Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Whatever else this request for a receiver is about, it is not about helping students."

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Celebrate Pi Day!

Pa. looks at partial bailout of Chester Upland
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Wed, Mar. 14, 2012, 3:01 AM
The state has proposed to keep Chester Upland schools open until June by releasing $27.7 million to pay expenses but says district management is so dysfunctional that the money should be disbursed directly to creditors.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Education asked a state judge to appoint a receiver for the district who would assume the powers of the school board and administration. A Commonwealth Court filing cited the proposed spending plan's findings that the school district's finances are "in complete disarray." It added that "the District lacks the institutional capacity, skill and business acumen needed to implement the measures necessary to address its financial crisis."

 "Whatever else this request for a receiver is about, it is not about helping students."
It is my understanding that late yesterday afternoon Pennsylvania Education Secretary Tomalis filed a petition in Commonwealth Court to appoint a receiver to take over the Chester Upland School District.   Below is the statement of Michael Churchill, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia in response to that filing:
Statement of Michael Churchill, Of Counsel, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, March 13, 2012
“The State’s request for a receivership in Chester Upland is a naked power grab disguised as a protective device.  The petition, not surprisingly, ignores the fact that the State left the District with more than $20 million in debts when it returned the District to local control a year and a half ago. It ignores the fact that the District repaid almost $12 million in back bills in the first half of this school year, including $8 million which the state seized for itself, ahead of any other vendors.  It ignores the fact that all of the problems with records and financial systems have been known to PDE since a state audit revealed them over two years ago. And it ignores the fact that the state knows steps are being taken to fix many of the problems it is concerned with and that appointment of a receiver will do nothing to speed those steps up.  
Now that the state, through its consultant PFM, has come up with a list of acceptable expenditures in order to keep the doors of the District open through the end of June, the only step that is needed is agreement by the District to not pay any other expenditures without PDE approval, or if necessary to settle a dispute, court approval.  All of the rest of the receivership, including the right to sell District property and to hire and fire personnel,  is a flagrantly unnecessary return to a colonial plantation system which has failed to help the District’s students when tried in the past.  The request for a receiver furthermore is an end run around the General Assembly which has not given the Governor and Department of Education the authority to take any of these steps.
It is apparent that the same administration that cut $12 million dollars from the money available to Chester students last year, forcing the layoffs of 115 professionals, and is proposing further cuts this year, is  more interested in demonizing and demoralizing Chester-Upland’s workforce than in adequately helping its students obtain a quality education.  Whatever else this request for a receiver is about, it is not about helping students.”
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia:

Bill proposed to help school districts in financial distress
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 13, 2012 4:37 pm
Legislation proposed today in Harrisburg would set up an office of financial recovery to monitor districts that have signs of financial distress and provide technical help.
After state Senate Education Committee hearings about how to help financially distressed school districts, Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, committee chairman, announced the proposal, aimed at helping such districts get back on their feet.
Under the bill, which is SB 1450, a school district would enter financial recovery status upon declaration by the state education secretary if certain events take place. Those include failing to pay employees or seeking an advance on state money.
A chief recovery officer would be named to develop and implement a financial recovery plan, which could include teacher layoffs for economic distress or an easier conversion to a charter school.

Press Release March 13, 2012 Senator Piccola’s office

Education Chair Unveils SB1450 Financial Recovery Legislation to Aid Distressed Schools 

HARRISBURG --- Senator Jeffrey Piccola (R-15), Chairman of the Education Committee, unveiled today a comprehensive plan for identifying and assisting school districts in Pennsylvania experiencing severe financial difficulties.

Will Chester Upland teachers get paid this week?
WHYY NewsWorks By Elizabeth Fiedler March 12, 2012
This week is another tense one for the Chester Upland School District's teachers, parents and 3,600 students.  The district was already carrying about $10 million in debt -- when it was hit with a 14 percent state budget cut last year.  Chester Upland teachers could soon be working without pay.

Pa. Education Secretary: Chester Upland, charters need to 'exercise fiscal austerity'

Delco Times By JOHN KOPP @DT_JohnKopp
UPDATE: Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis filed a report in federal court outlining recommendations for funding the Chester Upland School District on Tuesday.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education seeks to keep Chester Upland and its charters operating through June by strictly using the remaining state allocations available.
The report asked Chester Upland, Chester Community Charter School, Widener Partnership Charter School and various cyber charters to “thoroughly examine and vet their expenses, making difficult financial decisions and exercising fiscal austerity” because remaining appropriated state funds are less than the institutions’ budgeted expenses.

