Saturday, July 7, 2012

Will PA Students First PAC Pick Philly's Next Mayor?

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
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Will a PAC Pick Philly’s Next Mayor?
Students First PAC is very interested in Philly City Council. by Patrick Kerkstra 07/06/12
The pro-privatization Students First PAC has been a huge player in state politics from the moment it emerged in 2010 flush with cash, much of it from three local businessmen who together founded Susquehanna International Group, a global investment company.
Students First gave State Sen. Anthony Williams—a leading Democratic proponent of school vouchers—a staggering $3.65 million for his failed gubernatorial run. And ever since, the PAC has showered smaller sums on state representatives and senators receptive to the organization’s goal of sweeping education reform.
But what’s gone largely unnoticed is the PAC’s apparent interest in Philadelphia politics. Last year, Students First wrote big checks—$10,600 apiece, the max allowed by city law—to four members of City Council: Bobby Henon, Kenyatta Johnson, David Oh and Maria Quiñones Sánchez. Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams received $10,250.
The contributions are intriguing for a few reasons.

Students First PAC’s Jeffrey Yass turns up again in this report….
William Penn Foundation launches a PR offensive against City Paper report with Inky assist
Posted by Daniel Denvir  FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2012
Today's Inquirer includes two articles (here and here) on the William Penn Foundation, including the big news that William Penn announced a $15 million grant to the pro-charter Philadelphia School Partnership―a scoop that we reported yesterday and that William Penn had refused to confirm.
Indeed, William Penn president Jeremy Nowak gave his Inquirer interview yesterday―after our story broke―making it seem pretty darn obvious William Penn spoke with the Inquirer as part of an effort to push back against a City Paper story they are very unhappy with.
And while the Inquirer cited our article, they did not report or follow up on its three most important scoops: 

School district officials say extra state funding won't bring back furloughed teachers, cut programs
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 5:00 AM
The state’s 2012-13 budget that Corbett signed last week after negotiations with the Legislature restores a $100 million accountability block grant for public schools. 

New law excludes charter school teachers from revised evaluations
July 5, 2012 12:05 am
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith and Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In 2013-14, public schools across the state will be required to consider student performance when evaluating teachers -- except for charter schools.
The General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires half of a teacher's evaluation to be based on observation and half on various measures of student performance. Under the old law, considering student performance is not required in teacher evaluations.
Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center, a nonprofit based in Harrisburg, said changing the teacher evaluation process was necessary, but he called excluding charter school teachers from the requirement a "serious omission."

PRESS RELEASE: PA Department of Education July 05, 2012
Philadelphia-Based Frontier Virtual Charter High School Surrenders Charter, Agrees to Terminate Operations
Department of Education sought closure of school for its failure to provide core educational programs
Harrisburg – Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis today announced that the Board of Trustees of Philadelphia-based Frontier Virtual Charter High School has voted to voluntarily surrender its charter.
An extensive investigation by the Department of Education revealed that the school failed to adhere to the conditions of its charter by not delivering core educational programs to students.
“Today’s action is in the best interest of students and provides families sufficient time to make other arrangements for the upcoming school year,’’ Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said today.
“Over the past year, Frontier fell short in providing its students with the core academic programs parents and students expect of our public schools,’’ Tomalis said. “These issues were not just the normal difficulties typically experienced by a first-year organization, but they go to the heart of Frontier’s ability to provide quality educational opportunities to students within the confines of its charter, as well as the Charter School Law.

PSBA: Key Provisions of New EITC 2.0 Scholarship Program

The Astonishing Increase in Testing
Schools Matter Blog By Stephen Krashen Sent to the New York Times, July 6, 2012
There is little reason to celebrate waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (“No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House,” July 6).
NCLB’s “obsessive focus on test results” will be much worse under new regulations: The new Common Core Standards calls for an astonishing increase in testing.
NCLB requires standardized tests in math and reading at the end of the school year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. This will be expanded to testing in more subjects (social studies, science and maybe more), and in more grade levels. There will also be interim tests given during the year and there may be pretests in the fall to measure growth through the school year.
This means about a 20-fold increase over NCLB, more testing than has ever been seen on this planet.
There is no evidence that all this testing will improve things. In fact, the evidence we have now strongly suggests that increasing testing does not increase achievement.

National Institute for Early Education Research
State of Preschool 2011 – Pennsylvania State Profile

Wait—Freedom of Religion Is For ALL Religions?
The New Republic by Amy Sullivan July 5, 2012
A Republican state representative in Louisiana nowsays she was confused when she enthusiastically supported Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher bill to fund private schools. From theLivingston Parish News (free registration required):
"WATSON — Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools …
'I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,' Hodges said.
Hodges mistakenly assumed that 'religious' meant 'Christian.'

Thanks to Susan Ohanian (#susanoha) for tweeting this….

Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.  The Corporate Takeover of Public Education [Paperback]

From P.L. Thomas (Editor) Publication Date: March 9, 2012
Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education examines the divide between a commitment to public education and our cultural myths and more powerful commitment to consumerism and corporate America.
The book addresses poverty in the context of the following: the historical and conflicting purposes in public education-how schools became positivistic/behavioral in our quest to produce workers for industry; the accountability era-how A Nation at Risk through NCLB have served corporate interest in dismantling public education and dissolving teachers unions; the media and misinformation about education; charter schools as political/ corporate compromise masking poverty; demonizing schools and scapegoating teachers-from misusing the SAT to VAM evaluations of teachers; rethinking the purpose of schools-shifting from schools as social saviors to addressing poverty so that public education can fulfill its purpose of empowering everyone in a democracy; and reframing how we view people living in poverty-rejecting deficit views of people living in poverty and students struggling in school under the weight of lives in poverty.
This work is intended to confront the growing misinformation about the interplay among poverty, public schools, and what schools can accomplish while political and corporate leadership push agendas aimed at replacing public education with alternatives such as charter schools. The audience for the publication includes educators, educational reformers, politicians, and any member of the wider public interested in public education

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