Monday, December 17, 2012

In MA it only costs taxpayers flat $5K to send kids to mediocre cyberschool; why does it cost 2-3X that in PA?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, 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

First Book works through existing community programs, literacy efforts and schools to provide an ongoing supply of new books and reading materials – at low or no cost.
Your tax-deductible donation to First Book will fund new books for children in need and help knock down the greatest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond — access to books. 97% of donations go directly to programming, providing new books for children in need.

How you can help the Connecticut shooting victims

Pottstown Mercury December 15,2012
By Viktoria Sundqvist The Middletown Press Posted: 12/15/12 01:59 pm
NEWTOWN, Conn. — Newtown Youth & Family Services is collecting donations for people directly affected by Friday’s elementary school shooting,  Donations can be sent via “Caroline’s Gift,” a fund set up in the 1990s by a local family in memory of their daughter. The Caroline’s Gift fund offers financial support to families who are dealing with a child’s terminal or catastrophic illness.  “Any donations made to Newtown Youth & Family Services will be donated directly to those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting,” a message on the organizations website says.
Newtown Youth and Family Services is located at 15 Berkshire Road, Sandy Hook, CT 06482. For more details on how to donate, call 203-426-8103.
Another group accepting donations is the Newtown Parent Connection, which accepts donations on its website, Donations can be made via Paypal or any major credit card, and the organization says all donations will be donated directly to those affected by the shooting. For further details, call 203-270-1600.
The United Way of Western Connecticut is accepting donations in a partnership with Newtown Savings Bank. Check donations may be mailed to: Sandy Hook School Support Fund, c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main St., Newtown CT 06470. You can also donate by credit card here: https://newtown/
“To several staff, volunteers and contributors, Newtown is home,” the United Way of Western Connecticut says on its website. “We will stand with the community and everyone affected directly and indirectly by this tragic event as we face the days and weeks ahead.”

In Massachusetts, taxpayers in 148 school districts are all paying the same flat rate of $5000 per student to cover tuition at the state’s only cyber charter school.  How is it that in Pennsylvania many districts are paying 2 or 3 times that?
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Massachusetts: Is the state's only online virtual school working?
Students at a privately operated online school that is costing Massachusetts taxpayers almost $2.5 million a year are falling far behind other students in the state based on their assessment test scores, and half of them are quitting during the academic year or failing to return the next year.
State and local records reviewed by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting show that the Massachusetts Virtual Academy, or MAVA, ranked second lowest statewide in its students' progress in math and English based on a measure called the student growth percentile, which compares a given student's MCAS scores over time with those of similar students.
Twenty-five percent dropped out last year, and, each fall, another 20 to 30 percent do not come back.
The results come at a time when legislators are considering allowing up to 10 online schools to operate across the state, which could enroll as many as 19,000 students.
A spin-off of the Greenfield Public Schools, MAVA accepts students from 148 other Massachusetts school districts including Lowell, Lawrence, Attleboro, Worcester, Boston, Fall River, Springfield, New Bedford and districts on Cape Cod.
The districts pay Greenfield $5,000 per year, per student. Greenfield, in turn, contracts with a Virginia-based company called K12 to provide instruction and other services. 

EDITORIAL: Legislature must put property tax reform recommendations into action

Pennsylvania has been talking about property tax reform for decades. It’s time to stop talking about it and do it. And the state Legislature just might have the perfect opportunity to turn all that talk into action.  That’s because there is now more than just talk behind the calls for reform.
Now a study has been completed including a draft report with 13 recommendations to get the ball rolling on property tax reform.

