Monday, September 24, 2012

Charter School Reform: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

“Tuition free online public schools” are not free.
They take significantly more of your local tax dollars than it costs them to educate their students, accumulating large balances of excess funds, spending your local tax dollars on advertising and corporate bonuses while achieving lackluster academic results.  Only one of 12 Pennsylvania cyber charter schools made AYP for 2012.  Most have never made AYP.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1650 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, teacher leaders, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

This revised posting is being faxed to all members of the PA General Assembly today
Charter School Reform: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
KEYSEC Posting Updated September 24, 2012
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny
Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars

Charter school reform leads pre-election legislative to-do list
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012, 9:00
For the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, reforms to Pennsylvania’s charter school law will top the agenda for the short pre-election session starting today.
Before the June recess, Corbett said the sides came “within a sentence” of passing a bill to give the state a larger role in regulating charter schools. The bill would have launched a process to address funding inequities that charters and school districts often grumble give the other an advantage.
“I think charter reform helps everybody,” Corbett said last week. “It helps the schools districts and it helps the charters. We need to get that done because a lot of that goes to the funding and the amount of funding.”

PSSA: PA test scores drop – teacher beatings will continue
2012 PSSA commentary, links to data, press release and reactions

“The steep drop in test scores at Chester Community Charter, where Gov. Corbett spoke in 2011, mars its reputation. The head of its management firm, Vahan Gureghian, was Corbett's biggest campaign donor and on his transition team.”
…In a letter to the charter last week, Education Department Deputy Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said that there had been "overwhelming evidence of testing irregularities" at the school in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
…Education Department spokesman Tim Eller: "The statistical irregularities point to inappropriate behavior having taken place," he said. "The dramatic drop in test scores this year speaks volumes, we believe."
Posted: Sun, Sep. 23, 2012, 5:23 AM
PSSA: Test scores raise new doubt at Chester charter
By Dan Hardy and Dylan Purcell Inquirer Staff Writers
Standardized-test scores have dropped precipitously at Chester Community Charter School, the state's largest charter, after an investigation of possible past cheating brought new scrutiny to the school's testing practices.
Results for 2012 state tests released last week show that, schoolwide, scores fell about 30 percentage points in math and reading, with double-digit drops in every grade. Some fell more than 40 percentage points.

PSSA: Changes coming for standardized tests will make AYP less feasible

Grades becoming tougher for schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 24, 2012 1:16 am
If school officials think making adequate yearly progress was difficult this year, wait until they give state tests this school year.
At least some of the changes in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment will make it more difficult to achieve AYP, which is based on student achievement on math and reading tests, test participation, attendance and graduation rates.  The changes include eliminating a version of the test for certain special education students, replacing the 11th-grade PSSA exams with the new end-of-course Keystone Exams and offering an online version of the PSSA.

Posted: Sun, Sep. 23, 2012, 5:20 AM
PHILLY: PSSA Scores fall at probed city schools
The declines in state results were sometimes dramatic at the schools in the cheating inquiry.
By Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell, and Susan Snyder Inquirer Staff Writers
When officials released state test scores last week, all eyes were on the 53 Philadelphia public schools and three charters still being probed for possible cheating.  An Inquirer analysis shows that scores in reading and math dropped - sometimes dramatically - in virtually all of the schools under investigation.

PSSA: AYP results illustrate unrealistic expectations of dated law
PSBA’s Website Posted 9/21/2012
Today, Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis released statewide scores for the 2012 administration of Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSA), stating that test scores overall declined as a result of the state's investigation of cheating in a handful of school districts and charter schools, and dismissing critical factors directly related to test results, including the large jump in required performance targets, changes in the methods of measuring progress, and cuts in state funding.

Harvard Graduate School of Education
Volume 28, Number 5 September/October 2012

Opt-Out Movement Gains Steam

Harvard Education Letter By JON MARCUS
The forces opposed to high-stakes assessment tests have their Montgomery, and it’s Snohomish.
When more than 550 sets of parents—about one out of 10—in this small town west of Seattle refused to let their children take the Washington State Measurements of Student Progress exam in April, they moved the anti-testing movement to a new phase of civil disobedience.
From two at an elementary school in Portland, Maine, to 550 in Snohomish, to 1,427 in Colorado, frustrated families that oppose the high-stakes tests required by the 11-year-old No Child Left Behind law are deploying a new weapon: keeping their kids from taking them.
“Talking to those in power has not accomplished anything,” says Tim Slekar, an associate professor of teacher education at Pennsylvania State University's Altoona campus and an outspoken opponent of the high-stakes tests. “But when you get larger groups together to make this kind of statement, it empowers the movement.”

