Monday, March 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 25, 2013: A statewide charter authorizer would have virtually no accountability to local taxpayers. None. Just like our cyber charters.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1900 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.

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 25, 2013:
A statewide charter authorizer would have virtually no accountability to local taxpayers.  None.  Just like our cyber charters.

If you support the items in this link you should join the Network for Public Education

A statewide charter authorizer would have virtually no accountability to local taxpayers.  None.   Just like our cyber charters.
PA cyber charters are state authorized – none made AYP this year; most have never made AYP – and  they are charging taxpayers thousands more than it costs them to provide an online education; thousands more than it costs a local school district to provide online education,  and thousands more than it costs for cyber tuition in other states. 
In the recent PA House Ed Committee hearings none of the cyber charter advocates testified that they were underfunded…..
Is Pa. ready for statewide charter authorizer?
PHILLY.COM BY KATHY MATHESON , The Associated Press March 24, 2013, 11:48 AM
PHILADELPHIA - With the cost and quality of charter schools dominating the public education debate in Pennsylvania, lawmakers face at least a dozen major bills seeking better accountability and governance of such schools, which are publicly financed but independently run.
Much of the legislation focuses on funding formulas and audits. Yet some charter backers say what's missing is a provision for independent, statewide authorizers, entities that can arguably weed out bad apples and ensure the operation of only high-quality charters.

Laurel Highlands Board takes aim at cyber charter funding
Diana Lasko Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 2:00 am
Laurel Highlands School Board, on Thursday, adopted a resolution which takes aim at the Pennsylvania cyber charter school funding formula.  "The funding is out of whack with what is being charged for those students to attend cyber charter school," said Jesse Wallace, school superintendent.  Jim Tobal, board president, further explained how much cyber charter schools have cost the district.  "If you add it up, in the last five years Laurel Highlands taxpayers have paid $3,217,902.37," he said.
The partial reimbursement from the state to the district for the 484 students enrolled in cyber charter schools from 2008-2013 is $382,000. However, the partial reimbursement was eliminated by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011 and has not been restored. Therefore school districts have not received reimbursement from the state in the last two years.
The resolution, which will now be sent to Harrisburg and local state leaders, calls for reform in the current funding formula which Tobal said bears no relationship to actual instructional costs of distance learning programs. 

Cyber education grows in districts, lowers enrollment at charter schools
TribLive By Tory N. Parrish Sunday, March 24, 2013, 11:13 p.m.
Nancy Haines-Moskala is furious about the planned closing in June of her son's cyber charter school.  “You are obligated to deliver the same education to our children that we were promised by you when we enrolled our children in this school,” Haines-Moskala, 43, of Lincoln Place told the board of STREAM Academy at a Wilkins meeting last week.
STREAM has had its enrollment decline as more cyber charter schools opened and traditional school districts boosted their online offerings to bring back students who left for charter schools, taking state subsidies with them.
Charter School Reform Bills for the 2013-14 Legislative Session
List of pending bills from PSBA’s website

Easton Area School District studies consolidation of underused buildings
Lehigh Valley Live By Peter Panepinto | The Express-Times  on March 24, 2013
An Easton Area School Board member has suggested moving Easton Area Academy students into Paxinosa Elementary School to save the district money.
School board member and former high school principal Bill Rider pitched the idea at a board meeting earlier this month. 

On-time Philly graduation rate has climbed 20 points in a decade
The notebook by Paul Socolar on Mar 22 2013 
The School District’s on-time graduation rate has continued its upward trend. For a second year in a row, it climbed three percentage points last year – to 64 percent. That figure represents the percentage of students entering 9th grade in fall 2008 who finished high school by 2012.
From a dismal 44 percent on-time graduation rate in 2002, the percentage of District students graduating in four years has now grown by 20 percentage points in a decade.

Pa. students could see three to five new state exams before graduation
The Keystone exams have been under fire in recent months.
The Evening Sun By KATY PETIFORD 03/23/2013 09:01:54 PM EDT
Some students are one step closer to having additional requirements to fulfill before they can call themselves a graduate of a Pennsylvania high school.  The State Board of Education last week adopted a finalized version of its proposed changes to the Pennsylvania Public School Code, with many modifications concerning graduation requirements.
If the proposal is approved by state legislators, starting with the class of 2017, students would need to pass three Keystone Exams - algebra 1, literature and biology - before they don their caps in gowns.

