Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Joe Watkins: The Chester Upland “recovery” is not about improving public education, but rather closing schools, cutting staff and converting to charter schools.

“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

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1600 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, 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

"It would have been hard to come up with a nominee who is more publicly associated with the effort to undermine public education…"

Controversial choice to turn Chester Upland schools around

WHYY Newsworks By Dave Davies August 20, 2012
The man chosen to fix the Chester Upland School District's troubled finances is proving to be controversial from the start.
State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis picked Joe Watkins as chief recovery officer for the troubled school system. Watkins is a Philadelphia minister and former investment manager who heads a political action committee that advocates for school choice initiatives such as vouchers and charter schools.
State Sen. Daylin Leach, who sits on the education committee, said Watkins is an ideologue who is ill-suited to rebuilding a strong public school system.
"It would have been hard to come up with a nominee who is more publicly associated with the effort to undermine public education," said Leach, D-Montgomery.

School Choice Group's Chairman Takes Over Pa. Recovery District

 Andrew Ujifusa  
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis has named Joe Watkins, the chairman of Students First PA, a pro-school-choice advocacy group, as chief recovery officer of a school district that last week was designated as in "financial recovery," the state education department said in an Aug. 17 statement.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer story highlights, Watkins will have broad authority to remake the Chester Upland district in a variety of ways. He has the power to convert traditional public schools into charters, close schools, and demand a new teachers' contract. Perhaps not surprisingly, a Chester Upland school board member told the Inquirer that the decision to appoint Watkins was "shocking" because she viewed Watkins as not "objective."

On Joe Watkins: The Chester Upland “recovery” is not about improving public education, but rather closing schools, cutting staff and converting to charter schools.
Commentary on the appointment of Joe Watkins as Recovery Officer for Chester Upland School District
Keystone State Education Coalition by Lawrence Feinberg August 21, 2012
Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent any organization that I may be affiliated with.
Betsy_DeVos’s astroturf group, American Federation for Children has contributed over $2.5 million to the Students First PA PAC over the past three years to fund the privatization of Pennsylvania’s public schools.  Mr. Watkins has served as Chairman of that PAC, which has received the bulk of it’s funding from main line options traders Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeffrey Yass.  These four mega-millionaires are setting education policy in Pennsylvania and their agenda does not include democratically run public schools that are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.

Mr. Watkins resume does not show any experience whatsoever with public school finance, but then why would it?  The “recovery” is not about improving public education, but rather closing schools, cutting staff and converting to charter schools.  Here is a link to the American Federation for Children’s website announcing Mr. Watkins appointment.

In 2011, nearly 45 percent of Chester Upland’s students attended charter schools.  Academic performance at the charters is mixed; some of Chester Upland’s regular public schools perform better, some perform worse.  The Chester Community Charter, the state’s largest, is managed by a company owned by Vahan Gureghian, Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.  It is also on the short list of schools being investigated for alleged cheating on the state’s PSSA exams.

Middle-class American students who attend well-funded public schools rank at the top of the world on international tests.  After 20 years there is no clear evidence demonstrating that charters or vouchers are systematically more effective than traditional public schools in improving student performance for students in high-poverty schools.  What is clear is that charters can be extremely lucrative for owners and management companies.

Return on investment:  Joe Watkins, Chairman of Students First Voucher PAC that contributed millions to PA political candidates appointed recovery officer for Chester Upland SD
PA Department of Education Press Release: 08/17/2012
Dan Hardy at the Philadelphia Inquirer
John Kopp at the Delco Times

Rep. Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery) was elected the majority chair of the House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform during their first meeting yesterday.
Pa. lawmakers working on school property tax reform
Pottstown Mercury By Rep. Tom Quigley Guest columnist Posted: 08/12/12 12:01 am
Over the past few months, there have been several news stories and letters to the editor regarding the issue of school property taxes. Along with this, I continue to hear from constituents with questions and ideas on this important issue. Because of this, I thought now would be an opportune time to provide an update of legislative activities surrounding school property taxes.

Pa. House panel considers action on various taxes

Considers lowering property levy, hiking sales, income taxes
By Tom Barnes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 21, 2012 12:18 am
HARRISBURG -- A special state House committee faced three options Monday on what to do about the burden on homeowners from school property taxes.
The just-named 13-member panel could recommend a complete elimination of school property taxes. But that would cost the state at least $11 billion and require serious increases in both the state income tax rate and the sales tax rate to fund public schools, something that legislators, for years, have been unwilling to do.

