Monday, April 9, 2012

PA Auditor General’s Office: Taxpayers and school districts could have saved approximately $86 million in 2009-2010 if cybers received funding based on what they spent per student.

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Please note that the Allegheny County Legislative Forum scheduled for Thursday, April 12th at North Hills High School has been cancelled due to a number of scheduling conflicts 


Education Policy and Leadership Center, Education Notebook, April 6th, 2012
PA Auditor General’s Office: Taxpayers and school districts could have saved approximately $86 million in 2009-2010 if cybers received funding based on what they spent per student.
On March 20, the PA House Education Committee held an informational hearing with Pennsylvania's Department of the Auditor General (DAG).  Speaking to the issue of cyber charters and their fiscal impact on school districts, Deputy Auditor General Thomas Marks noted the following:
  • During the 2009-2010 school year, school districts paid nearly $800 million to charter and cyber charter schools. Cyber charter schools received over one-third of this money.
  • Cybers continue to receive the same funding as brick and mortar charters even though they spend approximately $3,000 less per student.
  • Taxpayers and school districts could have saved approximately $86 million in 2009-2010 if cybers received funding based on what they spent per student.
  • Cyber enrollment has more than doubled over the last five years, which has resulted in school district tuition payments to cybers tripling from $70 million in 2004-2005 to over $250 million in 2009-2010.
  • The amount of required tuition payments from school districts are expected to climb even faster and higher due to the addition of two new cybers over the past two years, and seven new cybers projected to open in September 2012.
Marks also reminded lawmakers of the AG's special report (issued in 2010) on charter and cyber charter school funding that concluded that the current charter school funding formulas for non-special and special education students resulted in tuition inequities that were unfavorable to school districts, charter schools, and taxpayers. Since the release of that report, no action has been taken to correct the flawed charter school funding formula. In fact, the action by the Governor and the General Assembly this past budget, which eliminated funding for charter school reimbursement to school districts, only exacerbated the funding inequities and created a $224 million local funding gap for school districts and taxpayers to fill.
To read the written testimony, click here.

Revenue Shortfall for Fiscal Year Not Likely to be as Dire as Administration Predictions
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center By Michael Wood, Research Director April 6, 2012
March Revenue Tracker: Biggest Tax Collection Month of the Year Exceeds Estimates
Pennsylvania tax collections came in better than expected in March, lowering the total revenue shortfall for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. It was the first March ever in which tax collections exceeded the $4 billion mark. This should be welcome news as lawmakers move closer to negotiating a 2012-13 state budget.
General Fund collections in March totaled $4.06 billion, which was $95 million, or 2.4%, higher than Corbett administration targets for the month. The strong showing reduces Pennsylvania’s revenue shortfall for the fiscal year to $387 million, or 1.9%, of total estimated revenue.
In February, Corbett administration officials predicted a year-end revenue shortfall of $719 million and built their 2012-13 spending plan around it. Healthy collections in March likely mean that the year-end shortfall will not be as severe. This could help reduce some of the painful cuts proposed for 2012-13.

Political, legal fights over school vouchers' fate

York Dispatch By KIMBERLY HEFLING AP Education Writer
Updated:   04/08/2012 04:31:44 PM EDT
For all the arguments in favor of vouchers, there are opponents who say vouchers erode public schools by taking away money, violate the separation of church and state by giving public dollars to religious-based private schools, and aren't a proven way to improve test scores.
Even among supporters, there's dissension over whether vouchers should only be offered to low-income students on a limited basis or made available to anyone. There's also division among black and Hispanic leaders as to whether vouchers help or hurt kids in urban schools.
Many opponents also dislike scholarship programs that provide tax benefits to businesses or individuals for contributing to a fund to pay for private school. They say those programs undermine public schools by keeping tax revenues out of state treasuries, an important source of education dollars.

The Mock Bake Sale for Public Education will be held today, Monday April 9th at 12:00 noon in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg

In addition to being PA Department of Education Press Secretary, Tim Eller is also a member of the Susquenita School Board

Budget numbers do show governor backs education

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 1:00 AM
Harrisburg Patriot News By Letters to the Editor 
TIM ELLER, Press Secretary, PA Department of Education
Erica Burg’s op-ed “Corbett cut school districts to the core” is a clear call to raise taxes, something Gov. Tom Corbett promised not to do. Before taxpayers gather for the mock bake sale, consider this: Each year, taxpayers invest $26 billion in public education.

Posted: Fri, Apr. 6, 2012, 3:01 AM
FINAL FRONTIER? Charter school stiffs employees, kids
By DAVID GAMBACORTA Philadelphia Daily News Staff Writer
BETH GRIMM had been an educator all her life, and wasn't going to let something like breast cancer stop her from doing her job.  So, on March 7 - two weeks before she was to undergo a mastectomy - she took the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia, where she met for several hours with two freshmen from the Frontier Virtual Charter High School.

Saucon Valley's quandary: Should it cut beyond a balanced budget?
Some school directors say eliminating positions now is sound fiscal management. Others say it's an unnecessary blow to the quality of education.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:19 p.m. EDT, April 7, 2012
It's a preliminary budget most local school boards see only in their dreams. No deficit. No layoffs. No tax hike. No major cuts to academic programming.
But at Saucon Valley, an anomaly of a school district with no tax hikes or layoffs for three years running, that budget is as real as its intramural rock climbing program and plans to give every secondary student a laptop or tablet computer by 2014.
Yet for some school directors, another balanced budget isn't good enough.
Worried about the rising costs of pensions and the uncertainty of state education funding, they want to cut expenses now as a safeguard for the future.

