Saturday, November 24, 2012

Want to privatize schools? You might want to buy up an election cycle or two first.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1700 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, 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

Accountability:  How does your charter school, private school or religious school receiving public tax dollars measure up?
Seeing your neighbors, who elect you and whose local property taxes you are responsible for, at the supermarket, the bank and the barbershop, 365 days per year.
Holding public budget preparation meetings, several times each year.
Operating under sunshine laws and right-know-laws.
Public salary information and check registers.

Want to privatize schools? You might want to buy up an election cycle or two first.
"If people follow the money trail, they'd learn a lot about what's really going on."
Pittsburgh City Paper by Chris Potter November 21, 2012
State Rep. James Roebuck has been in politics for a quarter-century, but he'd never before faced the kind of primary fight he had this spring. His challenger, Fatimah Muhammad, was a political upstart with little history in the district. Yet she was able to raise more than $230,000 for her campaign, seemingly overnight. 
"I felt like the money was being poured on my head," recalls Roebuck, a Philadelphia Democrat. Muhammad "put up billboards all across the district, and had six or seven people working at every polling place."
And then there were the mailings……

“Interesting that the announcement was made on the day before the long holiday weekend, which meant that someone decided to bury it.”

US DOE: Pennsylvania Can’t Inflate Charter Scores

Diane Ravitch’s Blog November 23, 2012 //
The U.S. Department of Education ruled invalid Pennsylvania’s effort to inflate the scores of charter schools by treating them as local school districts.

“…by using the grade span methodology, about 59 percent of charters made AYP , a figure that supporters touted, comparing it with the 50 percent of traditional schools that hit the target.
Yet only 37 percent of charters would have made AYP under the individual school method. Delisle ordered Pennsylvania to re-evaluate charter schools' AYP status using that standard by the end of the fall semester.”

Pa. told to re-evaluate charter school test scores

KATHY MATHESON , The Associated Press November 22, 2012, 2:22 PM
PHILADELPHIA - Federal education officials have denied Pennsylvania's request to evaluate charter school achievement using more lenient criteria, saying they must be assessed by the same standard as traditional schools.
The rejection means Pennsylvania cannot substitute a less stringent method for measuring "adequate yearly progress," the federal benchmark known as AYP. Critics said the formula artificially inflated charter schools' performance for political reasons.

Feds: Pennsylvania cannot treat charter schools like school districts for yearly progress scores

Measuring progress on standardized test scores at issue.

   9:31 p.m. EST, November 21, 2012
The federal government has shot down state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis' unilateral PSSA rule change that made it easier for charter schools to meet federal testing benchmarks than traditional public schools.
Tomalis had said the state could treat charter schools the same way it treats school districts in calculating student test scores to come up with so-called Adequate Yearly Progress grades.
But The U.S. Department of Education said because charter schools are individual school buildings, they must have their own separate AYP grades under the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal order, dated Nov. 19, was released by the state Wednesday

What Works: Philadelphia Futures - Giving the Gift of Time

Posted: 11/21/2012 3:03 pm
Many of us have been fortunate to provide our children with a world of opportunity. They have attended well-funded public schools or select independent schools that have developed their interests and talents. They have been exposed to the arts, sports and science fairs. They have had advanced placement courses, trips abroad and foreign language instruction since elementary school. Going to college is a given in their lives and from the time when they are very young, there is great excitement about what they will be when they grow up. They are raised confidently knowing that there are endless opportunities available to them, and having a committed network of parents, teachers and other adult role models is a big part of their life experience.
But this is not the case for children raised in poverty. 

“Four school districts — Albert Gallatin Area, Avonworth, South Park and West Allegheny — claim in the state lawsuit that PA Cyber in Midland should reimburse them for some of the money they paid the cyber charter between the 2002 and 2010 school years. In 2011 the state Supreme Court ruled the districts don’t have to pay charter schools who enroll 4-year-old students; the districts don’t offer kindergarten until students are 5.”

Insurance company doesn’t want to pay potential damages for Beaver County charter school

Trib Live By Brian Bowling  November 20, 2012, 6:20 p.m.
A New Hampshire insurance company claims in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the policy it sold a Beaver County cyber charter school doesn’t cover potential damages from a class-action lawsuit.
“State lawmakers and Gov. Corbett have to understand that in urban districts such as Harrisburg — and troubled Chester Upland with its great basketball tradition — sports and band are one of the few proven ways to keep students in school and achieving. It's also a deep source of community pride in these struggling cities.”

Heather Long: Want to improve education? Fund high school sports

By HEATHER LONG, The Patriot-News  November 24, 2012, 12:26
It ought to be mandatory for every state lawmaker and Gov. Tom Corbett to attend a Harrisburg Cougars football game.  They probably would find it difficult not to bebop along to the Cougar band that is widely known as one of the most fun ensembles.

