Friday, June 29, 2012

Eliminate the pension double-dip reimbursement that taxpayers pay to charter schools

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
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Eliminate the pension double-dip reimbursement that taxpayers pay to charter schools

Zero transparency, zero public scrutiny on PA EITC funds given to private and religious schools. Why is that?

Critics say Auditor General Jack Wagner's Charter School Funding Special Report on PA charter funding is misguided; what do you think?

PA Charter funding formula is great for CEO whose cyber never made AYP

State House approves $27.66 billion budget
Facing Saturday deadline, lawmakers still trying to reach agreement on connected issues.
By John L. Micek, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:05 p.m. EDT, June 28, 2012
HARRISBURG— A $27.66 billion, no-tax increase state budget that provides state colleges, libraries and public schools with the same amount of money they received this year but ends a cash assistance program for the neediest Pennsylvanians is on its way to the state Senate.
With just two days to go before the Saturday deadline to approve a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts Sunday, the House voted 120-81 on Thursday evening to approve the budget, which represents an increase of $370 million over current spending and $500 million more than Gov. Tom Corbett sought when he presented his first spending proposal to lawmakers in February.
A vote by the Senate is expected as soon as Friday.

Pennsylvania House approves $27.7 billion state spending bill
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2012, 5:57 PM
By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News 
One chamber down. One chamber and Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature to go.
Then, Pennsylvania will have a state spending plan in place for 2012-’13.
The state Senate is poised to vote today on the nearly $27.7 billion spending plan that the House approved 120-81 on Thursday.  It would increase spending by less than 2 percent, or $471 million, over this year’s budget. And it doesn’t require a tax increase to support it.

Posted: Fri, Jun. 29, 2012, 3:01 AM
Pa. House OKs bill to assess teachers based on student achievement
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
Pennsylvania appears to be headed toward a teacher evaluation system that for the first time would be based in part on student test scores.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster) and approved by the state House on Thursday would count student performance on a wide variety of measures for 50 percent of teacher and principal ratings. The measures include everything from graduation rate and attendance to state and local test scores.The remainder of a teacher's evaluation would be based on classroom observation, the traditional way. That, too, is undergoing an overhaul. A pilot program aimed at making observations more accurate and useful ended its second year this month; Phase Three is scheduled for this fall.

Controversy Over School Voucher Program in Philadelphia
Was Rep. Jim Christiana influenced by pro-voucher donations when advocating bill that would cost Philadelphia public schools $75 million?
Education News Blog by S.D. Lawrence June 27m 2012
The Philadelphia Archdiocese and new Fighting Chance PA PAC, which shares a name with spring’s grassroots campaign launched by the Pennsylvania Catholic Coalition, are both pressing for legislation in Harrisburg which would save many struggling Catholic schools by pumping millions of dollars of scholarship money into them.
Fighting Chance PA PAC has already given out nearly a quarter million dollars to pro-voucher state lawmakers and other political committees in Harrisburg, including $25,000 to Rep. Jim Christiana who a month later introduced a $75 million bill to support scholarships for Catholic schools. writer Will Bunch says the focused lobbying is a sign that new Archbishop Charles Caput is proving to be one of the most politically savvy Catholic leaders. Chaput wrote an Inquirer op-ed in support of Christiana’s bill shortly after it was introduced; titled ‘Pass voucher bill now – or else’

Posted: Fri, Jun. 29, 2012, 3:01 AM
Chester Upland school board passes bare-bones budget
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
Aided by an infusion of $10.7 million in state money that was agreed to this week as part of the state budget deal in Harrisburg, the Chester Upland School District board passed a bare-bones $101 million budget Thursday night.  The board passed the budget before an audience of about 50 people.
….The budget passed Thursday leaves things in the classrooms in the Delaware County district much as they were this school year, except that full-day prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten are being added.
Persing said that the district also would beef up its special-education program, but he had no details. Negotiations with state officials over how to achieve that are also continuing, he said.
The grade configuration of the schools will be changed, but all will remain open, he said. Some security positions have been cut.
The district will continue to have no art or music programs except at one elementary school, and no Advanced Placement or honors classes, Persing said.

Posted at 12:58 AM ET, 06/29/2012

How GERM is infecting schools around the world

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Pasi Sahlberg, author of “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland? and director general of Finland’s Center for International Mobility and Cooperation. He has served the Finnish government in various positions, worked for the World Bank in Washington D.C. and for the European Training Foundation in Italy as senior education specialist. Sahlberg has also advised governments internationally about education policies and reforms. He is also an adjunct professor of education at the University of Helsinki and University of Oulu. He can be reached at
By Pasi Sahlberg
Ten years ago — against all odds — Finland was ranked as the world’s top education nation. It was strange because in Finland education is seen as a public good accessible to all free of charge without standardized testing or competitive private schools. When I look around the world, I see competition, choice, and measuring of students and teachers as the main means to improve education. This market-based global movement has put many public schools at risk in the United States and many other countries, as well. But not in Finland.

