Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SB1115 Charter Reform goes to the House today

Send a Letter to the President on October 17

Diane Ravitch’s Blog October 3, 2012 /
Earlier I posted the draft of a letter to President Obama and asked for your help.
I got some excellent suggestions.
To begin with, this is not an online petition, but an invitation to join together to write your own individual heartfelt letter to the President and to email the White House on the same day.

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
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Senate voted 33-16 to concur with amendments to SB1115
See how your Senator voted - click here for the roll call vote

SB1115 goes to the House for consideration on Wednesday October 17th
Please take a minute to call your state representative this morning and urge them to vote NO on the SB1115 charter reform bill.

·         The amended bill still contains a de facto statewide authorization provision via a new multiple charter organization clause that would be a clear end-run around local school boards (you remember, those locally elected volunteer officials who are responsible for taxing their neighbors and paying the charter schools bills). The state, and not the local school district would have the authority to receive, review and act on multiple charter school organization consolidation and transfer applications. This allows charter schools to circumvent local school districts as a charter school authorizer and consolidate their charter with the Department of Education.
·         SB1115 still contains a direct pay provision that would deny local districts the ability to verify bills before they are paid (with taxpayer dollars).
·         The SB1115 funding commission is overwhelmingly weighted towards charters; only 3 of 17 members represent traditional public schools where 4 out of 5 students are enrolled.  The rest are charter proponents and political appointees.
·         SB1115 ignores the pension double dip—  charter schools are being paid twice, with taxpayer dollars, for their retirement costs.  It takes only 15 words to address this issue, and at a savings of over $500 million dollars in five years; a charter reform bill MUST tackle this issue.

SB1115: Pa. Senate approves charter schools reform bill

October 16, 2012 6:53 pm
By Tom Barnes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- The state Senate tonight approved a bill making several notable amendments to the state's law on charter schools, the first significant changes since charter schools were created in 1997.  On a vote of 33-16, the Senate endorsed and sent to the House a measure supported by most Republican legislators. It creates a statewide advisory commission to explore ways for funding charter schools and cyber charter schools and report back to the General Assembly.

Posted: Tue, Oct. 16, 2012, 3:01 AM
DN Editorial: Editorial: Latest charter-reform bill better, still needs more work
Philadelphia Daily News
CHARTER schools have become Rorschach tests. Depending on who's looking, they are:
* Independent public schools not confined by big district bureaucracies to create innovative education alternatives.
* A way to dismantle the public system, and let "the free market" dictate education.
* A way to broaden the choices for parents and save children from failing schools.
* Money traps with no accountability that are siphoning off public money from local districts and making some operators rich.
It may be that the truth contains a little of each of these pictures. A charter reform bill being fast-tracked in Harrisburg that could be voted on as early as today may clarify some of these conflicting views. But for all its positives, the overall bill doesn't go far enough.

Charter school proposal skips accountability

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Patriot News Letters to the Editor by THOMAS J. GENTZEL, Executive Director, Pa. School Boards Association
Your recent endorsement of legislation to expand the operations of charter schools (Oct. 10) is disconcerting. The proposal being sought by charter school proponents does not tackle fiscal accountability, lessens transparency under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law and purposely creates a disparate academic reporting structure.
The plan does not solve the critical funding problems. Instead, it kicks the can down the road by creating a commission to study the current flawed formula rather than taking action now. The General Assembly should eliminate the double dip on retirement payments made to charter schools, large fund balances should be returned to the paying school districts and no charter school should receive funding that exceeds actual instructional costs.

Posted: Wed, Oct. 17, 2012, 3:01 AM
SB1115: State Senate passes charter school bill, but without controversial provisions
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
A bill that would tighten ethics and reporting provisions for charter schools and overhaul special-education funding to favor districts with the most severely disabled special-needs students passed the Pennsylvania Senate by a sizable margin Tuesday.
The bill, which the House is expected to pass Wednesday, was stripped of its most controversial provisions, including one that would have shielded charter school managers from the state's Right to Know law.

Tue, Oct. 16, 2012, 7:28 PM
Pa. Senate approves rewrite of charter schools law
Philadelphia Inquirer by MARC LEVY The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A major rewrite of Pennsylvania's charter school law to toughen standards for the publicly funded but privately run schools cleared one legislative chamber Tuesday after several years of work and a behind-the-scenes battle over controversial provisions sought by Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers who favor public school alternatives.
The bill, approved by the state Senate 33-16, goes to the House of Representatives as the Legislature's fall schedule winds down. It passed with bipartisan support, with 26 of 29 Republicans and seven of 20 Democrats voting "yes." Passage is possible later this Read more:
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U.S. says Pa. Education Department 'acted prematurely' in charter AYP change
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 16 2012
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis "acted prematurely" in changing how to calculate adequate yearly progress for charter schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The rule change made it easier for some charters to make AYP.
But a federal spokesperson also said in an email that the change may ultimately be approved.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education "does not have the authority to apply this methodology ... until [the federal Department of Education] has had an opportunity to review and approve its expanded application," according to the email from the federal department spokesperson. "The Department understands the pressures of time in getting these analyses done, reviewed and published, however, PDE acted prematurely."

Chester Upland's Joe Watkins gets 30-day extension for financial recovery plan
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Delco Times By JOHN KOPP @DT_JohnKopp
CHESTER — The state-appointed officer tasked with developing a financial recovery plan for the Chester Upland School District asked for a 30-day extension at a press conference this afternoon.  Joe Watkins was appointed as Chester Upland’s chief recovery officer by state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis in August to develop a recovery plan for the beleaguered district, which was deemed financially distressed earlier in the summer.
Watkins originally had 30 days to complete his plan and had already been granted a 30-day extension. He said state officials approved another extension today. His recovery plan is now due Nov. 15.

Write Your Letter to the President Now
Diane Ravitch’s Blog October 13, 2012 
It’s time to write your letter to President Obama to let him know how he should change Race to the Top.
Join the Campaign for Our Public Schools.
Should schools compete or collaborate?
Should teachers compete or collaborate?
Is education a “race” or a process of development?
Share your thoughts with the President, your Governor, and all your elected officials.
Here are the instructions.

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