Tuesday, July 17, 2012

There's gold in them cyber charter hills......got yours yet?

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 http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Posted: Tue, Jul. 17, 2012, 3:00 AM
The story of West Philly High School's hybrid-car team is now a documentary
Philadelphia Daily News by Ronnie Polaneczky, Daily News Columnist
I'M A SUCKER for a love story. I just never thought I'd see one on "Frontline."
The weekly PBS documentary showcase rivals only "60 Minutes" in its Very Important Coverage of news and public affairs. The last thing you'd expect while watching "Frontline" is to reach for a Kleenex while pressing your hand to your heart and sniffling, "I LOVE these guys…"
But if you watch Tuesday night's "Frontline" premiere of "Fast Times at West Philly High," I promise that you, too, will be tearful and smitten.
And you will ask, "Shouldn't more teachers be doing what these people are doing?"
The gripping, 36-minute documentary by Swarthmore filmmaker Debra Morton chronicles the three-year quest of students at West Philly High School to win 2010's Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.

Pa. cyberschool that once educated Santorum's kids now tied to FBI probe
Philadelphia Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch MONDAY, JULY 16, 2012
If you're a political junkie, you've probably heard of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. It figured prominently in a scandal that helped end the Senate career of Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum. It was the thriving online learning center -- launched in a foundering ex-steel town on the Ohio border called Midland, Pa. -- that was taking $38,000 a year from taxpayers in the blue-collar Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills for the home-schooling of five of Santorum's kids, who lived two states away in an affluent Virginia suburb.

Beaver County Times Online
Background on PA Cyber Charter School

Pennsylvania: Cyber charter schools aren't working -- so let's expand them!
Philadelphia Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2012
There's an interesting and worthwhile debate over whether we should be expanding alternative, public-funded charter schools; some, like the Kipp Academiies, are clearly successful, although we can argue about the extent of that success. Others have been flat-out scams. Then we have the case of cyber charter schools, which receive public tax dollars to educate children over the Internet, and which seem to be especially popular in Pennsylvania.

Keystone State Education Coalition posting from Tuesday, November 22, 2011
“There is no reliable evidence that for-profit (cyber) operators provide education that is effective, but there is no question that they are highly effective at turning public tax dollars into private gain."
"There is no reliable evidence that for-profit (cyber) operators provide education that is effective, but there is no question that they are highly effective at turning public tax dollars into private gain.  For example, K12, Inc.'s CEO, during the recent recession, received compensation from "cyber" schools totaling over $2,400,000 per year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  According to K12, Inc.'s own filings, other executives with the company managed to obtain annual compensation in 2010 ranging from $471,649 to $1,782,614 from their "cyber" school operation.
K12, Inc. can generate such outsized salaries for its executives because it and other operators have convinced some other states (Blogger's note: like Pennsylvania) to pay "cyber" schools the full per-student allotment of public money that is set aside for actual public schools.  Thus, in some states "cyber" school operators get thousands of tax dollars per student even though they do not have to pay for buildings, ball fields, actual classroom teachers, etc.  K12, Inc's student to teacher ratio is 50 to 1, one third the 15.7 to 1 ratio in Tenessee's public schools, yet K12, Inc. and other "cyber" schools often pass on no savings to school systems."

Tennessee Legislature Memo Regarding Cyber Schools


PA Budget Director Charles Zogby Statement of Financial Interests form SEC-1 for 2011
On his Statement of Financial Interests Form SEC-1 for 2011 filed with the PA State Ethics Commission on June 30, 2012, Budget Secretary Zogby listed “Senior Vice President of Education and Policy” at K12, Inc. as a source of direct or indirect income.  In addition to managing Pennsylvania’s Agora cyber charter, K12, Inc. provides curriculum services to cyber charters.

Two sentenced in theft from Philadelphia New Media charter school
July 15, 2012 By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer
A U.S. district judge handed prison terms Friday to the founder of a Northwest Philadelphia charter school and its former chief executive for stealing $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health-food store, and a private school they controlled, and for defrauding a bank.
Hugh C. Clark, a lawyer who helped found New Media Technology Charter School and served for many years as its board president, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison.
Ina Walker, a career educator and the charter school's former chief executive officer, was sentenced to six months in prison.

Districts fear bankruptcy as pension costs to triple
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) Published: July 15, 2012
In five years, pension contributions for area school districts are projected to increase by $172.9 million.  With reduced levels of state funding and limits on how much districts can raise local property taxes, superintendents fear there will be one option: bankruptcy.
The recently passed 2012-13 state budget did nothing to address what many call the upcoming "pension crisis." From fiscal 2011-12 to 2015-16, contributions are set to triple. Area districts have already furloughed teachers, cut tutoring programs and increased class sizes.
It may only be the beginning.

Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek July 16, 2012
Report: Ratings agency Moody's downgrades PA's bond rating
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Pennsylvania's general obligation debt to Aa2 from Aa1 over  concerns about the state's growing pension liabilities and sluggish economic recovery, Reuters reports this afternoon.

RPT-Pennsylvania joins ranks of states seeking public pension reform

* Gov does not say how $29 bln pension gap will be closed
* Other cities in Pennsylvania should follow suit, governor said
* Illinois hopes to have pension reform approved by August
Reuters By Lisa Lambert Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:29pm IST
WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia, July 15 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania is joining a growing movement across U.S. states to overhaul public pensions, but even while the state's governor says the need for reform is urgent, he advocates action only after great deliberation.
Pennsylvania, like so many other U.S. states, is facing a yawning gap in its public pension fund, and Governor Tom Corbett acknowledges that finding ways to close that gap won't be easy.
"It's going to be a working summer to start coming up with some recommendations, because I don't think there is a silver bullet to this," Corbett, a Republican, told Reuters on Friday at the sidelines of a National Governors Association meeting. "If there was, everybody would be doing it."

The PSERs employer contribution rate for 2011/2012 FY was 8.65%.
The rate for the 2012/2013 FY is 12.36%
The rate is projected to climb to over 27% by 2019 and stay there until 2025
An Update from the Public School Employees’ Retirement System
Presented to the Montgomery County School Districts Legislative Committee
By Jeff Clay, Executive Director, PSERs February 15, 2012

Concerns remain for teachers
New evaluations leave questions about regulations
July 16, 2012
Altoona Mirror By Kathy Matheson , The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania teachers must demonstrate a combination of classroom skills and student achievement if they want to make the grade on planned new statewide evaluations, the first overhaul of the assessments in more than 40 years.
Legislation enacted last month spells out specific criteria on which educators will be measured, and a possible new protocol for classroom observation has been getting trial runs in dozens of districts. But concerns linger about the still-unwritten final regulations.

WSJ U.S. NEWS Updated June 27, 2012, 8:33 p.m. ET
Segregation Fear Sinks Charter School
Nashville school officials have rejected a proposal to open a charter school in a middle-class part of the city, highlighting a broader national battle over efforts by operators of such publicly financed, privately run schools to expand into more affluent areas.
The Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools board voted 7-2 Tuesday night to reject an application by Great Hearts Academies, a nonprofit that operates prep-school-like charter schools, for five new establishments.
The Arizona-based group planned to open its first Tennessee school in a middle- to upper-middle class area in west Nashville, after being invited by parents who either were unhappy with local public schools or said they favored choice in education.
The board denied the application because members worried that low-income parents wouldn't be able to easily transport their children across town to a school on the west side, meaning the plan could effectively cause "segregated schools," said Olivia Brown, spokeswoman for the district.

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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