$150 million in tax revenue is being diverted to unaccountable private and religious schools and is not available for this year’s budget.
PA kids won with vouchers-lite: As I See It
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Elliot Holtz and D.Merle Skinner on March 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Elliot Holtz belongs to the Orthodox Union’s Pennsylvania Community Advocacy Network and D. Merle Skinner is its co-coordinator.
Businesses in the state of Pennsylvania are used to making a difference through sacrificing. Their charitable donations, investments in non-profits of time and resources have been commonplace throughout the years. Many business leaders have learned what it means to invest on behalf of others. So much so that sometimes when something comes along that is almost too good to be true, it is hard for them to understand it.

Christie to announce state takeover of Camden schools
Matt Katz and Claudia Vargas, Inquirer Staff Writers  March 25, 2013, 5:58 AM
TRENTON - Gov. Christie plans to announce Monday that he is taking the extraordinary step of putting the educational and fiscal management of the Camden School District under state control, The Inquirer has learned.  As part of the takeover of what the state considers the worst-performing district in New Jersey, Christie will appoint a new superintendent and leadership team, shifting the school board to an advisory role, according to Christie administration officials briefed on the plan.

Senator Casey introduces natural gas powered bill
Times Online By Rachel Morgan March 23, 2013 11:15 pm
HARRISBURG — Natural gas-powered school and public transit buses might be the newest development in the Pennsylvania’s natural gas sector.  U.S. Sen. Bob Casey introduced new legislation Friday that supports the transition of natural gas as a vehicle fuel — creating a rebate program for the purchase of natural gas-powered buses, as well as tax credits for natural gas filling stations and fuel.

“One of the clearest examples of Obama’s dilemma is early-childhood education, a centerpiece of his State of the Union speech in February. Obama has proposed offering preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, which research suggests would help move children up the economic ladder.  The idea isn’t cheap. W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers, who was consulted by the White House, has estimated it could cost up to $10 billion a year.
Rather than raising new funds to pay to expand early-childhood education, however, Obama is now being forced to slash it. The sequester this year will cut about $400 million from the Head Start early-childhood education program, which will mean that tens of thousands of poor children would lose access to it, according to the administration.”
As Obama signs sequestration cuts, his economic goals are at risk
Washington Post By Zachary A. Goldfarb, Published: March 24
With his signature this week, President Obama will lock into place deep spending cuts that threaten to undermine his second-term economic vision just four months after he won reelection.
Obama has repeatedly championed a set of government investments that he argues would expand the economy and strengthen the middle class, including bolstering early-childhood education, spending more on research and development, and upgrading the nation’s roads and railways. He has said his comfortable reelection victory in November shows the country is with him.

A Trib exclusive: Jeb Bush says we must embrace the 21st century and toss our 19th-century education model
The Tribune-Review By Jeb Bush  Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jeb Bush is the chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Digital Learning Now! He served as the Republican governor of Florida from 1999-2007.
I started a recent day by reading The Wall Street Journal and checked on the latest chatter over Twitter. Then I downloaded an email with the latest pictures of my granddaughter, watched a video of LeBron James dunking on the 76ers and started a UC Berkeley course in quantum mechanics — all from my iPad. OK, not really on that last one but the option was there.
Instead of closing schools, how about this?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on March 22, 2013 at 11:17 am
When Michelle Rhee told D.C. school residents that she, as chancellor of public schools in the nation’s capital, was closing 23 under-enrolled schools, she promised that a lot of money would be saved that could be plowed back into academic programs in remaining schools. It didn’t happen; an audit years later found that the closings actually cost the city $40 million.
It remains to be seen how the most recent round of announced closings will shake out: Chicago just said it was closing 54 public schools this year in what seems to be the largest mass closing of schools in U.S. history; Philadelphia said it was closing more than 20 schools, and Washington D.C., 15 schools. School closings have become a tool of school reformers who say the action is needed either because the targeted schools have too few students or are failing academically — even while they support the opening of charter schools in the same neighborhoods. In Chicago’s case, both arguments for closing schools were made in recent years.

