Thursday, July 26, 2012

How many years away from this privatization scenario is your school district?

“Only public schools, operated by school districts with elected school boards are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.”
Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy, Education Law Center, in testimony before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee, July 17, 2012

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How many years away from this privatization scenario is your school district?
Poking around on the internet, this right-to-know request surfaced.  In a series of emails, it details efforts to privatize the Pottstown School District in 2011 and includes correspondence between the district, legislative staff, Vahan Gureghian, CEO of Charter School Management, Inc. and Mr. Max Tribble.

Mr. Gureghian’s company is under contract to operate Pennsylvania’s largest brick and mortar charter school in Chester.  Mr. Gureghian was Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor and was recruited to serve on the Governor’s Education Transition Team.  Mr. Tribble is registered as his lobbyist on the state’s lobbying registration website via the Washington Advocacy Group and Greenlee Partners, LLC.

Keep in mind that in the 54 page charter school reform amendment to SB1115 (page 75, section 1732-A, paragraph (8)) introduced by Rep, Tom Killion (R-168, Chester and Delaware) on the last day of the legislative session there was language that would have specifically exempted a vendor (like Charter School Management, Inc.) from the state’s right-to-know laws.  SB1115 passed in the House by a vote of 120-77, but was not considered by the Senate. You might want to consider asking your legislator why they voted for it.

There has been a right-to-know request pending for Charter School Management’s financial records for several years. Although it was recently upheld by Commonwealth Court, it is anticipated that it will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

It is anticipated that charter school reform will be on the short list for consideration by the legislature during their short session this fall. 

Press Release July 25, 2012
PA Department of Education Releases List of Low-Achieving Schools
Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Department of Education today published the list of low-achieving schools in which students, who live within the schools’ boundaries, may be eligible to apply for a scholarship through the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.
Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program to give low- and moderate-income students in low-achieving schools the option to obtain a scholarship to attend a participating public or nonpublic school.
The list of schools contains the lowest-achieving 15 percent of elementary schools and lowest-achieving 15 percent of secondary schools, based on combined math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores from the 2010-11 school year.
Career and technology centers, as well as brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, are not on the list, since parents already have the choice to send their children to these educational entities.
The list of low-achieving schools contains 414 school buildings in 74 school districts across Pennsylvania. The scholarship program has the potential to impact more than 242,000 students.

“Under the program, districts lose their state subsidy after students are gone for two years, Eller said.  Eller said how districts deal with the exodus of students who qualify for scholarships is not the intent of the program.  “My response to naysayers who think this will hurt public schools is that we are not in the business of schools, we are in the business of students,” he said.”
242,000 in Pa. eligible for scholarships
For a list of schools where low-to-moderate income students can apply for scholarships to attend another public or private school, visit and click on the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program icon.
TribLive By Tony LaRussa Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Students from families with low-to-moderate incomes in 79 of Western Pennsylvania’s worst-performing public schools are eligible to apply for a state scholarship to attend another public or private school, education officials said Wednesday.
Across Pennsylvania, more than 242,000 students could be eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law this month. Eligibility is based on their schools’ math and reading scores on the 2010-11 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.
“Students aren’t going to learn in low-achieving schools,” said Tim Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education. “These scholarships are a way to help parents make the decision to remove their children from poor-performing schools.”

“…….Gov. Corbett and Republican leaders in the Senate intend to make a strong push this September to get charter reform legislation passed.
“The Governor has supported and will continue to support and advocate for the creation of a statewide authorizer,” wrote Department of Education spokesperson Timothy Eller.
And Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi “supports the idea and would like to see it happen,” said his spokesperson, Erik Arneson.”
Amid rapid charter school growth, and stunning fraud charges, city leaders consider overhaul of District charter office
By Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks July 25, 2012
Even as federal investigators were finalizing a massive fraud indictment against one of Philadelphia’s most prominent charter school operators, the School Reform Commission was moving thousands of students and hundreds of millions of dollars into the city's publicly funded charter sector. 
It’s a massive gamble, made riskier by the meager staffing in the School District’sOffice of Charter Schools.  Currently, 80 independently managed Philadelphia charters serving more than 50,000 students are monitored by just six people – a number that observers on all sides of the heated charter school debate agree is woefully inadequate.

Posted: Thu, Jul. 26, 2012, 3:00 AM
Dubious math on charter schools
Inquirer Opinion By Lawrence F. Jones Jr. 
Lawrence F. Jones Jr. is president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
During a recent School Reform Commission meeting, Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky decried the cost of independent charter school expansion under the Philadelphia School District's reform plan, saying district Renaissance Schools have been less costly. We at the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools disagree with the commissioner's math as well as his philosophy on education reform.

Pittsburgh Public Schools board OKs furloughs for 280 workers

By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 25, 2012 9:05 pm
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools tonight voted to furlough 280 school-based employees, including 176 K-12 teachers, 14 pre-K teachers, 59 paraprofessionals, 12 adjuncts, 10 other pre-K professionals and nine technical-clerical workers.
The employees are represented by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and were among the 3,477 school-based employees the district had this past school year. The latest layoffs represent about 8 percent of that group.

