Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Today – “all the PA charter school reform news that’s fit to print”

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 http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Today – “all the PA charter school reform news that’s fit to print”, including:

  • Shielding mgmt. companies from PA right-to-know laws
  • $29 million (fund balance?) purchase of beach front lots
  • PA Dept of Education Reform inflating this year’s charter school AYP scores (and still only 1 of 12 cybers made AYP)
  • Parent trigger provision in SB1115 would emasculate locally elected school boards (listen to Helen Gym and Matt Brouilette debate parent trigger on Radio Times)
  • Reminder that state Auditor General says we could be saving $365M per year
  • $10  million of fund balance spent financing the  building of a performing arts center
  • And, Yes – yet another Philly charter under investigation
  • Commentary: Charter School reform should protect taxpayers; what should be included in charter reform legislation

Posted: Tue, Oct. 9, 2012, 3:01 AM
Controversial charter access provision back before Penna. Legislature – would exempt private managers of charters from PA right-to-know laws
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
A controversial proposal that would deny public access to records of private managers of charter schools has surfaced again in the Pennsylvania legislature after it was rebuffed during the summer.
Disagreement over the proposed exemption to the state's Right-to-Know law was one of the reasons that a package of charter law changes submitted in late June was shelved until this fall.
The proposal was part of a 53-page amendment inserted into a special education funding bill in an effort to get the charter changes passed along with the budget.
It says the Right-to-Know law applies to charters, "except records of vendors of local agencies shall not be accessible." Charter schools are listed as local agencies in the Right-to-Know law. "Vendors" would include private management groups that run charter schools.

Do we need more transparency for public dollars spent on charter schools?  Are the charter school tuition payments excessive?
Here’s some related prior KEYSEC postings, including details on the $29 million purchase of beach front lots in Palm Beach by the CEO managing the Chester Community Charter School

“The result is that it looks like charter schools, in general, are outperforming traditional public schools when, in fact, they aren’t.”
Pennsylvania eases NCLB rules to help charter schools
Washington Post Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss on October 8, 2012 at 9:36 am
How is this for fair? Charter schools in Pennsylvania are now being assessed by easier rules than are traditional public schools when it comes to determining whether No Child Left Behind mandates have been met.
The result is that it looks like charter schools, in general, are outperforming traditional public schools when, in fact, they aren’t.

“This is the intersection of politics and education, where the data are adjusted for political ends.”

Pennsylvania Official Altered Test Rules to Inflate Charter Scores

Diane Ravitch’s Blog October 8, 2012 //
The Pennsylvania Secretary of Education changed the state testing rules, without federal approval, to boost the scores of charters. The change involved treating charter schools as if they are districts, not schools. This reduced the number of charters that failed to make adequate yearly progress.

Even with inflated scores, of 12 PA cyber charters only 1 made AYP for 2012 (Why did we authorize more cybers this year?)

Need another reason to contact your state legislators with concerns regarding charter school reform?
PA Parent Trigger in SB115 Charter School Reform bill that could be considered by the General Assembly next week
Hey Pennsylvania – here’s your parent trigger in the Charter School Reform amendment added to SB1115.  It requires 50% + 1 of parents and 50% + 1 of teachers to convert a school to a charter school, with no standardized petition and no requirement that anyone (taxpayers, community, be given notice.  School board members, elected by the local community would have no say in the decision.
“(2)  In order to convert an existing public school to a charter school, the applicants must show that:
(i)  More than fifty per centum of the teaching staff in the public school have signed a petition in support of the public school becoming a charter school; and
(ii)  More than fifty per centum of the parents or guardians of pupils attending that public school have signed a petition in support of the school becoming a charter school.”

Take a look (only 7 pages) for a reminder of what PA charter school funding reform that is responsible to the taxpayers should include:
Charter and Cyber Charter Education Funding Reform Should Save Pennsylvania Taxpayers $365 million Annually
Special Report, PA Office of Auditor General, June 12, 2012

If you had kids from your school district attending PA Cyber your tax dollars helped to finance construction of this facility using $10 million of PA Cyber Charter’s fund balance.  That’s great for the town of Midland, but it is 340 miles from my school district to Lincoln Park; why should property taxes from my school district be spent in this fashion?

Lincoln Park Performing Arts charter school's $10M hall spurs debate on privatization

By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 7, 2012 12:14 am
"Considering the significant growth in enrollment, [school officials] decided to create a building that would have the capacity to serve the needs of the school and its students," wrote Christina Zarek, a spokeswoman for the school, in response to questions. She noted that the building is "highly specialized space that includes high-end instructional technology, musical technology, special soundproofing and other studio treatments, climate controls to protect the investments in pianos and other instruments [and] specialized digital studio and lab equipment."
Traditional public school officials, many of whom feel increasingly squeezed by stagnant state aid and competition from charters, characterized the arrangement as one in which the assets go to a private entity, while the risks go to taxpayers.