On his website, Vollmer offers a Los Angeles Times quote from a Professor Theodore M. Greene of Princeton University: “I know of no college or university in the country that doesn’t have to offer most or all of its freshmen courses in remedial English, beginning mathematics, beginning science and beginning foreign languages. Consequently, we give two or three years of college [courses] and the rest is high school work.”
Before you start nodding your head, you should know that Greene made his statement in March 1946.  Complaining about the caliber of students is one of our national pastimes, but as our population ages fewer Americans have any direct involvement with schools. 
Schools Advocate Takes Aim at 'Nostesia'
South Whitehall Patch By Margie Peterson
Public schools supporter says educators need to do a better job of making their case to an aging taxpaying public.  It was early in Jamie Vollmer’s transformationfrom education critic to public schools advocate that a superintendent invited him to spend a day in her district.
She had Vollmer, then a business executive, do bus duty and work as an aide to a third-grade teacher in the morning. After a 20-minute lunch break, the superintendent took off the kid gloves.
“She put me in an eighth-grade classroom on a warm afternoon,” Vollmer recalls. “I’ve since referred to that as the nuclear option.”

Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek June 28,2012
Thursday Morning Coffee: Three days and counting.
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The state House convenes at 9:30 a.m. this morning to finally begin consideration ofthe 2012-13 state budget.
The chamber broke for the night last night without beginning an expected debate on the $27,66 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins Sunday. Legislative leaders and the Corbett administration spent much of the night engaged in shuttle diplomacy trying to lock down the key parts of the spending plan that remain unresolved.
…..SCHOOL REFORM: The debate over charter school reform remained very much in flux last night. The long-standing idea of creating a statewide authorizing panel that would approve all or some new charter applications appears to be a non-starter.  Instead, budget negotiators are weighing a proposal that would vest new powers in the Pennsylvania Charter School Appeals Board. While the panel would not be authorized to approve charter applications, it would have more power on the back end.
The House advanced new teacher evaluation legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, positioning it for a vote Thursday or Friday. The proposal would allow local districts to adopt their own evaluation tests from a menu of predetermined benchmarks with the approval of the state Department of Education.
Efforts to expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and what's become known as EITC 2.0 appear to be locked down. The former would be increased by $25 million from $75 million now to $100 million next year, while EITC 2.0, advanced by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, would receive $50 million to pay for scholarships for kids in the poorest and worst-performing districts.

Posted: Thu, Jun. 28, 2012, 3:00 AM
Pa. taxpayers underwrite Sandusky charity
Philadelphia Daily News By Will Bunch Daily News Staff Writer
PENNSYLVANIA TAXPAYERS have underwritten nearly $1.4 million in contributions to the Second Mile, the disgraced charity founded by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky where testimony showed he groomed some of the boys he later molested.
The taxpayer-subsidized donations — which support the Second Mile's summer camp and an annual Leadership Institute — come through a controversial scholarship program called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, or EITC, that may be dramatically expanded as lawmakers in Harrisburg look to pass a new state budget this weekend.
Critics of EITC — currently a $75 million program that mainly underwrites scholarships for kids to attend religious and private schools — say that the Second Mile is a glaring example of a shocking lack of oversight of what the Pennsylvania tax subsidies actually pay for.
"There really is very minimal accountability," said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a progressive policy think tank. Last year, his center issued a report called "No Accountability" that said that state officials lack basic information on whether EITC scholarships actually improve student performance, even as they mandate extensive testing and evaluation in public schools.
Despite that study and a recent New York Times report tracking political influence in the tax-credit program, lawmakers in Harrisburg — aided by lobbying from the Philadelphia Archdiocese and big-bucks proponents of vouchers — are debating several proposals that would increase EITC funding from the current $75 million to somewhere between $100 million and $200 million.


Legislation to help Pennsylvania's fiscally distressed school districts gets no love from Harrisburg and York House members

Published: Thursday, June 28, 2012, 11:55 AM
By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News 
The plan to rescue the state's fiscally distressed school districts that is taking shape in the Legislature is concerning to House members representing York and Harrisburg school districts, which would be among those in the plan's immediate crosshairs.
Caught in a hallway, Reps. Ron Buxton, D-Harrisburg, and Eugene DePasquale, D-York, bashed theSenate-passed plan that Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County, crafted.
It would provide financially struggling school districts with extra funding, but also establishes a process that could lead to the state takeover of them.

Parkland Calls for Changes to 'No Child Left Behind'
South Whitehall Patch By Mary Youtz  June 27, 2012
Parkland School Board passes a resolution that says No Child Left Behind shouldn't just rely on standardized test scores as a measure of schools' effectiveness.
The Parkland School Board approved a resolution Tuesday, calling on Congress to replace the school accountability system in the No Child Left Behind Act with one that doesn’t just rely on standardized test scores.
School boards throughout the state are considering the resolution, provided by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association

Is your State Rep. on the cosponsor list for HB 2364? If not, why not?
If they tell you that we should make it easier to authorize charters or that they are already accountable enough have them read this:

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

More details on HB 2364 from PSBA:


Education Voters PA ‏@EdVotersPA
Please take 2 minutes to send an email to your state reps; ask them to restore public ed funding:

Here are more than 800 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:

Candidates for 2013 PSBA officers
At its May 19 meeting at PSBA Conference Center, the PSBA Nominating Committee interviewed and selected a slate of candidates for officers of the association in 2013.

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
PSBA website 6/1/2012
All school directors and school board secretaries who are eligible to vote and who do not plan to attend the association's annual business meeting during the 2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey, Oct. 16-19, may request an absentee ballot for election purposes.
The absentee ballot must be requested from the PSBA executive director in accordance with the PSBA Bylaws provisions (see PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 4, J-Q.). Specify the name and mailing address of each individual for whom a ballot is requested.
Requests must be in writing, e-mailed or mailed first class and postmarked or marked received at PSBA Headquarters no later than Aug. 15. Mail to Executive Director, P.O. Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 or e-mail

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