Members of the PA House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform
Members selected to serve on the committee include:
•       Rep. Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery),  House Education Committee.
•       Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery),  House Local Government Committee.
•       Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery),  House Transportation Committee.
•       Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike), who is the member at large.
•       Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery),  House Finance Committee.
•       Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk),  House Finance Committee.
•       Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny),  House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.
•       Rep. Tim Krieger (R-Westmoreland),  House Environmental Resources & Energy Cmte.
•       Rep. Nicholas Micozzie (R-Delaware),  House Transportation Committee.
•       Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Northampton),  House Urban Affairs Committee.
•       Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon),  House Local Government Committee.
•       Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Philadelphia),  House Urban Affairs Committee.
•       Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny),  House Education Committee.

Define Failing
Yinzercation Blog by YinzerThing August 20, 2012
It’s politically hot right now to talk about “failing” schools. To hear many legislators and school “reformers” tell the story, public education in the U.S. is circling the drain. Did you see Michelle Rhee’s obnoxious Olympic spoof ad? Remember the nasty radio campaign back in June, funded by the ultra-conservative and mega-rich Koch brothers, pushing the narrative of “students trapped in failing schools”? [See “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”] But the rhetoric of failure is not only misleading (and sometimes flat out wrong), it is having disastrous consequences on our schools.

EITC 2.0: State-advertised grants for student-aid program haven't been funded
Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program lacks donations needed to help students in low-achieving schools transfer.
By Marion Callahan, Of The Morning Call August 20, 2012
Last month, the state sent a clear message that some students of low-performing schools can go elsewhere for their education — as early as this school year.
But a week before many schools resume classes, students attending what the state considers low-achieving schools have few places to turn, because schools willing to open their doors to qualifying students don't have the money to take them in.

Rethinking Teacher Compensation
A necessary next step
Education Week Commentary By Laura Overdeck, Arthur Levine, and Christopher Daggett, August 20, 2012
A 2010 study by McKinsey and Co. found that 100 percent of new teachers in the best-performing school systems in the world—Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—come from the top third of their college classes. In contrast, 77 percent of new U.S. teachers come from the bottom two-thirds of their college classes. Current teacher compensation practices in the United States contribute to this disparity.
How do we remedy this situation?


Education Week
Adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core State Standards have provoked opinions and ideas from thought leaders, policymakers, and the educators who have to implement them.  Browse their perspectives in this collection.

Special needs kids staying in traditional schools
Posted: Aug 18, 2012 4:55 PM EDT
By CHRISTINA HOAG Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren't always readily open to those requiring special education.
The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students.
School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.  "It raises an ethical responsibility question," said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. "We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts."

Education Voters PA Advocate Summit Sept. 22 Harrisburg

Building Community Leadership for Public Education.
On Saturday, September 22, 2012, Education Voters will be hosting an Advocate Summit to building community leaders for public education.
Saturday, September 22, 2012 Harrisburg, PA 8:30am - 4:30pm
What is it?
The Education Voters Institute of Pennsylvania is hosting a day-long forum to bring together advocates from across the Commonwealth. This summit will be an opportunity for individuals to learn about key issues affecting education policy, develop successful advocacy techniques and strategies to influence public policy and network with other advocates from around the state.
Who should attend?
If you are:
·                                 Someone who would like to learn more about education policy,
·                                 Interested in learning how to get involved in education advocacy,
·                                 Interested in learning new ways to organize locally,
·                                 Interested in learning what other education advocates are doing,
Then you should attend the EVPA Advocate Summit!
How to register?
Registration is easy, just click the link below or go to http://www.EducationVotersPA.org.
The cost of the summit is only $25 and includes continental breakfast and boxed lunch and all training materials.  Space is limited.
To download a flyer, CLICK HERE.

Upcoming PSBA Professional Development Opportunities
To register or to learn more about PSBA professional development programs please visit:  www.psba.org/workshops/

2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-19, 2012
Registration is Now Open!  Hershey Lodge & Convention Center, Hershey, PA

EPLC’s 2012 Arts and Education Symposium: Save the Date, Thursday, October 11

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Please mark your calendars and plan on joining EPLC, our partners, and guests on October 11 in Harrisburg for a full day of events.  Stay tuned to aei-pa.org for information about our 2nd Arts and Education Symposium.  Scholarships and Act 48 Credit will be available.  Outstanding speakers and panelists from Pennsylvania and beyond will once again come together to address key topics in the arts and arts education and related public policy advocacy initiatives.  This is a networking and learning opportunity not to be missed!


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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