Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For January 26, 2013: PA House GOP unveils charter/cyber funding reform package

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For January 26, 2013

PDE Decision on 8 New Cyber Charters Expected Monday
A tweet from Ben Herold on Friday noted that PDE is expected to make a decision on these 8 new cyber charters this coming Monday.  Here’s his background piece from December….

Pa. considers 8 new 'cyber charters,' while critics question cost and quality

WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold December 5, 2012
Amid concerns about quality, cost, and corruption in Pennsylvania's extensive system of cyber charters, state officials are considering eight new proposals for independently managed schools providing mostly online instruction.
The new cyber charters, which would receive public funding that would otherwise benefit traditional school districts, aim to serve almost 10,000 students by 2017.
If all the pending proposals are approved, the new cybers would receive roughly $350 million in taxpayer money over the next five years, according to a NewsWorks/Notebook analysis.

PA Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reforms Proposed by PA House GOP
PA House Republican Caucus 1/25/2013
HARRISBURG – The House Republican Caucus today unveiled a legislative package aimed at reforming charter and cyber charter school funding.
“Pennsylvania’s charter schools and cyber charter schools have generally worked well and have benefited many Pennsylvania families, particularly those students in low-performing school districts,” Rep. Mike Reese (R-Fayette/Westmoreland) said. “Our goal in developing this package was simple: to propose fair and responsible changes to charter school funding while preserving parental options for our Commonwealth’s students.”
“Every school district in the Commonwealth can save money under this plan and lessen the burden on property taxpayers,” Rep. Joe Emrick (R-Northampton) said. “We have heard the concerns from school districts and are responding, while protecting the very important educational options available for parents and students.”
“Our current funding system does not reflect actual special education populations in our schools,” Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks) said. “So, whether a public school or charter school, our special education funding formulas need to be overhauled; this legislation will accomplish that.”
The Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reform Package consists of the following:

Here are a couple responses from the school choice/school privatization lobby….
PA Charter and Education Reform Organizations Respond to House Leadership Cyber Charter Legislation Announcement
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools January 25, 2013
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, StudentsFirst, Students First PA, and PennCAN are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of the proposed legislation that will cripple the education of the 34,000 children who choose cyber charter schools.

Commonwealth Foundation: New Bills Constitute Attack on PA Cyber Schools
Commonwealth Foundation JANUARY 25, 2013 | by PRIYA ABRAHAM
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and a trio of legislators today unveiled a package of bills aimed at reducing cyber school growth and limiting the popular schools' funding. Cyber schools, which opened just 10 years ago, have seen skyrocketing growth as families flock to them, and now boast more than 32,000 students and 16 schools across Pennsylvania.

A Philadelphia coalition wants to stop charter expansion. District chief says he does too.
thenotebook on Jan 25 2013 by Paul Jablow
Her neighborhood school was targeted for closing, and Dawn Hawkins was angry. As she confronted Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite at a community meeting, she was clear about one reason why.
“You’re saying the charter schools are better,” shouted Hawkins, a parent leader in the community organization Action United and the parent of a 7th grader at L.P. Hill School in Strawberry Mansion. “My son gets straight As and Bs at that school. The staff and teachers care about my son in that school. ... Guess what. We can get some paint, we can get some computers, we can get some extra teachers...”
“I am not saying charter schools are better,” replied Hite, his trademark calm voice rising over the restless buzz of the auditorium at Dobbins High School. “Here’s what I am saying: that 60,000 parents are making the decision to send their children to [charter] schools.
“We are trying to make our schools better so that when people are making choices about schools, they’re choosing District schools. We must do that. But we cannot do that if we’re carrying 53,000 empty seats.”
Hawkins is not alone in her concerns about charter growth and its effect on the traditional neighborhood school.

With new rules, Pa. charter school performance plummets
Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer Friday, January 25, 2013, 5:42 AM
The percentage of Pennsylvania charter schools that met academic benchmarks plummeted after the state Department of Education was forced to recalculate the performance rates.
Under a new and controversial method the department used last fall, 49 percent of 156 charter schools met benchmarks based on student tests scores in 2011-12.
The rate dropped to 28 percent after the department released a recalculation this week. In Philadelphia, the percentage of the 80 charter schools that met the standards declined from 54 percent to 29 percent.
None of the 12 cyber charter schools that provide online in-home instruction to students statewide met the benchmarks. Previously, one met the standard.

