Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 13, 2013: “Remember that every time you hear or see an advertisement about charter/cyber charter schools your local property taxes paid for it.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1875 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 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 13, 2013“Remember that every time you hear or see an advertisement about charter/cyber charter schools your local property taxes paid for it.”
Cyber school funding formula target of Thursday public hearing
Shippensburg News Chronicle By DALE HEBERLIG Managing Editor Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 5:36 PM EDT
The Pennsylvania House Education Committee hosts a hearing Thursday focused on cyber school funding by school districts throughout the state.
According to the group Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley (EMCV), a grassroots public education advocacy organization, the hearing could be the start of action to fix what the group calls “the broken funding formula the Legislature uses to determine how much our school districts pay cyber charter schools.”  Erica Burg, co-founder of EMCV, says, “In 2012, Auditor General Jack Wagner found that Pennsylvanians are paying cyber charter schools far more than it costs them to educate children. This overpayment places an unnecessary burden on taxpayers and school districts and leads to questionable uses of taxpayer dollars.”

 “Remember that every time you hear or see an advertisement about charter/cyber charter schools your local property taxes paid for it.”
As I See It: A solution to cyber-charter school funding
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Don Bell on March 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Don Bell is the superintendent of schools for the Northern Lebanon School District.
Next year, Pennsylvania's public school districts will send $1 billion to charter and cyber-charter schools across the state. But what if Pennsylvania taxpayers could save $1 billion next year and every year after that. A bill now before the state Senate would do just that.
The original charter school law mandated the Commonwealth would pay up to 30% of the student tuition charged by charter schools and mandated the rest (70%) to be paid by local school districts. This law significantly slowed the offerings of student programs in public school districts.
A few years later the Legislature saw the error in their funding formula ways. The State could no longer pay for the annual rising student tuition costs. 
Their solution placed the entire (100 percent) tuition rate upon the local school district and the local taxpayers. The funding problem for the State was solved; just make the local school boards raise property taxes to cover state costs.

Cyber school funding reform urged
The Sentinel by Christen Croley Sentinel Reporter March 12, 2013
Legislators can save $4.6 million in taxpayer dollars just by fixing the formula school districts use to fund cyber-charter schools, says a report from Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley.
"We can't afford to have taxpayer dollars being spent wastefully," said Susan Spicka, co-founder of the grassroots public education advocacy organization.

Chuck Ballard: Pa. must end 'double dip' reimbursement of charter school pension costs
Morning Call Opinion by Chuck Ballard 5:39 p.m. EDT, March 11, 2013
Chuck Ballard is president of the East Penn School Board; his commentary does not necessarily reflect the position of the board or school district.
As our school districts prepare their budgets for next school year, we must account for cyber charter school tuition payments for students who do not attend district schools that divert significant resources from our budgets. When it comes to cyber charter school tuition, our school districts and taxpayers are overpaying these schools, and we must address this issue now.
Then-Auditor General Jack Wagner said in 2012 that Pennsylvania could save $365 million a year in taxpayer money by adopting separate charter and cyber charter school funding formulas, and by closing an administrative loophole that permits double-dipping in pension payments through the calculation of tuition rates.
Like all school districts, the East Penn School District must abide by a flawed funding formula that allows charter and cyber charter schools to receive tuition based on a school district's retirement expenditures and then again under the retirement code to realize a minimum of 50 percent reimbursement of pension expenses. This double-dipping of retirement costs allows charters and cyber charters to get paid twice for retirement costs.

PA Senate Approves Special Education Funding Reform
PA Senate Republicans website Press Release 3/12/13
The Senate unanimously approved legislation providing long overdue reform measures for equitable special education funding, according to Senator Pat Browne, the bill’s prime sponsor.
“The reforms and the changes proposed in Senate Bill 470 are important and they are long overdue. Pennsylvania’s special education funding formula system is archaic and is ineffective in ensuring that state money is adequately and equitability distributed to assist Pennsylvania’s physically- and mentally-challenged students,” Senator Browne said. “Rather, special education funding in Pennsylvania is based on a rigid formula and simply does not take into account the actual number of students needing specialized education services or the type and intensity of assistance that is required for these young people.”
…The legislation does not establish a new funding formula. It empowers a legislative commission to develop the formula. The panel will be charged with developing a funding formula using a few basic parameters.