Pennsylvania asked to halt cyber charter school approvals

Philadelphia-based nonprofit says state Education Department lacks manpower to oversee more cyber charter schools.

 9:31 p.m. EST, November 21, 2012
A legal advocacy group is calling on the state Department of Education to temporarily stop approving more cyber charter schools, saying there is little evidence the schools improve student learning, but a lot of evidence they drain tax dollars.
The Education Law Center, headquartered in Philadelphia, requested Wednesday a one-year moratorium on approvals. The move came five days before the state agency starts reviewing applications for eight more cyber charter schools, including one in Allentown.
The state does an inadequate job of reviewing the academic and financial performance of the 16 existing cyber charter schools, said Marnie Kaplan, a lawyer for center, which advocates for student and parental education rights.
If the new applications are approved, she said, the agency would be in jeopardy of violating the state charter school law because it would not have the manpower to oversee 24 cyber charter schools, many of which are run by for-profit companies and overcharge taxpayers for services.

Education Law Center November 21, 2012
Education Law Center: Moratorium Needed on New Cyber Charters
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is in jeopardy of violating state law if it approves eight new cyber charter schools in the coming weeks, according to the Education Law Center.

Charter Advocates Lobby to Restore New Markets Tax Credit for Facilities

 Sean Cavanagh  
A coalition of nearly 60 charter school organizations is urging members of Congress to revive a recently expired federal tax credit, one that the advocates say has proved critical to helping the independent public schools secure funding for building space.
In a letter to Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Sander Levin, the panel's ranking Democrat, who is from the same state, the organizations argue in favor of re-establishing the New Markets Tax Credit, which expired at the end of last year.

Here’s a 2010 piece from the NY Daily News on the New Markets Tax Credit…
“The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.”

Albany charter cash cow: Big banks making a bundle on new construction as schools bear the cost

New York Daily News BY JUAN GONZALEZ - Friday, May 07, 2010
Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction.
The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.


Charter school corruption

Here’s how The Arizona Republic started a story detailing its investigation into charter school corruption in the state:
Board members and administrators from more than a dozen state-funded charter schools are profiting from their affiliations by doing business with schools they oversee.
The deals, worth more than $70 million over the last five years, are legal, but critics of the arrangements say they can lead to conflicts of interest. Charter executives, on the other hand, say they are able to help the schools get better deals on services and goods ranging from air-conditioners to textbooks and thus save taxpayers money.


When ‘Grading’ Is Degrading

New York Times By MICHAEL BRICK Published: November 22, 2012
IN his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem.
For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.
So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter schoolwaiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.

Building One Pennsylvania – Fundraiser November 29th
Join us at our first fundraiser and awards ceremony to celebrate our progress in promoting inclusive, sustainable and economically prosperous communities.
Austin Room at IBEW Electrical Union 654
3729 Chichester Avenue, Boothwyn PA 19061

Thursday, November 29th from 6:00 – 8:00 PM
$100 per person • $75 for Building One Pennsylvania Member
U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan
Estelle Richman, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Isaac Dotson, Yeadon Economic Development Corporation
Tom Gemmill, St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster
Rev. Marlon Millner, Norristown Municipal Council and McKinley Memorial Baptist Church


CELEBRATE Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s 5th Anniversary!
Friday November 30th 12 pm1:30 pm
Join us in celebrating 5 years of providing a strong, independent voice for working Pennsylvanians and their families in the halls of the state Capitol and beyond.
Friday~November 30th, 12 pm - 1:30 pm
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel
201 N. 17th Street | Philadelphia PA 19103
Registration begins at 11:30
Hon. Gene DiGirolamo & Hon. Thomas Murt
Voter ID Plaintiff Legal Team
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP)
The ACLU of Pennsylvania
The Advancement Project
Arnold and Porter
Hon. Edward G. Rendell | Hon. Vincent Hughes
Hon. Blondell Reynolds Brown | Hon. Maria Quiñones Sánchez | Hon. W. Wilson Goode II
Hon. Diane Ellis-Marseglia | Willig, Williams, & Davidson | Dianne & Ted Reed | Donna Cooper
Public Citizens for Children and Youth | Women Against Abuse
Education Policy and Leadership Center | Education Voters of Pennsylvania
Project H.O.M.E | Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Education Law Center invites you to a special evening December 5th
Honoring Len Rieser
Welcoming Rhonda Brownstein
And celebrating public education champions
Mary Gay Scanlon, Harold Jordan, Arc of PA, The Bridges Collaborative and School Discipline Advocacy Services
Food, Drink and Silent Auction
December 5, 2012 , 5:30 PM
Crystal Tea Room The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia

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