Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 5, 2013: Senators call for scrutiny of Pa. charter schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 5, 2013: Senators call for scrutiny of Pa. charter schools

Roebuck Seeking Co-sponsors for Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation

PA House Education Committee Public Hearing:
Cyber Charter Funding Reform
Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:00 AM Room 140 Main Capitol
HB 618 (Emrick) and HB 759 (Reese)
Here’s some background on these two bills:
Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reforms Proposed
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s website 1/25/2013
HARRISBURG – The House Republican Caucus today unveiled a legislative package aimed at reforming charter and cyber charter school funding.

Senators call for scrutiny of Pa. charter schools
WHYY Newsworks The Feed By Associated Press March 4, 2013
Some state senators say that state regulation of charter schools and cyber charters is inadequate.  At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Monday, several lawmakers cited a lack of financial and academic accountability for the privately run public schools.

Charter school reform heating up as part of state budget debate
Senate and House quiz state education secretary on governor's appetite to reform charter school law to save taxpayers money.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 5:17 p.m. EST, March 4, 2013
HARRISBURG — The law that created taxpayer-funded charter schools is 16 years old.
Lawmakers are clamoring to overhaul it to reduce costs and increase oversight of cyber charter schools.  But considering how reform bills have failed the last two years, changing the 1997 law may be elusive even though an auditor general's report, issued in June, found taxpayers are overcharged $365 million annually to fund 162 charter schools.  During a state Senate Appropriations hearing on Monday, Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Berks, asked Education Secretary Ron Tomalis where Gov. Tom Corbett stood on charter reforms.

Senator Vincent Hughes Democratic Appropriations Chairman March 4, 2013 responds to Corbett Budget
Audio runtime 47 seconds
Senator Hughes says Gov. Corbett is shortchanging public school education in his proposed state budget, especially poorer school districts, and the proof is in the test scores statewide.  Here’s more with Senator Hughes, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who told Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis at the department’s budget hearing before the Senate that the governor’s budget proposal is unacceptable.

“We need to examine how education is being provided across a broad spectrum and not be so concerned about initiatives that help private education providers at the expense of all public schools and their students,” Brewster said.  
Senator Brewster Reacts to the Administration’s Lack of Focus in Budget Hearing on Education
Corbett Education Budget would Result in Local Tax Increases, lawmaker says
PA Senate Democratic Caucus website McKeesport, March 4, 2013
State Sen. Jim Brewster said he was disappointed in the presentation made by Corbett administration officials as they described their education priorities at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today.  “I am very concerned that a number of issues confronting our education community are being swept aside by the Corbett administration in its haste to dismantle public education,” Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said.  ”As a strong proponent of public education and a firm believer in providing opportunities for all students, there are critical issues that lawmakers must address.”

“Basically, if a school district has its own cyber program, students would be directed to use that instead of a cyber charter.  Students still could enroll in a cyber charter, but they would have to find their own way to pay for it.”
State Sen. Judy Schwank introduces bill that would change rules on cyber charter schools
Measure would direct students to enroll in programs run by their home districts
Reading Eagle By David Mekeel Originally Published: 3/3/2013
Public school districts in Pennsylvania have been complaining for years about the growing costs of cyber charter schools.  When a student decides to take classes with a cyber charter school, the home district pays the tuition. In Berks County this year, it's costing schools a combined $16 million.  But that could change if state Sen. Judy Schwank gets her way.
Schwank recently introduced a bill that would change the rules for cyber charter schools.

Oldies but goodies: This September 2012 posting on PA charter schools has been one of the most viewed on this blog:

LTE: Corbett cares more about prisons than schools
Pottstown Mercury Letter to the Editor by Brett Schaeffer Posted: 03/02/13 12:01 am
This is regarding Tim Eller’s letter to the editor on Feb. 24, “Claims of education cuts by Gov. Corbett are untrue.”  Budgets are about priorities. Gov. Corbett’s 2011-12 budget slashed education funding and increased funding for prisons. That’s a crystal-clear message about this administration’s priorities.  Full-day kindergarten, school libraries, and school nurses have been eliminated or dramatically reduced in school districts throughout Pennsylvania. These are not frivolous programs.

Corbett takes a political risk on pension reform
GoErie.com BY JOHN GUERRIERO, Erie Times-News john.guerriero@timesnews.com
Gov. Tom Corbett visited the Manufacturer & Business Association in Erie on March 1st to sell his plan to get the state out of the liquor wholesale and retail business with Erie area lawmakers and education leaders. Corbett's plan would privatize the state's wholesale and retail liquor operation and use the $1 billion in proceeds over four years for K-12 public education block grants.
Gov. Tom Corbett is taking the politically risky move of trying to reform Pennsylvania's two public pension systems -- just one year away from what's shaping up as a serious attempt by Democrats to retake the office.  And the governor would have to rely on approval from state lawmakers who not only would be affected by the pension-system reform, but most of whom would face the voters in 2014 as well.  "It's unusual for a governor up for re-election to take something like this on. There's a lot of opposition to it,'' Corbett told the Erie Times-News Editorial Board in a wide-ranging, 90-minute interview.

Pension solution
Post-Gazette Letter to the Editor by Nathan Benefield March 3, 2013 12:02 am
Nathan Benefield is Director of Policy Analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, wrote that Gov. Tom Corbett is taking aim at the retirement benefits of public school employees ("Let Pennsylvania Pension Reforms Work," Feb. 21 Perspectives). Teachers have a right to be fired up about their pensions, but Ms. Visgitis offers misleading information to fire them up at the wrong targets.

