Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For February 26, 2013: Roebuck Seeking Co-sponsors for Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For February 26, 2013: Roebuck Seeking Co-sponsors for Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation

Pennsylvanians for Charter School Reform
Reform PA Charter Schools: Pennsylvanians could save $365 million THIS YEAR if Harrisburg fixes its broken charter school funding formula.

“Of the five states with the largest student enrollment in independently operated charter and cyber charter schools, Pennsylvania spends the most per student:
PA: $12,657
Ohio: $10,652
Michigan: $9,480
Texas: $8,954
Arizona: $7,671”
June 2012 Report: Auditor General Jack Wagner Says Fixing PA’s Charter School Formula Could Save $365 Million a Year in Taxpayer Money 
Says Department of Education and General Assembly must take leadership role
HARRISBURG, June 20, 2012 – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that Pennsylvania could save $365 million a year in taxpayer money by adopting separate charter and cyber charter school funding formulas similar to those used in other states, and by closing an administrative loophole that permits double-dipping in pension payments through the calculation of tuition rates.
A study by the Department of the Auditor General shows that Pennsylvania has overpaid charter schools because its formula is pegged to educational costs in the sending school district rather than on the actual educational cost to the charter or cyber charter school.

PA House Co-sponsorship Memorandum Posted: February 25, 2013 10:47 AM
From:   Representative James Roebuck     To:   All House members
Subject:  Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation
In the near future I intend to introduce legislation that will make comprehensive amendments to the Charter and Cyber Charter School Law.  While I do support charter schools, I believe major revisions are needed regarding the governance, financing and accountability of charter and cyber charter schools. I believe these revisions will result in significant savings to our school districts of at least $365 million a year.  The legislation addresses what’s needed in reforming the Charter and Cyber Charter School law:
Strengthening local school board and taxpayer ability to approve and have authority over charter schools;
A Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to determine the actual costs of charter and cyber charter schools as part of developing a new equitable funding formula that is fair to both charter schools and school districts and most importantly taxpayers AND changes in the charter school law to address immediate specific financial concerns about the funding of charter and cyber charter schools including special education overpayments, pension “double-dipping” and limiting surplus fund balances;
Providing better fiscal and academic accountability for charter and cyber charter schools including greater transparency and financial accountability of for-profit management companies contracted to run charter and cyber charter schools.
A detailed summary of the major revisions is below.

Cybers continue to blur the line between brick and mortar charters (that require local school board authorization) and cyber charters (authorized by PDE).  This article reports that Commonwealth Connections Academy already operates several “teaching centers” in Pennsylvania.  K-12, Inc. also has a “flex” initiative where students come to school buildings but take online classes.
Cyber school plans teaching center in Dickson City
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) February 25, 2013
Commonwealth Connections Academy, which has 245 students in Lackawanna County, has purchased the former Petco building on Business Route 6 in Dickson City for $1.3 million.
Officials from the school, which is funded with taxpayer money, plan a major overhaul of the building and to increase the number of local employees from about a dozen to as many as 100 people.  "When we saw that site, we thought it was perfect," said Reese Flurie, Ed.D., the school's CEO. "I think it's going to be really nice."  The plan, which includes a full cyber curriculum as well as a physical location for students to interact with peers and teachers, is the first of its kind for a cyber charter school in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh charter and city schools to meet
Superintendent wants to iron out differences
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 26, 2013 12:17 am
Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane is trying to thaw the deep freeze in relations between the school district and charter schools.  Ms. Lane invited leaders of charter schools located in the district to meet with her today. She also has visited some of the charter schools.
"We're going to have to think through our charter school relationship here," Ms. Lane said.  She said it is "certainly not a happy, collaborative one."  Ms. Lane said, "The goal of charters in the first place was to have places where you could try some things out we could all learn from.

Pa. lags behind nation in graduation rate improvement
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 25 2013 Posted in Latest news
A new Graduation Nation report shows that the country is on track to reach a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020. Pennsylvania, however, is one of 23 states not on track to reach that milestone -- largely due to lagging progress in graduating Black and Latino students.

Op-ed: Quality early childhood education is a no-brainer
By Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Cynthia Tucker on February 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM,
Decades of research have proved that high-quality pre-kindergarten classes work. Programs, such as Head Start, that haven't stood up as well to long-term studies are inconsistent in quality. By contrast, those programs that hire well-educated teachers and put them in well-equipped classrooms with small groups of children show excellent results.

New York Times Room for Debate FEBRUARY 25, 2013 9:27 PM
Is Public Preschool a Smart Investment?
In his State of the Union address this month, President Obama said he wanted to “make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.” His plan specifically calls for federally financed preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
Is public preschool really what the children of low-income parents need? Would quality child care that included a preschool curriculum be a better national goal?

Critics say Corbett's pension reform would increase costs
Gov. Tom Corbett wants to ease taxpayers' burden, but skeptics say legal and financial risks loom.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 11:40 p.m. EST, February 23, 2013
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett has described the growing $41 billion deficit afflicting the state's two pension systems as Pac-Man because it keeps eating more and more revenue.
Corbett has proposed a three-pronged attack to tame Pac-Man's hunger as part of his $28.4 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. He claims his proposals, which need legislative approval, would reduce taxpayers' costs to fund the Public School Employees' Retirement and the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement systems.
But a growing number of skeptics — from unions to the state treasurer to the independent state pension commission — say the governor's plan is fraught with legal and financial risks, and would increase costs over time.

