Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roebuck's HB2661 charter reform bill would protect taxpayers, not charter moguls

“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 1 of 12 Pennsylvania cyber charter schools made AYP for 2012.  Most have never made AYP.

Are there excess funds?  In addition to being the only Pennsylvania cyber charter to make AYP for 2012 and for 6 out of the past seven years, the 21st Century Cyber Charter School reportedly has a $3 million accumulated balance of excess funds over actual costs that it would like to return to school districts and their taxpayers but there is apparently no provision in the existing charter school law that would enable them to refund the money.

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

New charter/cyber school reform bill would save money sooner
State Representative James Roebuck Press Release October 2nd, 2012
HARRISBURG, Oct. 2 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today unveiled his charter and cyber charter school reform bill, which would save money for taxpayers and school districts sooner than other charter reform legislation.  "If we are overfunding some charter and cyber charter schools, as appears to be the case, that money needs to be returned to the school districts this school year, not held until 2013-14 or later," Roebuck said at a news conference at the Math Science Academy at Benjamin Franklin School.
"In the last two years, public schools have taken nearly a $1 billion cut in state funding, followed by a second state budget that locked in those cuts. Just yesterday, the latest survey of school districts found that because of these state funding cuts to public education, an estimated 20,000 jobs have been eliminated or left vacant -- along with reductions in early childhood education programs, tutoring assistance and summer school and increased class sizes that have resulted in lower student achievement scores for the first time in several years. These state funding cuts have also forced many districts to raise property taxes," Roebuck said.
Roebuck's bipartisan bill (H.B. 2661) would:

  • Limit unassigned fund balances for charter and cyber charter schools, consistent with the limits already in effect for traditional public schools. In 2010, the auditor general reported that charter schools had $108 million in reserve funds. Nearly half of charter schools had a cumulative reserve fund balance above traditional public schools' limit of 12 percent of their annual spending. The charter school balances ranged as high as 95 percent.  

  • Remove the "double dip" for pension costs by charter and cyber charter schools. Presently, a school district's cost for retirement expenditure is not subtracted from expenditures in the tuition calculation that determines funding for charters. This sets up a "double dip" since state law guarantees charter schools reimbursement for their retirement costs. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials estimates that between 2011-12 and 2016-17, eliminating the "double dip" would save school districts $510 million, including $45.8 million in savings for 2012-13.

  • Limit the amount of special education funding that a charter or cyber charter school receives per student to the school district's total per-pupil spending for special education services. The state funding formula's 16 percent cap on school district special education population does not apply to charter schools. An official of Bensalem Township High School in Bucks County testified last year that this results in paying $3,425 more per charter school special education student than Bensalem is paying for its own special education students.

  • Require year-end audits by the state Department of Education to determine the actual costs of education services of charter and cyber charter schools, followed by an annual year-end final reconciliation process of tuition payments from school districts against those actual costs. Any overpayments would be returned to the school districts. In the 2010-11 school year, non-special education tuition rates per student ranged from $4,478 to $16,915.

  • Increase transparency for contractors that provide management, educational or administrative services to charter and cyber charter schools by requiring disclosure of a financial relationship with for-profit providers.

Contrast that call for increased transparency above with this provision of SB1115 which would eliminate transparency….
COMMENTARY: Shameless; just (expletive deleted) shameless
On the last day of June as PA House members worked feverishly to finish their business, Rep. Tom Killion (R-168, Chester/Delaware counties) dropped a 54 page amendment into SB1115 containing charter school reform provisions.
It included a clause that would specifically exclude companies doing business with charter schools, including management companies, from Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know laws.

Governor’s proposed Charter School Entities Funding Advisory Committee: We could save a lot of time and effort if we just let Mr. Gureghian and K12’s CEO Ron Packard set the charter funding formula….
Here is the section of SB1115 (a special education bill that was amended to include charter school reform provisions) as amended defining the composition, powers and duties of the Governor’s proposed Charter School Entities Funding Advisory Committee.  
Take a good look at the composition of the committee. Of the 17 members, most are either political appointees or charter school representatives.  Only 3 represent the school districts and taxpayers responsible for paying the bills.

Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars
$4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
KEYSEC Posting Updated September 24, 2012
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny

Eliminate the pension double-dip reimbursement that PA taxpayers pay to charter schools
Removing the "double dip" for pension costs in the charter school reimbursement formula would create an estimated savings of $510 million for PA school districts and taxpayers by 2016-17

Real Charter Reform
Yinzercation Blog — OCTOBER 2, 2012
They’re at it again. Our state legislators returned to work last Monday after a nearly three month summer break – and will only be in session through next week, before adjourning again for several weeks for the election season. That means Governor Corbett only has a few days to get some of his top priorities through both the House and Senate. And by all accounts, charter “reform” legislation is at the top of his list.
We indeed need charter reform in Pennsylvania. A broken funding formula is currently sucking resources away from traditional public schools and allowing some charter schools – especially cyber charter schools – to line the pockets of their corporate directors with wads of taxpayer cash. But what Gov. Corbett has in mind is not reform at all: it’s a sly new way to hand more power to the state. He wants a “state authorizer,” creating a new state commission that would take away local control over establishing new charter schools, sidestepping the elected school boards who now make those decisions.