Thomas Gentzel, the NSBA's executive director, said that his organization hopes to restore the eroded authority of local school board members, who are, he emphasized, elected officials. While there has always been a "healthy tension" between local, state, and federal authority, he said, "we're very concerned with the long slide over a number of years toward a diminishing role for local school officials and increasing role for state and federal officials."
Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Strengthen School Board Authority
Education Week By Jackie Zubrzycki on March 22, 2013 8:46 AM
A new bill focused on asserting the autonomy of local school boards and regulating the actions of the federal education department was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. The Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act is, no surprise, supported by the National School Boards Association, or NSBA.

Sequestration: Special-Education Programs Steel Themselves as Cuts Loom
Post-Gazette by ELENA SCHNEIDER / The New York Times March 22, 2013 6:02 pm
Aurora Ford, a fifth-grader with Down syndrome, needs regular speech classes and occupational therapy, services that are guaranteed under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. But looming federal financing cuts could affect Aurora and her peers, because they might mean bigger classes and fewer teachers next year.
"If you take away staff, it's a given that the quality of education will decrease," said Stacy Ford, Aurora's mother and a special-education advocate in Leander. "It doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure that out."
In 2011, Texas schools were hit with a $5.4 billion cut in state financing. And now that the state is also facing automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect on March 1, administrators say they are running out of cost-saving options to maintain services that receive federal money.

'Sequester' Cuts Still in Place Amid Budget Wrangling
Education Week By Alyson Klein March 21, 2013 (paywall)
The U.S. Congress missed a chance last week to avert the automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration when it passed legislation extending funding for all programs—including education—at current levels, minus a 5 percent across-the-board reduction.
Lawmakers' decision means that the squeeze is likely to stay in place for the 2013-14 school year, which districts are already preparing for. President Barack Obama expressed dismay that Congress did not act to ward off the cuts when it finalized its spending bill for fiscal 2013, which was approved on March 21. But he indicated he would sign the spending legislation, in order to prevent a government shutdown.

Will Funding Flexibility for Schools Come With Sequestration Cuts?
Education Week PoliticsK-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 22, 2013 9:48 AM
So now that school districts are coping with a 5 percent across-the-board cut to all federal programs, thanks to sequestration, many advocates are asking the department for what they see as the next best thing to more money: Greater flexibility with the funds they actually have.
For instance, advocates are wondering how the cuts will affect maintenance of effort, which requires states and districts to keep their own spending up at a certain level in order to tap federal funds. Do they get a break because they're getting less Title I and special education money?

“So there is a divide, with merit—and blind spots—on both sides. Yes, it’s ridiculous to judge a school (and take drastic action to intervene in it, even to close it) exclusively on the basis of test scores. Ditto for judgments about teachers. (“Value-added” scores—where feasible and meaningful—are better than absolute test scores, but still are not the full measure of an educational institution or classroom instructor.) On the other hand, student learning is the bottom line, and for too long American public education has paid far too little heed to it when evaluating schools and teachers.”
Accountability Dilemmas
Education Next By Chester E. Finn, Jr. 03/22/2013
useful new report from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation underscores the painful divide between parents and education reformers on the crucial topic of what to do about bad schools.  In a nutshell, if the neighborhood school is crummy, parents want it fixed. So do community leaders. Ed reformers are far more apt to want to close it and give families alternatives such as charter schools.

Dozens battle for spots at N.J. cybersecurity center
WHYY Newsworks By Associated Press March 24, 2013
Ten people have won scholarships to attend the nation's first cybersecurity learning center, which will be based at a central New Jersey school.  The winners earned their spots Saturday during a competition that drew 100 participants, including high school and college students, veterans and jobseekers. The competitors did battle in a hands-on, interactive learning environment used by the U.S. military.

Thanks to Rich Kiker for this link via twitter….
Climb Three of the World’s Highest Peaks on Google Street View
in GooglePhotographyTravel | March 24th, 2013 Leave a Comment
What’s surprising about Everest Base Camp is the color. It’s a flinty, gray place littered with shards of Himalayan sandstone and shale. Here and there appears a vivid green pool of alpine water. And then there’s the red, blue and green prayer flags hung by Himalayans to blow blessings in the wind.  Google Street View’s latest project, the World’s Highest Peaks, takes us to Everest and two other mountains included in the Seven Summits—the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.

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.

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