“The agency is buying licenses for the online Framework for Teaching Proficiency System to train 5,330 administrators…. The TeachScape system includes 35 hours of training for evaluators and culminates in a test, said Scott Noon, vice president of business development at TeachScape.”
Pennsylvania invests in training school administrators
By Tory N. Parrish Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  February 23, 2013, 8:34 p.m.
A new state law requires that public school teachers be evaluated based on uniform standards, so the Department of Education is spending about $2 million to use an online system to train and assess administrators who would do so.  Teacher evaluations will be linked to student achievement as the department implements the Teacher Evaluation Effectiveness System. It must be in all Pennsylvania school districts by next school year.
PA eSTARS to let educators electronically exchange student records
Tribune-Review  By Liz Zemba  Saturday, February 23, 2013, 8:36 p.m.
A $1.4 million federal grant will help Pennsylvania schools begin exchanging student transcripts electronically.  The state Department of Education in 2012 awarded the grant to Parchment Inc. of Arizona to implement Pennsylvania Electronic Student Transcripts And Records System, or PA eSTARS. The statewide network will enable schools to exchange student records and transcripts, according to a report by the Governor's Advisory Commission.
Announcing New School Turnaround Americorps Program
U.S. Department of Education sent this bulletin at 02/25/2013 01:35 PM EST
Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service Announce New School Turnaround Americorps Program
Today, as education leaders from across the country gather at the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., we are pleased to announce a new collaboration between our agencies: School Turnaround AmeriCorps.  This competitive, three-year grant program is designed to strengthen and accelerate interventions in our nation’s lowest-performing schools. The new initiative will engage hundreds of AmeriCorps members in turnaround schools across the country. AmeriCorps members will help students, teachers, and principals to transform struggling schools by providing opportunities for academic enrichment, extended learning time, and individual supports for students. These interventions will lead to increased academic achievement and improved high school graduation rates and college readiness among our most disadvantaged students. 

RPT-U.S. high school graduation rate up sharply, but red flags abound
Chicago Tribune Reuters By Stephanie Simon 6:02 a.m. CST, February 25, 2013
* States including Texas, California, New York see big gains
* Nation on pace for first time to hit 90 percent rate
* Black, Hispanic and disabled students lag well behind
Feb 25 (Reuters) - For the first time in decades, the United States is making steady gains in the number of high school students earning diplomas, putting it on pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, according to a new analysis released Monday.  But the good news comes with a big asterisk: students with learning disabilities and limited fluency in English face long odds to finish high school, with graduation rates for those groups as low as 25 percent in some states, the analysis found.  Minority students also continue to fall well behind their white peers, with about one-third of African-American students and 29 percent of Hispanic students dropping out before graduation.

Watchdog Gnaws On Foundation With Jeb Bush Ties
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: February 19, 2013
Correspondence between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's K-12 advocacy organization and state education leaders—obtained and publicized by a privatization-watchdog group—has renewed debate over the extent to which the private sector can benefit by gaining access to government officials, and markets, through nonprofit advocacy groups.
The emails between Mr. Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and officials in Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and other states show the group discussing model bills with state officials and promoting specific policy initiatives, such as online education and retaining 3rd graders not reading at grade level.
The nonprofit group In the Public Interest, which is based in Washington and published the emails last month, is critical of many privatization initiatives. It says it doesn't have a problem with businesses seeking new markets, but contends the foundation is being used as cover for companies seeking public money without lobbying in an upfront way.

PhilaSoup March 2013 - Sunday Get together
Sunday, March 3, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EST) Philadelphia, PA
Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Houston Hall (2nd Floor)
3417 Spruce Street, PhiladelphiaPA 19104
Philasoup is a monthly microgrant dinner meant to bring innovative and dynamic Philadelphia-area educators together, highlight the great work they are doing and fund some terrific projects. The vision for PhilaSoup is to be a monthly microgrant dinner that starts and ends with educators but is an access point to education for the whole city.

PSBA officer applications due April 30
PSBA’s website 2/15/2013
Candidates seeking election to PSBA officer posts in 2014 must file an expression of interest for the office desired to be interviewed by the PSBA Leadership Development Committee.
This new committee replaces the former Nominations Committee. Deadline for filing is April 30. The application shall be marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by the deadline to be considered timely filed. Expression of interest forms can be found online at www.psba.org/about/psba/board-of-directors/officers/electing-officers.asp.

Edcamp Philly 2013 at UPENN May 18th, 2013
For those of you who have never gone to an Edcamp before, please make a note of the unusual part of the morning where we will build the schedule. Edcamp doesn’t believe in paying fancy people to come and talk at you about teaching! At an Edcamp, the people attending – the participants - facilitate sessions on teaching and learning! So Edcamp won’t succeed without a whole bunch of you wanting to run a session of some kind! What kinds of sessions might you run?
What: Edcamp Philly is an"unconference" devoted to K-12 Education issues and ideas.
Where: University of Pennsylvania  When: May 18, 2013  Cost: FREE!

Education Policy and Leadership Center
SUBJECT: Governor Corbett's Proposed Education Budget for 2013-2014
"Southeastern Region Breakfast Series" Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m. Program - 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel - 201 North 17th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
SPEAKERS: An Overview of the Proposed 2013-2014 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Sharon Ward, The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
State and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
 Mark B. Miller, School Director, Centennial School District
Joe Otto, Chief Operations Officer, William Penn School District
Michael Churchill, Of Counsel, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Dr. Stephen D. Butz
, Superintendent, Southeast Delco School District
While there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

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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