PSBA Supports Roebuck Legislation to Address Charter School Reforms
Steve Robinson, PSBA Director of Publications and PR 10/2/2012
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association supports HB 2661, legislation introduced by Rep. James Roebuck that provides comprehensive reforms to existing law for charter and cyber charter schools. PSBA acknowledges his leadership in recognizing the need to address many of the issues and concerns related to the establishment and funding of these schools.

Roebuck Calls for Charter School Reform - Video
Published on Oct 2, 2012 by pahousevideo runtime 3:39
State Rep. James Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, introduced his charter and cyber charter school reform bill (House Bill 2661) at the Math Science Academy at Benjamin Franklin School, 1205 N. Sixth St. in Harrisburg.  Roebuck believes pending and rumored charter school legislation is missing crucial elements that his bill will address.
In 2009-10, school districts paid charter schools $795 million, with only about $227 million reimbursed to them by the state. The 2011-12 state budget ended that state reimbursement.

Charter Reform Legislative Alert from Education Voters PA October 1, 2012
With only 8 more days left in the fall session, it still looks like the Governor is going to try to rush a charter reform bill through - and attempt to hijack the special ed reform bill to do it! During the final days of budget negotiations last spring, both the House and Senate were unable to come to an agreement on charter reform. The proposed pieces of legislation were inadequate - they did not address the issues that need to be addressed. Charter schools are part of the public education landscape and we need high quality reform in order to help ensure that good charters can thrive and that we address the problems that have occurred. Good charter reform legislation would:
  • Fix the funding formula that hurts ALL kids: we need to address the reality that current law means that funding charter schools siphons funds from community schools. A good funding formula would help both charter schools and traditional community schools,
  • Address the financial and quality problems with virtual charter schools,
  • Ensure that communities continue to have a say in how all public schools function in their community, and
  • Improve fiscal and operational transparency, protecting the rights of students and taxpayers.
Charter reform should:
·                     Fix funding formulas
·                     Fix the ways cyber charter schools are funded, not just create a commission
·                     Increase accountability and transparency
·                     Protect the interests of students, taxpayers and communities, including community schools and good charter schools, not just create a free-for-all
Help us spread the word. Forward this email to your friends and neighbors and share this alert on your social networks. 
Thank you for your continuous support on this issue, 
Susan Gobreski  Executive Director, Education Voters PA

Applying Lessons From Charters to Regular Public Schools

 Sean Cavanagh  
Those who believe that charter schools have the potential to boost educational opportunities for large numbers of students across the United States also acknowledge a simple truth: that charters today occupy a relatively small slice of the public school market, and at their current rate of growth it would take many years for them to reach a substantial portion of the population.
In a new paper published by the Hamilton Project, Harvard University economics professorRoland Fryer addresses this limitation and points to a way around it: exporting best practices from charters into regular public school systems, particularly struggling ones. Fryer says preliminary results from demonstration projects he and other researchers are conducting in Houston and Denver show that school systems can benefit from incorporating charter school-style practices in scheduling, the use of data, tutoring, and other areas.

NSBA’s Charter School Resource Center: A New Online Tool for Local School Board Members

NSBA’s advocacy team is pleased to announce the new Charter School Resource Center, an online tool for state associations and school board members. The website has two primary goals: 1) to provide useful information for state associations and school board members to address charter school legislation and policy in their states; and 2) to showcase school board leadership in public accountability and stewardship over taxpayers’ funds in charter school oversight.

“The state has bullied us into thinking that narrowly focused standardized tests are the only way to measure learning. Because the impact of such things as sports, clubs, art, music, and the like are not immediately measurable, politicians looking to control educational resources refuse to acknowledge their value.”
Posted: Wed, Oct. 3, 2012, 3:01 AM
K-12 cuts and consequences
Philadelphia Inquirer Letter to the Editor By Christopher Paslay
Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia schoolteacher and the author of "The Village Proposal," (Rowman & Littlefield). His blog, Chalk and Talk, is at
The results of Pennsylvania's annual standardized tests came out recently, and it seemed everyone was pointing fingers. Math and reading scores are down an average of 1.5 points statewide - 8 points in Philadelphia. Teachers' unions are blaming cuts in education funding for the slump, and they have a point.
Last school year, Gov. Corbett cut $860 million in funding for K-12 education, or about $410 per student. This hit impoverished school districts the hardest; in Philadelphia, state education funding decreased by about $557 per student.

Won’t Back Down gets panned by critics, movie goers–and NSBA

Last week the National School Boards Association’s former Executive Director Anne L. Bryant gave a review dismissing the new film “Won’t Back Down,” which opened in theaters across the country this weekend.  She noted, “While we wouldn’t expect a Hollywood production about public schools to be grounded in research-based facts, there are many reasons to be concerned about the images of educators portrayed in the movie and the fanfare surrounding this type of law — which so far has only been used in one instance but has piqued the interest of legislatures in several states.”

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. 

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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