Corbett's proposed business tax cuts will shrink state budget pie, coalition says
Patriot News By Jan Murphy |  on March 12, 2013 at 4:56 PM
Lawmakers were treated to a half of a pie today as a symbolic gesture from a statewide coalition over the proposed business tax cuts that would shrink the size of the state budget pie that funds education and human services.  The Better Choices for Pennsylvania coalition called on lawmakers to hold off on Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed tax breaks for businesses that would begin in 2015 until loopholes are closed and better accountability for tax measures is put in place.

Pennsylvania ACLU, Equality Pennsylvania warn Chambersburg schools: Allow GSA by Friday, or face legal action
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online Date:   03/12/2013 02:01:21 PM EDT
PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter today to the Chambersburg Area School District on behalf of a group of Chambersburg Area Senior High School students whose request to form a Gay-Straight Alliance club was denied by the school board last month.  According to the letter, the school board's decision to deny the group status as an official club is a violation of federal law. The letter gives the school district until March 15, 2013, to reverse its decision or face legal action.

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Student Testing Discussion - EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN Wednesday, March 13 at 9:00 p.m.
Tune in tomorrow to the Wednesday, March 13 episode of EPLC's "Focus on Education" series, which will cover Student Testing and Assessment and air at 9:00 p.m. on PCN televisionEPLC President Ron Cowell and PCN Host Corinna Vecsey Wilson will be joined by Kristen Lewald, PVAAS Statewide Project Director with Lancaster-Lebanon IU13 and Stinson Stroup, Education Services Manager with the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
EPLC and PA Cable Network (PCN) have partnered for a new monthly program focusing oneducation issues in Pennsylvania.  The first episode, which aired during February and covered school violence and safety issues, can be viewed online here.
"Focus on Education" will be broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of every month, now through June, and then again this fall in September through December.
To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page.

PSBA encourages reauthorization of mandate waiver program and expansion to other unfunded mandate
PSBA  N E W S R E L E A S E Steve Robinson, Publications and PR Director 3/12/2013
Dr. Richard L. Frerichs, Penn Manor school director (Lancaster Co.) and PSBA president-elect, told members of the House Education Committee reauthorization of a mandate waiver program would be "a positive step towards ensuring school districts' hands are no longer tied when it comes to having the resources to provide a quality education and using taxpayer dollars in the most effective and efficient way."
In his testimony, Frerichs discussed House Bill 135 and how it would create a new mandate waiver program and potentially save districts hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. He also encouraged the committee to consider allowing for additional mandates to be waived in such a program. Currently, state-required mandates impact every aspect of schools, including special education, health services, collective bargaining, personnel management, school construction and renovation, purchasing, transportation, curriculum and assessments, school financing, safety and athletic programs.

Herold, Notebook win awards for coverage of education, broken pipeline to college
by Wendy Harris on Mar 12 2013 Posted in Latest news
The Notebook has received two honors from the Education Writers Association's National Awards for Education Reporting.  Education reporter Benjamin Herold nabbed the top prize in beat reporting in the medium-sized newsroom category for his work in 2012 at news partnerWHYY/NewsWorks and the Notebook. And with an assist from NewsWorks, the Notebook won second prize in the education news outlets category for best topical or series coverage for the summer 2012 "College for a few" package.  These wins mark the third year in a row that the Notebook has been honored by the national trade association for education writers. The Notebook received a special citation for its online coverage of cheating on standardized tests in 2011. For 2010, the Notebook was honored with EWA’s second-place prize in the category of “community blogging.”

WHYY/NewsWorks schools reporter wins national honor
WHYY Newsworks By NewsWorks staff March 12, 2013
Benjamin B. Herold interviews Cooper Harbol, the 8-year old at the center of a story cited by Education Writers Association judges in naming Herold the best schools beat writer in the nation among mid-sized news operations. (Jessica Kourkounis/for NewsWorks)
"Terrific reporting and writing — heartening to see this kind of collaboration across news outlets, too. Some of the best work I've read in this contest. The profile of a mother searching for school for her son was heartbreaking."
-- Education Writers Association judges in naming Benjamin B. Herold the best schools beat writer in the nation, among mid-sized news operations
Benjamin B. Herold, education reporter for WHYY/NewsWorks, has been honored by the Education Writers Association as the best schools beat writer in the nation, among mid-sized news operations.  In honors released today, the EWA cited him for his body of work covering the Philadelphia schools, including stories on school closings, test cheating and the "broken pipeline" between city schools and colleges.  Herold's work is supported by a partnership in education coverage between WHYY/NewsWorks and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. 