State House will be in session just 10 more days in 2012; State Senate only 8 days
Posted: Mon, Sep. 24, 2012, 3:01 AM
John Baer: Pa. Legislature back from exhausting 2-month vacation
Philadelphia Daily News byJohn Baer, Daily News Political Columnist
HOLD YOUR breath, Pennsylvania, your Legislature and judiciary are back in action this week.
That's right, the dynamic duo that managed to screw up this year's election cycle in two ways - voter ID and redistricting - is back on deck for more, um, work.
For lawmakers, it's a return from a well-earned two-month-plus vacation. For the judiciary, it's ongoing badminton with voter ID.  So pull up a chair, get some popcorn, the House and Senate are back Monday, the court's back Tuesday, and who knows what happens next?
But you'd better hurry.

PDE changes SAWW calculations resulting in a lower Act 1 index cap for FY 13-14
The ACT 1 index for FY 13-14 was  published Friday in the Pa Bulletin (see below).
Please note that PDE has apparently opted to change the calculation of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage portion of the index from a twelve month base to a thirty six month base.

PDE relied upon recent changes to the unemployment benefit law, rather than the law specific to Act 1 for index calculations.  This revenue reduction, if not challenged, will impact future staffing levels, and existing bargaining agreements that include Act 1 index caps.
Here’s the definition of the “Statewide average weekly wage." From Section 102 of Act 1 of 2006:
“That amount determined by the Department of Labor and Industry in the same manner that it determines the average weekly wage under  section 404(e)(2) of the act of December 5, 1936 (2nd Sp.Sess., 1937 P.L.2897, No.1),known as the Unemployment Compensation Law, except that it shall be calculated for the preceding calendar year.”

Using the 12 month base method that has been in effect up to this year, the Act 1 index for FY 13-14 would have been 2.2%.  Using the new 3 year base had the effect of dropping the index from 2.2% to 1.7%.  As an example, one suburban school district’s ability to raise taxes for FY 13-14 within the Act 1 base index cap was decreased $325,000 due to the way the SAWWs base was calculated by PDE.

Pennsylvania Bulletin
Index Calculation Required by the Taxpayer Relief Act
[42 Pa.B. 5974] [Saturday, September 22, 2012]
Under section 333(l) of the Taxpayer Relief Act (53 P.S. § 6926.333(l)), the Department of Education (Department) has calculated the index for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-2014.
The index is the average of the percentage increase in the Statewide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index. For FY 2013-2014, the base index is 1.7%.
For school districts with a market value/income aid ratio greater than 0.4000, an adjusted index will be posted on the Department's web site at by September 30, 2012.

Posted: Sun, Sep. 23, 2012, 5:43 AM
PSSA: Former Philly Superintendent Arlene Ackerman responds to falling test scores
This is the complete statement from former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman on the decline in test scores in Philadelphia:

Building One Pennsylvania 2012 Statewide Public Meeting
Promoting sustainable, inclusive and economically prosperous communities
Saturday, October 13, 2012 10 am to 11:30 a.m.  (doors open at 9:30 for registration)
Franklin Commons, 400 Franklin Avenue, Phoenixville, PA
Declining local tax bases, aging infrastructure, unfair state and federal policies are undermining our communities. It's time to stand together to support our diverse, middle class communities.
Join local elected, faith and civic leaders from across Pennsylvania for a public meeting to call on state and national policy-makers to act on bi-partisan solutions to the pressing problems impacting our communities.  
·                     Reduce our local property tax burdens  
·                     Invest in our schools  
·                     Redevelop our infrastructure while creating local jobs 
·                     Promote more balanced housing markets 
 The event is free but you must register in advance to reserve your seat. Register at or by emailing name, title, organizational affiliation, address, phone and email to   To defray the cost of the event, we are accepting donations. Suggested donation: $5-$10. 

Public Forum in Delaware County: What State and Federal Budget Changes Mean for DelCo Service Providers
Thursday, Sept. 27th at 1pm Media Borough Hall Community Center; 3rd & Jackson, Media, PA
The SEPA Budget Coalition will join with Family and Community Service of Delaware County and PathWays PA to host a forum on the state and federal budgets.   Experts from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will offer a look ahead.  Congress faces dramatic budget choices that will have a deep impact on our ability to provide services DelCo families depend on.  Governor Corbett is also at a choice point, and there are some signs of a course correction in PA this coming year.  Please RSVP for the forum:
Click here to RSVP.

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 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!

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