Missed Monday’s WHYY Radio Times Debate on Parent-trigger laws?
Listen to the mp3  (runtime 51:45) October 8, 2012
The movie “Won’t Back Down” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis is about a crusading single mother and inspiring teacher who are trying to fix their children’s failing Pittsburgh public school. It doesn’t sound like it would generate a lot of debate except that at the heart of the movie is the issue of parent-trigger laws which the characters use to take over the bad school.  Parent-trigger laws have been adopted by seven states and are being considered in many more, including Pennsylvania.  These laws give parents in failing schools the right to fire staff, shut down a school or change it into a charter if a majority of parents agree. This hour, we’ll debate parent-trigger laws with MATTHEW BROUILETTE, President of the Commonwealth Foundation and HELEN GYM, founder of Parents United for Public Education.

Posted: Mon, Oct. 8, 2012, 3:01 AM
World Communications charter awaits outcome of Philadelphia inquiry
By Martha Woodall Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelphia School District is investigating one of the oldest charter schools in the city for financial and management irregularities, problems that might eventually force the school to close.
World Communications at 512 S. Broad St. expects to learn its fate Oct. 17, when the School Reform Commission plans to vote on a new, five-year operating charter.
The district charter school office in July recommended against renewing the charter on multiple grounds, including a lack of employee background checks, failure to document expenses, and high student turnover.
According to documents The Inquirer obtained from the district under the state's Right-to-Know law, the charter office found that World Communications could not document more than $240,000 in expenses from 2010 to early 2012, including 10 charges on the school's American Express card.

Commentary: PA charter school reform should protect taxpayers, not just K12, Inc. CEO Ron Packard and CSM CEO Vahan Gureghian
Keystone State Education Coalition October 4, 2012
Pennsylvania lawmakers should consider the following principles in any charter school reform legislation:

October 7th Email to Chairmen of the PA Senate and PA House Education Committees

The PA Legislature is in recess until October 15th
Please contact your state senator and state rep regarding charter school reform during this break
You can bet that the charter school lobbyists are not taking a break

“school business officials... are not extremists with a political agenda.  The radicals in this story are those currently inhabiting the Governor’s mansion and the Education Department appointees who claim that sharing this survey data is somehow misinforming the public.”
Cuts Have Consequences
Yinzercation Blog — OCTOBER 8, 2012
This should come as no surprise. When you cut close to a billion dollars from public education, there are going to be consequences. Just so we’re all clear on exactly why we’re in this fight for our schools, let’s take a closer look at what has happened to them this year.
Last week the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) released the findings from a survey of the state’s 500 school districts. [PASBO/PASA survey, 10-1-12] The results are not pretty. With a 53% response rate, the survey clearly shows that our schools are struggling to deal with massive budget cuts by increasing class size, cutting programs, and eliminating teaching staff. Here are the highlights:

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Arts and Education Symposium Thursday, October 11, 2012 
We're just 3 Days away from the Arts and Education Symposium Thursday, October 11, 2012 
Option 1 - Register and Attend
The State Museum of Pennsylvania 
Registration is $25 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and all Symposium sessions.
Act 48 credit will be available to educators who attend thanks to support from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit.      
Option 2 - Participate Remotely
Be part of the conversation by following  #ArtsEdPA  on twitter
Watch the LIVE WEBCAST at aei-pa.org
Webcast Schedule: 
9:00 a.m. - Welcome by Ron Cowell, EPLC President 
9:15 a.m. - Student  Performance by Open Stage of Harrisburg Studio/School
1:30 p.m. - Plenary Session about the new Pennsylvania Arts Education Network

Full Symposium schedule and list of speakers is posted: www.aei-pa.org  
Co-sponsored by:
The Arts and Education Symposium is supported by grants from The Heinz Endowments

Building One Pennsylvania Public Meeting 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
Promoting sustainable, inclusive and economically prosperous communities
Confirmed to attend:
·         Jay Williams, Deputy Director of the  White House Office on Intergovernmental Affairs
·         Peter Kovar, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
·         Lisa Worden, Director, PA Department of Community & Economic Development, Southeast Regional Office 
  • Office of Senator Bob Casey
Let's Stand Together to support our  diverse, middle-class communities!
Join local elected, faith and civic leaders from across the region 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    
Organizational Affiliation of Attendees includes:
Bridgeport Borough Council
Bristol Township School District
Chanceford Presbyterian Church
Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Cheltenham School Board
Coatesville Area School Board
Drexel Hill United Methodist Church
Garden Church
Jenkintown Borough Council
Lansdowne Borough Council
Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation
Media Borough Council
Morton Borough Council
Norristown Area School District
Norristown Municipal Council
North Coventry Township
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Phoenixville Borough Council
Prayer Chapel
Ridley School District
St. James Episcopal Church
The Garden Church
United Methodist Women
Upper Darby Township Council
Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County
United Methodist Women - Eastern Conference
Victory Church
Wayne Presbyterian Church
Wallingford Presbyterian Church
West Chester Area School District PTOC 
West Chester Borough Council
William Penn School District
Yeadon Borough Council
Yeadon Economic Development Corporation
The event is free but you must register in advance to reserve your seat. Register at www.buildingonepa.org or by emailing name, title, organizational affiliation, address, phone and email to info@buildingonepa.org 
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


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