April 3, 2012 at 8:11 PM
Disgusted with standardized tests, group of Seattle parents shunning them
A rebellion over standardized school testing in the Seattle Hill neighborhood southeast of Everett echoes a larger uprising around the country.
By Danny Westneat Seattle Times staff columnist
The folks in the sprawling suburban developments near Mill Creek and Snohomish insist they are usually rule-following types.  "We didn't go into this looking to start some big rebellion," says Michelle Purcell, a mom of three in the Seattle Hill neighborhood southeast of Everett.
But a rebellion it has become. One that echoes a larger uprising around the country.
The parents of 70 students (and counting) at one elementary school are refusing to have their kids take the standardized tests mandated by the feds under No Child Left Behind.
They're not the only ones asking. Texas — the birthplace of No Child Left Behind — was in the news last month when more than 100 school districts passed resolutions saying high-stakes standardized testing is "strangling" public schools. The schools commissioner there recently likened the "assessment and accountability regime" in education to the military-industrial complex.
It all began with good intentions. The tests were billed as a way to make sure every child meets basic standards, rather than being passed through the system and forgotten. But mostly the tests are used to try to judge whether entire schools could be considered failing — and then restructured. They weren't designed as learning aids for individual kids.
The Seattle Hill parents are walking out just as this state is doubling down on standardized testing. We're about to tie the test scores to teacher evaluations as well. That may or may not lead to better teaching. But one thing is certain: Even more time and money will be spent focusing on those tests.  My hunch: What's happening at Seattle Hill is just the first of many cries from school parents that we've had enough.

Stephen Krashen: Testing and Teaching to the Test: It's going to get Worse

 Anthony Cody  
Guest post by Stephen Krashen
Phillip K. Howard tells us that "To fix America's bureaucracy, we need to destroy it." The part most in need of destruction is not yet fully grown: The new national standards and their spawn, the new national tests. Howard points out that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and its emphasis on standardized test scores has made it very hard for teachers to be creative and deal with children as individuals. Teaching has been reduced to "teaching to the test."
It's going to get a lot worse. The US Department of Education is developing a massive new testing program, with far more testing than ever before, and they have made no secret about it.
More grade levels to be tested: The new plan will require, as was the case with NCLB, tests in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school, but there is serious discussion of extending the tests to higher and lower grades.

Here are more than 400 articles since January 23rd detailing budget cuts, program cuts, staffing cuts and tax increases being discussed by local school districts
The PA House Democratic Caucus has been tracking daily press coverage on school district budgets statewide:



Tuesday, April 24 is Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania.

Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. Click here to find your polling place. During the Primary, registered members of the Republican and Democrat parties are eligible to vote to nominate the candidates that will represent their party on the ballot in the November General Election. ALL voters will be required to show a photo ID before voting at a polling place in the November 2012 Election. Click here for more information on the new Voter ID law.


Stand Up for Public Education!
East Penn Education Forum on April 25th 7:00 – 9:00 pm
What’s at Stake?  Discover how high-stakes testing and funding cuts are impacting our kids and schools.
Hosted by: East Penn Invested Citizens (EPIC), Salisbury Parent Advisory, Allentown Parent Groups and a coalition of Lehigh Valley Parents
Where: East Penn Administration Building School Board Meeting Room, 800 Pine Street, Emmaus

Stand Up for Public Education!
Wed., April 11, 2012 7:00 pm Town Hall Meeting on Education at Bucknell University
Meeting with legislators from Columbia, Northumberland, Montour, Snyder & Union counties
Where: The Forum, Room 272, Elaine Langone Center Bucknell University 701 Moore Avenue Lewisburg, PA 17837
7 p.m. – School directors and administrators meet with legislators (PSBA Legislative Meeting)
7:30 p.m. – Town Hall Meeting on Education – Please invite your PTO/PTA and other parent/ community groups to join us!  The purpose of the 7 p.m. meeting is for school directors and administrators to discuss the impact of the governor’s 2011-12 budget proposal on their school districts. At 7:30 p.m., the meeting will be open to all interested parents and other members of the community who would like to come out in support of their public schools and ask their legislators to take their message back to Harrisburg.
Please RSVP By April 4, to Kathy Swope, PSBA Region 6 director, at (570) 523-3336 or email

Has your board considered this draft resolution yet?

PSBA Sample Board Resolution regarding the budget

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

PA Partnerships for Children – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The governor’s budget plan cuts funding for proven programs like Child Care Works, Keystone STARS and the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. These are among the most cost-effective investments we can make in education.  Gov. Corbett’s budget plan also runs counter to a pledge he made when he ran for governor in 2010. He acknowledged the benefits of early childhood education and promised to increase funding to double the number of children who would benefit from early learning opportunities.
We need your help to tell lawmakers: if you cut these programs – you close the door to early learning! Click here to tell your state legislators to fund early childhood education programs at the same level they approved for this year’s budget.

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?

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