Education Committee of the League of Women Voters of Chester County
March 19th LWV Chester County Public Meeting: The Real Impact of the Proposed State Budget on Public Education
PA Auditor General Jack Wagner
Monday March 19th 6:30 pm at Stetson Middle School, West Chester
Location: Stetson Middle School Auditorium
The Auditor General will speak to the public followed by Q & A Session.

March 26th: Last day to register to vote in the April 24th PA Primary Election
You do have the power to change the direction of education policy in Pennsylvania
The last day to REGISTER before the primary is March 26 , 2012.  Make sure that you, your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are all registered to vote in the April 24th Pennsylvania Primary.  Ask your incumbent state representative and state senator for their positions on public education.  Let them know how important these issues are to you.  Forward this reminder to any and all public education stakeholders.

Education Voters PA – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The Governor’s proposal starts the process, but it isn’t all decided: our legislators can play an important role in standing up for our priorities.  Last year, public outcry helped prevent nearly $300 million in additional cuts.  We heard from the Governor, and we know where he stands.  Now, we need to ask our legislators: what is your position on supporting our schools?


PSBA Sample Board Resolution regarding the budget

Please consider bringing this sample resolution to the members of your board.


PA House Democratic Caucus Website
As districts consider their preliminary budgets and we await the Governor’s February 7th budget announcement, the PA House Democratic Caucus has begun daily tracking of press coverage on school district budgets statewide:

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