Philadelphia Inquirer Opinion BY LISA HAVER Posted: Wed, Mar. 14, 2012, 3:01 AM
Lisa Haver is a retired teacher, education activist and writer.
Before No Child Left Behind, data collected from standardized tests were used mainly to update curricula and revise standards. Now that data has become a weapon to fire teachers and deliver public schools deemed "failing" to for-profit companies and charters.
There is no data which show that testing improves student learning. Schools under intense pressure to raise test scores have had to eliminate music, art, library science, civics and other electives to make room for scripted test-preparation classes. Schools where test scores have improved are schools where, as early as kindergarten, children are taught how to fill in bubbles.
As noted writer and historian Diane Ravitch said recently: "If we continue to have more years of multiple-choice standardized testing, we will squeeze out every last drop of creativity, originality, innovation and critical thinking - the very attributes needed for the 21st century."

Philly SRC hears urgency, skepticism on Great Schools Compact
by Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks on Mon, 03/12/2012
Philadelphia’s new Great Schools Compact lays out an ambitious goal: replace or transform 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with better options.  But will the Compact include a push to close low-performing charter schools and help successful District-managed schools flourish? Or will it function solely to accelerate existing efforts to close District-run schools and expand the city’s burgeoning charter sector?
Those were the biggest questions on the table during a lively discussion Monday night with about 100 people before the School Reform Commission’s “choice, rightsizing, and turnaround” committee.

Central Dauphin School District targets furloughs as only way to cut costs
By MARY KLAUS, The Patriot-News Published: Monday, March 12, 2012, 10:40 PM
Central Dauphin School District teachers Georgia Smee, Jeff Gordon and Brian Royer voted last year to give up their pay raises to help the district with its budget problems and to prevent furloughs.  The Central Dauphin School District administration building on Rutherford Road in Lower Paxton Township.
But all three voted to keep their 3.75 percent pay increase for the 2012-13 school year, saying that the school board needs to cut something besides teachers’ salaries. The district, the largest in Dauphin County with more than 10,000 students, asked teachers to take a wage freeze again this year.

March 12, 2012

Charter school furloughs staff

Official cites ‘financial and operational concerns’

JOHNSTOWN — A shakeup that is rocking a state online charter school and its learning center in Johnstown has launched an official investigation and left some local parents wondering about the future of their children’s education.
The entire education staff, including five teachers and the principal, was furloughed Friday by Frontier Virtual Charter High School, Chief Executive Officer John B. Craig said from Frontier’s Philadelphia headquarters.

Vouchers, Coming Again Soon
Yinzercation Blog — MARCH 13, 2012
 “Do not stop fighting vouchers!” was the loud and clear message school district officials received at a meeting last Thursday with their legislators. Our colleagues up in Lawrence County (one of the ten counties of Southwestern PA at the heart of Yinzer Nation) report that representatives there warned vouchers are still very much a part of the administration’s plans to privatize public schools. So it’s time to brush up on this topic.

Parkland School District to launch cyber summer school

The district more than doubles fee for program that will customize instruction.

By Marion Callahan, Of The Morning Call 5:49 p.m. EDT, March 13, 2012
Parkland middle and high school students heading to summer school in June may be learning from teachers in Oklahoma.
To save money and better customize instruction, Parkland School District's officials are switching to an online summer school program for all middle and high school students.
The program, offered through Oklahoma-based Advanced Academics, will save the district $37,000, but it will more than double the cost for students needing to make up credits, school officials said. An average of 109 Parkland students attend summer school every year.
For students, the price of a class will jump from $100 to $235 a session, which can last from three to six weeks. Posted by By John Messeder at 13 March, at 07 : 13 AM
State legislators have begun work on long overdue legislation to limit the damage to local taxpayers when a school board and its superintendent part ways.
In Fall 2010, after renewing his contract only a few months earlier, the Gettysburg Area School Board decided it no longer found Supt. Bill Hall acceptable. So, with three and-a-half years left on his contract, they fired him.  Well, not fired – exactly.

Listen! Youth Produced Radio about Public Education

On Blast is the youth-produced radio show of the Philadelphia Student Union. This show is created by high school students who are actively organizing to improve public education. Subscribe to the On Blast podcast to have the latest shows sent to your iTunes.
On this month's 30-minute show:
Students from across PA unite against education budget cuts.
Experts share insights on how to create nonviolent schools.
Philly teachers banned from administering PSSA test to their own students.
Young people are growing the Food Justice movement in Philly.
Plus music and other news.

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.

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

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.


PSBA officer applications due by March 31
PSBA Website 3/12/2012
Candidates seeking election to PSBA officer posts in 2013 must file an expression of interest for the office desired to be interviewed by the PSBA Nominating Committee. Deadline for filing is March 31.  For more info and forms:


PA House Democratic Caucus Website
The PA House Democratic Caucus has begun daily tracking of press coverage on school district budgets statewide:

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