“Even if the new tests will not require more time in administration and preparation than the tests we have now, we may soon have more testing than ever seen on planet Earth.”

Stephen Krashen: Common Core - How Much Testing?

Diane Ravitch’s Blog July 25, 2012
……Current plans are to add a writing test, and to add interim testing to what is already required under NCLB.
There is every reason to suspect that we will soon have standardized testing in many different subjects, not just language arts and math.
There is every reason to suspect that standardized tests will be given to very young children, before grade 3, and there may be assessments to cover all of “P-20.”
There is every reason to suspect that there will be pre-tests in the fall.
Even if the new tests will not require more time in administration and preparation than the tests we have now, we may soon have more testing than ever seen on planet Earth.

Pennsylvania Ranks 14th in Nation for Overall Child Well-Being, But Challenges Remain
PA Partnerships for Children July 25, 2012
A new KIDS COUNT® report ranks Pennsylvania 14th in the nation for its overall child well-being, but it also highlights the heavy toll the sluggish economy has taken on the commonwealth’s kids.
The KIDS COUNT® DATA BOOK, issued today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows about one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s children lived in poverty in 2010, while nearly a third of children were in families in which no parent had full-time, year-round employment.
“While Pennsylvania’s overall national ranking is promising, we clearly have room for improvement in our efforts to provide economic security for our children,” said Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) President and CEO Joan Benso.

Philadelphia Charter Founder Charged with Fraud

 Sean Cavanagh  
A charter school founder has been charged with defrauding a group of Philadelphia schools of $6.5 million, and a number of other individuals are accused of conspiring to obstruct justice, in the latest in a series of high-profile accusations of financial wrongdoing within the independent school sector.
Dorothy June Brown was accused Tuesday by federal authorities of using her private management companies, Cynwyd and AcademicQuest, to defraud the Agora Cyber Charter School and the Planet Abacus Charter School, which she founded in 2005 and 2007. Brown is also charged with defrauding the Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages, which she founded in 1997, according to the indictment brought by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
….The case is the latest in a string of allegations of financial waste or abuse brought against charters across the country in recent months. One of those cases involved the head of another Philadelphia charter school who pleaded guilty to stealing public funds to finance business and real estate deals. But accusations financial irregularity have been levied recently at charters in New York, Missouri, California, and other states.

The Prince of Mansion Porn
Blogger Kenny Forder really wants to occupy your big-ass home—from the 14 bathrooms to the indoor basketball court.
Mother Jones By Nick Baumann March/April 2012 issue
Kenny Forder was 18 and still in high school when he received his first takedown notice. He admits he freaked out a little when the lawyer's letter arrived at his mother's home in suburban Morris County, New Jersey, in June 2009. Vahan Gureghian, a wealthy executive active in Pennsylvania Republican politics, wanted Forder to remove the photos of Gureghian's $13.5 million, 30,652-square-foot, 10-bedroom, French-chateau-style mansion from his blog, Homes of the Rich. (The mansion also has a two-lane bowling alley, a 200-person great hall, and a moat.) Gureghian's attorney threatened Forder with legal action if he didn't delete the photos.

Related prior postings….
Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11
This post was last updated on June 28, 2012

Early Education Good for Economy, Fed Chairman Says

 Lesli A. Maxwell  
Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, highlighted the economic benefits of quality early childhood programs for an audience of children's advocates gathered for a national conference this week in Cincinnati.
In a prerecorded video message played this morning at the annual conference of the Children's Defense Fund, Bernanke talked mostly at a very high level about the importance of an educated workforce and the research that shows how influential a quality early education experience is in shaping success later in life.

The problem is poverty
For the love of learning blog by Joe Bower July 25, 2012

Louisiana School Voucher Program's New Rules Shift Tens Of Millions Of Dollars From Public Schools

Huffington Post Reuters  By Stephanie Simon Posted: 07/23/2012
* Louisiana has the most sweeping voucher program in U.S.
* Governor says it spurs competition, expands choice
* Critics say program diverts funds from public schools

July 23 (Reuters) - State money will continue to flow to scores of private and religious schools participating in Louisiana's new voucher program even if their students fail basic reading and math tests, according to new guidelines released by the state on Monday.
The voucher program, the most sweeping in the nation, is the linchpin of Louisiana's bold push to reshape public education. The state plans to shift tens of millions of dollars from public schools to pay not only private schools but also private businesses and private tutors to educate children across the state.
Republican Governor Bobby Jindal and other voucher advocates see the plan as a way to spur competition among schools and to expand parental choice. Critics, including teachers' unions, argue that vouchers unfairly divert vital tax dollars from public schools.

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
Absentee ballot requests must be received no later than August 15
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 home 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

NSBA Federal Relations Network seeking new members for 2013-14
School directors are invited to advocate for public education at the federal level through the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in serving on the Federal Relations Network (FRN), its grass roots advocacy program that brings local board members on the front line of pending issues before Congress. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start. 
Click here for more information.

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