“Those who believe that business models and market reforms hold the key to solving educational problems have made great strides in attaching their agenda to the urgent need of communities who have too often been poorly served by the current system.  But left to its own bottom line logic, the market will do for education what it is has done for housing, health care and employment: create fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal access and outcomes for the many.”
Charter Schools and the Future of Public Education
Advancing New Hampshire Public Education by Bill Duncan March 12, 2013
Top of Form
Here is a piece on charters that gets to the root of some important issues.  We have a small number of charters filling an important niche in New Hampshire and, so far so good.  But the author, Stan Karp, puts his finger on it.  The risk for the future is that charters the New Hampshire way become become contaminated, as they have in others states, by the privatization bug Mr. Karp describes below (highlighting added). 

 “Neither Pennsylvania nor Wyoming had released its submitted application to the public as of late last week, despite a federal requirement that states collaborate with stakeholders on their new proposed accountability systems.”
Details Trickling Out on Latest NCLB Waiver Bids: Keystone State Questions
No sure thing seen in leeway on NCLB
Education Week By Michele McNeil March 12, 2013
With the addition of three longtime holdouts to the list of states seeking flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act, nearly every state has sought to design its own accountability system to replace the outdated federal law.  But the waiver applications submitted last month by Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming are by no means a sure thing.
Neither Pennsylvania nor Wyoming had released its submitted application to the public as of late last week, despite a federal requirement that states collaborate with stakeholders on their new proposed accountability systems.

“Harkin, who oversees the panel that deals with K-12 funding, is planning to introduce an amendment to the Senate's year-long spending bill that would include slight increases for the key education programs that school districts depend on the most.”
Harkin Hopes to Help Ease Pain of Automatic Cuts on Schools
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 12, 2013 1:42 PM
Congress has a couple chances to reverse those automatic, across-the-board education cuts, known as sequestration, and the first would be in the current-year budget, which must be finalized by March 27 to avoid a government shutdown.  So far it's not looking good for folks who'd like to see the cuts reversed, although U.S. Senate Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is hoping to make the cuts a little easier to cope with.

Fund That Subsidizes Internet for Schools Should Expand, a Senator Says
New York Times By EDWARD WYATT Published: March 12, 2013
WASHINGTON — The $2.3 billion federal E-Rate program, which subsidizes basic Internet connections for schools and libraries, should be overhauled and expanded to provide those community institutions with new, lightning-fast connections to the Web, the chairman of a Senate committee that oversees the F.C.C. said Tuesday.  Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said that the fund should be used to create one-gigabit connections to every school in America — a speed that is 60 to 100 times faster than most schools or homes now receive — and wireless connections in every school building.

“Lessons from the Heartland” Barbara Miner book signing and discussion Thursday, March 14th, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Defending Public Schools, Defending our Democracy
Interviewed by Helen Gym
Hosted by Media Mobilizing Project, TAG-Philly, Philadelphia Student Union, and Parents United for Public Education
Media Mobilizing Project, 4233 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

Teachers Lead Philly Spring Dinner/Workshop
Thu, Mar 21, 2013 ~ 5pm-7pm Franklin 1075 @ SDP/440 N. Broad Street
Register HERE!

Children with Specific Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Calls for Reforming Special Education
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia March 19, 2013, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Session will take place from 12:00-4:00pm on the listed day at the United Way Building, located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Sessions also available via webinar.
Cost: Pay What You Can! (Minimum payment of $5 Requested)
This session is designed to address the legal aspects surrounding the needs of children with dyslexia, and other learning disabilities (ADHD, non-verbal learning disabilities). An expert in dyslexia will join Sonja Kerr to explain dyslexia/learning disabilities, the research and what we can do about it.

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children. Comet PanSTARRS: Sky map looking west after sunset on Wednesday, March 13

Honoring Valor: National History Day Student Competition
Letters of intent due by April 1, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Army Heritage Center Foundation, and the Pennsylvania State Museum are pleased to announce a competition for students in Middle and
High School to demonstrate how and why societies honor valor. Inspired by the valor exemplified by Soldiers at Gettysburg in 1863, citizens on September 11, 2001, and the responses of individuals battling disease or injustice, the competition will recognize students who demonstrate
excellence in identifying and describing how and why societies honor their valiant men and women.

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

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!
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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