Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 28, 2013: Read it again: Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

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 28, 2013:
Read it again: Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

Help spread the message of the PA School Funding Campaign for the 2013-2014 State Budget:

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District

If you missed this December 2011 New York Times piece by Stephanie Saul you should take a few minutes to read it – especially if you are a recently elected Pennsylvania State legislator.
Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools
New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL  Published: December 12, 2011 
By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing. 
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

Mercer County charter school executive director fined
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Jason Cato  Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission on Tuesday fined the executive director of a Mercer County charter school for leasing properties he and his family controlled for the school's use without board approval.  James Gentile, executive director of Keystone Education Center Charter School, violated conflict of interest rules, the commission said. It fined him $7,000.
The charter school, founded in 1997, accepts students from 40 school districts in Western Pennsylvania.
“Real opportunities are there for the state to assist our local communities with significant statutory reforms: Fix the pension problem, reform cyberschool funding, deal with the property tax and recognize that special education funding is woefully inadequate to provide the services we are required to provide.  A resolution of any one of these issues would help.”
Superintendents' forum: Commonwealth not meeting its constitutional obligation
Reading Eagle By Dr. Gary L. Otto Originally Published: 3/27/2013
Superintendent, Daniel Boone School District
Since there is no mention of the word "education" in the U.S. Constitution, public education fundamentally is a state responsibility as is mandated under the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states in Article III, Section 14, "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education."  Given this language in our state Constitution, the state has adopted statutory language, primarily in laws promulgated in the Pennsylvania School Code and state Board of Education regulations to carry out is constitutional mandate.

After Years of Debate, Keystone Exams Get Passed
WESA 90.5 Pittsburgh NPR By JARED ADKINS March 25, 2013
After more than four years of debate and revision, the Keystone Exam will more than likely be coming to schools across Pennsylvania.  After receiving approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the regulations will now go to the House and Senate Education committees and Independent Regulatory Review Commission for consideration.
The exam plans however, come with some new regulations — the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards. These new requirements must be implemented across the state in English, arts and mathematics by July 1.  These regulations are similar to the Common Core Standards initiative already underway in 45 states. However, Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said Pennsylvania tailored its standards to better match students' needs across the state.

Debate continues on CUSD school closures
Delco Times By JOHN KOPP @DT_JohnKopp  March 27, 2013
The financial and academic recovery plan designed to boost the Chester Upland School District requires the district to restructure its schools, a process that includes consolidations and closings.
Receiver Joseph Watkins held a hearing Wednesday to consider proposals to close several buildings by the beginning of next school year.

PSP's Gleason cited by Waltons as a 'reformer to watch'
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 27 2013
Mark Gleason, the executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, has been named one of four "education reformers to watch" nationwide by the Walton Family Foundation.
Walton, which has given some $1 billion to its education causes, is one of the country's leading backers of parental choice in education, including vouchers and the expansion of charter schools. It believes that choice is the best path to equal opportunity for low-income students.

Are a handful of benevolent billionaires protecting us from the unionized minions of greedy teachers?  I posted a comment regarding the Waltons’ school reform largesse on the notebook article above and received a reply with a link to this July 2012 WSJ piece:
Teachers Unions Give Broadly
Beyond Their Political Donations, Two Largest Federations Contribute to an Array of Outside Groups
Wall Street Journal By ALICIA MUNDY July 12, 2012, 7:54 p.m. ET
What do the American Ireland Fund, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network have in common?
All have received some of the more than $330 million that America's two largest teachers unions spent in the past five years on outside causes, political campaigns, lobbying and issue education.
The contributions—totaling more than $200 million from the National Education Association and more than $130 million from the American Federation of Teachers—were disclosed in annual reports that unions file with the Labor Department detailing their spending on political activities and advocacy work, as well as separate political-action-committee filings.

Pennsylvania Could Lose Billions Under Ryan Budget
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Press Release March 27, 2013
Congressman Paul Ryan's Plan Cuts Almost One in Five Dollars of Federal Funding to States and Localities, Harming Schools, Health Care, Housing, Report Finds  
Read the Full Report (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
HARRISBURG, PA (March 27, 2013) — Critical federal funding for Pennsylvania's schools, health care, clean water, law enforcement, and other key services would be slashed under a budget plan approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.   "Chairman Ryan's budget would place the burden of deficit reduction squarely on the backs of Pennsylvania's low-income and middle-class families while providing big new tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest individuals," said Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. "With our communities and economy still reeling from deep state budget cuts, another round of funding cuts to our schools, public safety, and health is unsustainable." 
Chairman Ryan's budget would cut by 18 percent the part of the federal budget that supports schools, public safety, and a range of other state and local services, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, co-released today with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. And that's on top of sharp cuts already scheduled to hit these programs. 

Congress Tweaks State Special Education Spending Mandates
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 25, 2013 3:41 PM
States that run afoul of federal rules for special education funding will be punished—though not forever—under a technical, but important tweak to state maintenance of effort under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The change, which was crafted with the help of the U.S. Department of Education, was included in the giant spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year (better known in Inside the Beltway as a continuing resolution, or CR) that Congress passed this month.  Under maintenance of effort—or MOE, in wonky Washingtonspeak—states can't cut their own education spending below whatever amount they spent the previous year and still tap federal dollars for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, unless they get special permission from the department.

Crowds join Loop protest against Chicago school closings
Union leads supporters in rally, march, sit-in; Emanuel says time for negotiations is over
Chicago Tribune By Ellen Jean Hirst and Bridget DoyleTribune reporters March 28, 2013
On a day when Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the time for negotiations on school closings was over, the Chicago Teachers Union led hundreds of supporters in a highly orchestrated downtown rally and march as part of its continuing efforts to derail the district's plan to shut 53 elementary schools.  CTU President Karen Lewis was cheered when she took the microphone at Daley Plaza late Wednesday afternoon and repeated her argument that the Chicago Public Schools' decision to close schools with predominantly African-American enrollments is racist.

In Chicago, Dozens Arrested As They Protest School Closures
NPR by EYDER PERALTA March 27, 2013 8:46 PM
Hundreds of demonstrators, along with the Chicago Teachers Union, marched through the city today demanding that City Hall walk back its plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school in response to a $1 billion budget deficit.

With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families
New York Times By FERNANDA SANTOS and MOTOKO RICH  Published: March 27, 2013
PHOENIX — A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.

Texas House votes to reduce high-stakes testing, change graduation requirements
By Kate Alexander American-Statesman Staff Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Texas House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to loosen high school graduation requirements and significantly reduce high-stakes testing after a daylong debate in which legislators grappled with how academic rigor and flexibility can co-exist.  House Bill 5 won preliminary passage on a 145-2 vote. State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who unsuccessfully pushed an amendment aimed at steering more students toward college, and state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, were the only nays.
The legislation reduces from 15 to five the number of end-of-course exams needed for graduation from high school and amounts to an about-face for Texas, which has been at the forefront of the standardized testing movement. The required tests would be algebra, biology, U.S. history and 10th-grade reading and writing.

Education Voters PA ACTION ALERT – Call to action day April 10th

Mark your calendar for the next Call to Action Day on Wednesday April 10th - where thousands of Pennsylvanians will take 10 minutes to call their State Senators and House members.

A group from the Penn Graduate School of Education is visiting Finland to see their education system.  Follow their blog…..

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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