Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 20, 2013: Report: 44 Pa. cyber/charter schools with investigations or problems; Support grows for bill to return $365 million in overpayments

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 20, 2013: Report: 44 Pa. cyber/charter schools with investigations or problems; Support grows for bill to return $365 million in overpayments

Happy Spring – Spring begins at 7:02 am this morning.

“Only 28 percent of charters statewide met academic benchmarks based on student test scores in 2011-12. And no cyber school met the standards set by the state to determine if a school has made "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind law.”
Inquirer Editorial: Law creating charters needs to be overhauled
POSTED: Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 3:01 AM
A new report on Pennsylvania's charter and cyber charter schools helps make the case for long overdue reforms in how they operate.  Released Tuesday by State Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.), the 41-page report details instances of fraud, financial irregularity, mismanagement, and cheating at charters statewide.

Roebuck Charter Report: Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Update and Comprehensive Reform Legislation
March 2013 Democratic House Education Committee, Representative James R. Roebuck, Chairman
This report will provide you with: An update on Charter and Cyber Charter Schools regarding academic performance and investigations of irregularities as well as Representative Roebuck’s HB934 of the 2013-14 Session – Comprehensive Reform Legislation regarding the governance, financing and accountability of charter and cyber charter schools.

Report: 44 Pa. cyber/charter schools with investigations or problems; Support grows for bill to return $365 million in overpayments
State Rep. James Roebuck HARRISBURG, March 19 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today issued a report on the amount of investigations and problems at charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania.   
"These investigations and incidents are often reported only in dribs and drabs, and I feel it's important for Pennsylvania families and taxpayers to have an overall picture. The Democratic Education Committee report is drawn from credible sources such as the Philadelphia city controller, the Pennsylvania auditor general and news media across the state. It shows investigations or problems at 44 charter and cyber charter schools, including the six schools covered in the state auditor general's report last week and the school that had its charter revoked last week and is set to close in three months. My understanding is that 37 of the 44 schools mentioned in our report are still operating," Roebuck said.
"With investigations or problems at 37 out of 173 charter and cyber charter schools currently operating in Pennsylvania, that's more than 20 percent. I continue to support the concept of charter schools as centers of innovations that can be duplicated in other public schools, but this compilation shows a need for major reforms in the governance, financing and accountability of these publicly funded schools," Roebuck said. "If any other vendors were charging public schools 5 or 20 percent too much, we would demand reform – not push for 'direct pay' that would take the payments out of school districts' state funding before that funding reaches the districts."
The report is available at

PA lawmakers put 119 amendments — and counting — on liquor privatization bill. Pack a bag & bottle of booze for 12-hour House session Wed.
House set to debate privatizing Pennsylvania liquor and wine stores
Amendment helps beer distributors
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau March 19, 2013 12:19 am
HARRISBURG -- A liquor privatization plan that would allow wine in groceries and make liquor licenses first available to beer distributors -- while closing state stores by county -- is headed to the House floor after a Republican-driven committee vote Monday. ….With a plan he said would generate $1 billion, Mr. Corbett has pitched his path to privatization as a way to also boost education spending. Mr. Taylor said the amended version would produce approximately $800 million.
Read more:

Three New Tax Breaks Would Come at the Expense of Pa. Schools and Services
The PA Budget and Policy Center March 19, 2013
After making deep cuts to schools, early chilhood education, and health and human services, Pennsylvania lawmakers are now considering new tax breaks that will largely benefit a small number of higher-income earners.  In the coming weeks, the House and Senate are poised to take up the following bills:

Dinniman proposes smokeless tobacco tax
By JEREMY GERRARD Posted: Monday, 03/18/13 06:26 pm
WEST CHESTER — State Sen. Andy Dinniman plans to introduce legislation taxing tax smokeless tobacco.  Pennsylvania is the only state without a tax on smokeless tobacco, he said.
The intended legislation cites smokeless tobacco as “a product containing finely cut, ground, powdered, blended or leaf tobacco made primarily for individual consumption which is intended to be placed in the oral or nasal cavity and not intended to be smoked.”

Organizations dispute report that finds flawed operations at charter schools
Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 3:01 AM
Two Pennsylvania charter school organizations on Tuesday criticized the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee's report that catalogs instances of fraud and mismanagement at charter schools across the state.
State Rep. James R. Roebuck (D., Phila.) said his review of selected charters' operations supports the need for legislation he has introduced to reform the state's charter laws by strengthening oversight and accountability and reexamining how they are funded.

Of big cities, Phila. worst for people in deep poverty
Alfred Lubrano, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 6:11 AM
Philadelphia has the highest rate of deep poverty - people with incomes below half of the poverty line - of any of the nation's 10 most populous cities.
The annual salary for a single person at half the poverty line is around $5,700; for a family of four, it's around $11,700.  Philadelphia's deep-poverty rate is 12.9 percent, or around 200,000 people.