Students and Sequestration
Yinzercation Blog December 14, 2012
When students speak, we need to listen. And when students advocate for their own public education, their voices speak truth to power. Yesterday, two Pittsburgh students made themselves heard loud and clear with eloquent letters to the editor about the impact of budget cuts on our schools. (See full text at the bottom of this post.)
Both students were speaking specifically about the looming federal tax and spending cuts that will come with sequestration. That’s the “fiscal cliff” that we’ve been hearing so much about – which, according to economists is actually the wrong metaphor, since it is more of a slope – that will trigger automatic, across the board budget cuts to departments including education, unless Congress gets its act in gear and makes a deal. Those cuts would be felt starting next fall, for the 2013-14 academic year, and would hit programs such as Title I and Head Start, which provide support for low income students.
The Pittsburgh Public School District alone estimates that it will lose $3.5 million next year if sequestration takes effect

Boehner's New Offer on Taxes Could Help Reach a Deal
New York Times by Jonathan Weisman and Jackie Calmes Dec. 16 3:52 PM
Speaker John A. Boehner’s latest offer to President Obama to allow tax rates to rise on incomes over $1 million has already changed the terms of negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis in January, and both sides on Sunday expressed new optimism that a deal could be reached this week.
In a phone call with Mr. Obama on Friday, the speaker, who had resolutely opposed allowing income tax rates to rise on anyone, instead spoke in terms of preventing taxes from rising on everyone with a yearly income below $1 million. He also said he could accept an agreement that would raise $1 trillion in new revenues over 10 years, up from $800 billion, if the president committed to significant savings from benefit programs like Medicare, according to people familiar with the talks.

The DeVos family has been a major player funding candidates in Pennsylvania to advance vouchers, contributing millions using their American Federation for Children as a vehicle to fund Pennsylvania’s Students First PAC.

Michigan Effort Shows G.O.P. Sway in State Contests

Published: December 16, 2012
As Republican leaders in Washington grappled after the election with their failure to unseat President Obama, Dick DeVos, one of Michigan’s wealthiest men, began dialing up state lawmakers in Lansing.
Although Mr. Obama won Michigan handily, Republicans had kept control of the Legislature. A union-backed ballot measure to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the State Constitution was defeated, thanks to an aggressive campaign against it that was financed in part by $2 million of DeVos family money.
The time had come, Mr. DeVos told Republican lawmakers, for the bold stroke they were considering: a law banning requirements that workers pay union dues or fees, in the state where the modern American labor movement was born. If the lawmakers later found themselves facing recalls or tough re-election fights, Mr. DeVos told them, he would be there to help.

$200,000 to the Economy League and United Way for Kindergarten Readiness
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia Press Release December 13, 2012
Philadelphia, Pa. (December 13, 2012) United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) has been awarded a Roadmaps to Health Community Grant of $200,000 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve kindergarten readiness rates in Pennsylvania. The grant will support a two-year education and advocacy campaign, co-directed by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and in partnership with a coalition of local education and community partners,to build broad support among parents, school superintendents and boards, key business leaders, state agencies and elected officials to adopt and implement common kindergarten readiness assessments across the early childhood and K-12 education sectors. (Continue reading the press release

Exclusive! Pasi Sahlberg on TIMSS and PIRLS

Diane Ravitch’s Blog December 14, 2012 //
At my request, Pasi Sahlberg has written comments on the latest international test scores. Sahlberg is a prominent Finnish educator and author of the award-winning book “Finnish Lessons.”

TIMSS/PIRLS: Reactions from Asia’s Top Performers
Yong Zhao’s Blog 16 DECEMBER 2012 42 NO COMMENT
Handwringing and head scratching around the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS results released yesterday continue around the globe. While Western countries show great admiration of the outstanding scores of East Asia and lament on their own abysmal performance, the East Asian education systems, while celebrating their achievement, are worried about something that the media in Western countries rarely mentions. Here are some examples:

Walton Family Foundation
Having invested more than $1 billion in education reform, the Walton Family Foundation is the largest donor to initiatives that support parental choice and competition within education.

Related prior KEYSEC posting……
BACK TO SCHOOL 2012 - WALMART: Save More, Live Better, Eradicate Public Education: 159,049,864 reasons to shop someplace else.

Probe sought into private influence on public education policy

Increasingly policy relating to public education is being made in secret with involvement from private donors or organizations pushing their own agendas. In Philadelphia, where parents have been fighting for years to make public information about how decisions toward the privatization of public education are being made. A version of this appeared on the website of Parents United for Public Education,  a group of Philadelphia parents that focuses on budgeting and accountability to ensure resources get to the classroom level.

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