Hughes to SRC: Don't balance books on teachers' backs
Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 3:01 AM
Don't take your money woes out on teachers, State Sen. Vincent Hughes has told the Philadelphia School Reform Commission in no uncertain terms.  In a sharply worded letter to SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos, Hughes (D., Phila.) expressed "deep concerns" over the Philadelphia School District's recent opening contract proposal to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  The district has said it needs up to $180 million annually in givebacks from its unions, and recently called for teachers to agree to deep wage cuts, steep benefits contributions, and an end to seniority.  Doing that while not asking Gov. Corbett for more money is "inexcusable and an act of hypocrisy," Hughes wrote last week.

Parents United statement: Contracts should advance teaching & learning, not degrade them
Parents United for Public Education: Statement on Philadelphia Teachers contract
Parents United for Public Education Posted on March 1, 2013 by PARENTSUNITEDPHILA
Parents United for Public Education believes that the upcoming contract negotiations with the teachers’ union are an important opportunity to advance a vision of quality teaching and learning across the city.  While we recognize the dire financial situation of the District, we are appalled at suggestions to eliminate class size caps and other proposals that will further degrade the quality of education in Philadelphia schools and our children’s opportunities to learn. Moreover, the focus on cutting essential services and personnel not only endangers the quality of education but would also put children in harm’s way.

Informing the debate: Research For Action releases PACER brief on school closures
Research for Action website March 4, 2013 
This week, Philadelphia's School Reform Commission will consider closing as many as 29 buildings district-wide -- a downsizing that is unprecedented in the city's experience.
This PACER brief looks at the experience of major districts -- including Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. -- and examines rigorous research on large-scale closings. A key finding is that students who transfer to similarly- or lower-performing schools do not appear to fare well academically, at least in the short term. This is a particular issue in Philadelphia where capacity is most limited in high-performing schools.
Increasing numbers of charter schools, flat or declining enrollments in some urban districts, and financial strain mean that increasing numbers of districts statewide will confront the questions before Philadelphia today. RFA remains committed to providing research and understanding for the challenging conversations ahead. 

“because the closings would create education deserts in areas of the city with the highest concentration of minority and low-income residents….Who would stay or move into a neighborhood that doesn’t even have a school in which parents and community members can invest their energies?” 
Are school closings the new urban renewal?
by thenotebook by Elaine Simon on Mar 04 2013
Recent analyses show that most students from schools recommended for closing in Philadelphia would not end up in better-performing schools. They are likely to wind up in schools much like the ones they were in before, as a recent study by Research for Action shows.
Most of the displaced students will not benefit academically from the closings as planned. In addition, they would have to travel a distance outside their neighborhoods, because the closings would create education deserts in areas of the city with the highest concentration of minority and low-income residents. 

“Ms. Friedman also had harsh words for the state for inadequately funded education, saying legislators "should be ashamed of themselves."
Judge postpones decision on Duquesne schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 4, 2013 4:27 pm
Common Pleas Court Senior Judge Judith L.A. Friedman today postponed appointing a receiver to carry out a financial recovery plan for the Duquesne City School District after questioning whether the financial recovery plan for the K-6 students was feasible.
The hearing was continued to April 2.

9 of 11 Luzerne County school districts pledge low tax hikes
Hazelton Standard Speaker BY ELIZABETH SKRAPITS (STAFF WRITER) March 3, 2013
For homeowners worried about massive school district property tax hikes, the situation may not end up as bad as it first seems.  Of Luzerne County's 11 school districts, only two - Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Area - are applying for permission to raise taxes above limits set by state Department of Education.  ….Hazleton Area, Crestwood, Dallas, Greater Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Northwest Area, Pittston Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West have passed resolutions to stay within the state-mandated limits, known as indexes.

Time’s Up
Yinzercation Blog February 4, 2013
Pencils down. No more filling in bubbles. The time has come to opt out of high stakes testing. Students in Pennsylvania start taking the PSSAs next week. That means everything on the classroom walls and in the halls must come down, turning our schools into drab, warehouse-like spaces for the next two months. Heaven forbid a student goes to the bathroom during a high-stakes-test and sees a colorful poster in the hallway that helps her fill in a bubble.

Standardized testing becomes the great divide in schools policy
Use of standardized tests in schools is growing, but so is push-back – an issue playing out in L.A. school board elections.
Los Angeles Times By Teresa Watanabe March 3, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
In Texas, more than 10,000 people joined a recent rally to protest it. In Seattle, high school teachers launched a boycott over it. And in Los Angeles, school board candidates are arguing over it — a debate considered so crucial to the future of education reform that outside donors have poured millions into the campaigns.
The growing use of standardized tests to assess students and teachers is sparking a push-back nationwide in what has become one of the greatest divides in educational policy. Even as the federal government and major school districts in Chicago, New York and elsewhere continue to promote testing, counter-pressure is growing to step back from it.

College Board’s 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation, February 13, 2013
The 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation reports on each state’s efforts to improve high school achievement by involving greater segments of the student population — and traditionally underserved students in particular — in rigorous AP courses.

‘Saturday Night Live’ on the sequester
Washington Post The Fix Blog by Chris Cillizza on March 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

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!
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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