Funds to expand Philly after-school activity Written by  Damon C. Williams Monday, 18 March 2013 18:48
Born 13 years ago out of citizens’ desperate cry for some form of organized, enriching after-school program for the city’s pupils, the After School Activities Partnership – ASAP – has issued a public-challenge grant, kicked off with donations from longtime philanthropists Vivian and Oscar Lasko.  The Laskos have donated a combined $25,000 to the effort which, when fully operational, would target the schools receiving pupils from the closing schools. They would be provided with ASAP-facilitated after-school programs, and ASAP will also pitch in $50,000. ASAP’s hope is that this $75,000 will help spur donations and volunteerism among the populace.

Education group eyes system for 1 citywide school application
REGINA MEDINA, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5985
POSTED: Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 3:01 AM
WHILE the number of district-run and parochial schools shrinks and the city's charter-school population booms, a group of education advocates is looking at a plan to implement a single, citywide enrollment process.  The result could alter Philadelphia's educational landscape.
The plan, still in the early stages, would involve students' filling out one application that would place them on lists at district, charter and parochial schools in the city, said Miles Wilson, director of the Great Schools Compact for the Philadelphia Schools Partnership. Private schools are not part of the current plan, but the group is working on also including them.

Chambersburg Area school board faces deadline from ACLU of Pa.
Lawsuit threatened over rejection of Gay-Straight Alliance club
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By BRIAN HALL @bkhallpo March 19, 2013
CHAMBERSBURG - The clock is ticking on the Chambersburg Area school board.
The American Civil Liberties Union Pennsylvania gave Chambersburg Area School District until the end of business Wednesday to reverse its rejection of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.
CASD solicitor Jan Sulcove recommended the school board approve the club before the Feb. 27 board meeting when the vote was conducted, but the board did not take his advice.
Vic Walczak, ACLU legal director, believes the case is nearly a slam dunk. If the district doesn't act before the deadline, the ACLU will file a lawsuit in federal court by the beginning of next week.
"We've never had to go to court on this issue," said Walczak, speaking of the Pennsylvania division of the ACLU. "We went back and pulled records on the issue. Since 2009, Chambersburg would be the fourth district we have had to send a letter to. All three settled before court."

The nation's top teacher honored by Rep. Mundy, Sen. Baker, Sen. Yudichak
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy’s website HARRISBURG, March 19
Leslie Nicholas, a language arts teacher at Wyoming Valley West Middle School who was recently named the country's top educator, was honored Tuesday by state Rep. Phyllis Mundy and state Sens. Lisa Baker and John Yudichak.
Nicholas, known as 'Mr. Nick' to his students, was introduced in the House chamber by Mundy and the Senate chamber by Baker. He received citations from both chambers recognizing his accomplishment. Mundy said he also delivered a powerful address to the Senate on the importance of education in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Ponders Changes to Special Education Funding Formula
Education Week On Special Education Blog By Christina Samuels on March 19, 2013 4:25 PM
After trying more than once to do so, Pennsylvania is poised to make a change in its 22-year-old funding formula for special education.
Last week the state House passed, on a 193-0 vote, a bill that would create a 15-member commission to study the issue and develop a recommendation that would take into account the severity of a student's disability when it comes to funding districts. Enrollment and district wealth would also play a factor in determining how much special education money a district would get. The Patriot-News in central Pennsylvania described the current funding landscape and recent political moves in an editorial that spoke in favor of the changes.
Currently, Pennsylvania distributes state special education dollars to its 501 districts using a simple formula known as "census-based" funding: The state assumes that 16 percent of a district's student population requires special services, and distributes a share of money based solely on that percentage.

NSBA urges La. Supreme Court to strike down vouchers
NSBA School Board News Today by Joetta Sack-Min|March 19th, 2013
In a closely watched Louisiana Supreme Court case that began today, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the court to rule that the state’s voucher program violates the state constitution because it diverts taxpayer funds to private schools.
NSBA has filed an amicus brief in the case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana, which could have national implications for the school choice movement. The lawsuit brought by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) and other education groups challenges the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana State Legislature in 2012, including a law that provides vouchers to students in low-performing schools. Under the law, a centerpiece of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda, the state board of elementary and secondary education is required to pay funds to private schools, including religious schools, as “scholarships” to cover the tuition and fees of students whose parents choose to remove their children from “failing” public schools and send them to a participating private school.

Minority Groups Remain Outnumbered at Teaching Programs, Study Reports
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: March 19, 2013
Despite major changes in the racial makeup of American public school students, the people training to be teachers are still predominantly white.  According to a study being released Wednesday by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents colleges and universities with teacher certification programs, 82 percent of candidates who received bachelor’s degrees in education in 2009-10 and 2010-11 were white.  By contrast, census figures show that close to half of all children under 5 in 2008 were members of a racial or ethnic minority.

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

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
PSBA website 3/15/2013
The nomination process is now open and applications will be accepted until June 21, 2013.
In 2011, PSBA created a new award to honor the memory of its long-term chief lobbyist, who died unexpectedly. The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBAs Legislative Platform. The nomination process is now open and applications will be accepted until June 21, 2013. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October.

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.


  1. Wow very long post :D
    Let me share this story to my Facebook and Twitter :)

    Keep it up mates



  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I have a friend who is currently applying to some colleges in PA and he could really use this list to get some ideas on who to consider. I am going to forward this to him.


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