Pa. Senate committees team up to look at school safety
By Jan Murphy | on January 25, 2013 at 7:10 AM
School safety will be the focus of a joint meeting of two Senate committees next month including discussions about security measures that schools have in place and school-to-parent communication during an emergency.  The hearing of the Senate Education Committee and the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, will start at 9 a.m. on Feb. 13 in the North Office Building, Hearing Room 1, in the Capitol complex.

Schools must modify or supply sports for disabled students, U.S. says
Patriot News By The Associated Press  on January 25, 2013 at 8:02 AM
WASHINGTON — Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says.
Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them. If those adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.
"Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the new guidance Friday.

Who’s In to Opt Out?
Yinzercaation Blog January 25, 2012
Opting out is taking off. Parents, teachers, and now even entire state legislatures are saying they’ve had enough with high-stakes-testing and the damage it’s doing to education. I sat in a room with teachers here in Pittsburgh this week who told me that ten years ago they would have given one standardized test a year; now they are spending weeks upon weeks on test prep and test administration. But their students aren’t learning more. If anything they are learning less, while the high-stakes attached to the tests have radically changed what education looks like.
This radical shift was really brought home for me this week reading about Alan C. Jones, a former principal and teacher educator in Illinois, who accompanied his daughter in the search for a good public school for his grandson. After decades working in education, he reports that he was appalled at what high-stakes-testing had done to those schools he visited:

The future is still the future?
Center for Public Education The Edifier Blog January 25, 2013 by Pattie Barth
Honestly, I’m not a Luddite. But sometimes I feel like I’m playing one here at CPE.
Last year we examined what was known — or more accurately what was not known — about online courses and cyberschools, and their overall impact on student learning. The report, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools,found that despite some very exciting things happening in online education, the overall impact of virtual courses and schools on elementary and secondary students is either undocumented or bleak.  We also found that the fault is mostly with inadequate monitoring systems for students working online, with the result that many of them appeared to be dropping in and out of the cyberworld unnoticed and often untaught.
Recent news from Pennsylvania isn’t making us any more hopeful. Earlier this week, an independent education news service in Philadelphia reported on allegations by former employees that a major virtual charter school provider, K12 Inc.

U.S. Education Secretary to Address the National School Boards Association's Federal Relations Network Conference
Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, 
Event Date 1: January 28, 2013 03:00 pm - 04:00 pm
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will give remarks at the National School Boards Association's Federal Relations Network Conference on Monday, Jan. 28, in Washington, D.C. He will speak about progress in K-12 education and the Obama administration's goals for education reform going forward. A question-and-answer session will follow.

‘School Choice Week’ Promotes Vouchers, Undermines Public Schools, Says Americans United
Religious/Private Schools Have The ‘Choice,’ But Want Taxpayers To Foot The Bill, Says AU’s Lynn
Press Release Americans United For Separation of Church and State Jan 25, 2013
Sectarian lobbies and right-wing interest groups are waging war on the public school system, and “National School Choice Week” is part of that effort, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
From Jan. 27-Feb. 2, pro-private school forces are sponsoring hundreds of events around the country that supposedly promote “effective education options for every child.” In fact, civil liberties advocates say the real goal is enactment of voucher schemes that undercut public schools and subsidize religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars.
Event sponsors include the Heritage Foundation, the National Catholic Educational Association, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Betsy DeVos’ Alliance for School Choice.

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
SAVE THE DATE: 2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit Feb. 21st
Many Pennsylvanians have sent a clear message to Harrisburg in recent months: The state budget cuts of the past two years were too deep. It is time to once again invest in classrooms and communities.  Next month, Governor Tom Corbett will unveil his 2013-14 budget proposal. Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center for an in-depth look at the Governor's proposal and an update on the federal budget -- and what they mean for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hilton Harrisburg, 1 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA
Registration is free and lunch is included.


The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2013 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Registration is $45 and includes coffee/donuts, lunch, and materials.  
Philadelphia Region Saturday, February 2, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 1605 W. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19403
Harrisburg Region Saturday, February 9, 2013– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh/Monroeville, 101 Mall Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146
To register, please click here.

2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues
April 6, 2013 The Penn Stater Convention Center Hotel; State College, PA
Strategic leadership, school budgeting and advocacy are key issues facing today's school district leaders. For your school district to truly thrive, leaders must maintain a solid understanding of these three functions. Attend the 2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues to ensure you have the skills you need to take your district to the next level.

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