Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 9, 2013: Cyber tuition - Remember the $600 toilet seat and $100 hammer? “Total cyber charter tuition would have been $714K; instead our taxpayers are spending just $27K for ALL 35 students. “ Plus cyber special: more than you ever wanted to know about PA cyber charter schools.


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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 9, 2013:  Cyber tuition - Remember the $600 toilet seat and $100 hammer? “Total cyber charter tuition would have been $714K; instead our taxpayers are spending just $27K for ALL 35 students. “
Plus cyber special: more than you ever wanted to know about PA cyber charter schools.

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.

I guess this means that the cyberschools have been getting a windfall for several years.  If a home schooling parent can get a cyber curriculum for $1000 from K12, Inc. why should a cyberschool be able to charge my district’s taxpayers $9000 for a regular ed student and $27,000 for a special ed student?
Schools may get windfall: Cyber reform measure would redirect funding to local districts
Johnstown Tribune Democrat by John Finnerty CNHI Harrisburg Bureau March 7, 2013
HARRISBURG — Public school districts may finally get help in their struggle to recapture some of the money that has followed students who choose to enroll in charter schools rather than attend the local bricks-and-mortar school system.  State Rep. James Roebuck Jr., D-Philadelphia, unveiled a comprehensive cyber school funding reform bill Thursday that was largely modeled on recommendations made by Auditor General Jack Wagner in a special report released during the summer.  The projected savings would be four times the amount that Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to increase in the state’s basic education funding this year.

“Haverford currently has 35 students, 23 special ed and 12 regular ed, enrolled in its blended school. Savings are significant, since the district must pay more than $26,000 for each special education student to attend a cyber charter, and just more than $9,000 for regular education students. Total costs for those students would have been $714,000.  Instead, the district is paying a $55 maintenance fee, $3,500 in special development and $24,000 in licensing costs for its blended program, totaling only $27,555 for all 35 students, said program chair and emotional support counselor Nicole Battestelli.”
Haverford reviews benefits of ‘blended school’
Delco Times By LOIS PUGLIONESI Times Correspondent Thursday, March 07, 2013
HAVERFORD — The school district’s blended school program appears to be curtailing cyber charter school enrollment and saving taxpayer money, officials said in a recent update to the school board.  The blended school program offers a combination of “online learning with instructional support by Haverford teachers through direct contact, email and phone,” said Haverford Middle School Assistant Principal David Parker, who also serves as coordinator of secondary special programs.

Ponzi schemes?  Homeschoolers can pay $1000 for cyber curriculum but K12 charges PA taxpayers an average of $12000.  How much K12, Inc. stock does Budget Secretary Zogby still own and what are the terms of his current relationship with K12?
Pa. fiscal chief Zogby rails about Rendell 'Ponzi schemes'
Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: Friday, March 8, 2013, 6:01 AM
HARRISBURG - The Corbett administration's fiscal chief, amid a withering, two-hour pummeling by state House Democrats on the final day of budget hearings, accused former Gov. Ed Rendell on Thursday of running "Ponzi schemes" on the citizenry.
What is traditionally an opportunity for lawmakers to publicly make a case for funding programs turned into a partisan debate, as Budget Secretary Charles Zogby defended Gov. Corbett's policies and trashed his Democratic predecessor's.

Here are three collections of articles/prior postings that will give you a pretty broad overview of Pennsylvania cyber charter schools:

Cyber special: Lancaster Online: 10 pieces on PA Cyber Charters
This posting from November 2012 includes a great Lancaster Online series on cybercharters by Mary Beth Schweigert and Chip Smedley.  If you are new to this issue this is a great place to get a handle on it.

Cyber special: K12, Inc. Profits and Questions
This is a collection of current and prior postings on K12, Inc. from February 14, 2013

Cyber special: Collection of articles on Pennsylvania cybers and charters, followed by some additional history on K12, Inc. and Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby’s involvement with them.


“The governor's proposed budget for key classroom funding programs is more than $250 million below actual state funding levels from five years ago.”
A True Look at Basic Education Funding In Pennsylvania
Senator Vincent Hughes, Democratic Appropriations Chair March 8, 2013
While the Corbett Administration touts its public education investments, saying that it has provided more basic education funding than any other governor, the numbers reveal an entirely different story.  Deep budget cuts of nearly $900 million in the 2011-12 budget year, created a seriously underfunded public education system in Pennsylvania. The consequences for our state are severe and threaten our ability to compete in the global economy.
During the prior decade, Pennsylvania was an educational leader among states, significantly increasing financial support and demonstrating consistently improving results in the classroom. Now, test scores have begun to decline, following two years of deep cuts. The governor's proposed budget for key classroom funding programs is more than $250 million below actual state funding levels from five years ago.

Take a look at this chart provided by Senator Hughes:

Philly school closings in the national news
by thenotebook on Mar 09 2013 Posted in Notes from the news
Thursday's decision to close 23 schools and relocate or merge five others has received national - and international - news attention. On Friday, NPR's national evening news program, "All Things Considered," included a report by NewsWorks' Benjamin Herold.
Coverage of the aftermath of the decision in the national and world news:

WHYY RadioTimes with Marty Moss-Coane: Philadelphia's controversial school closures
Audio Runtime: 52:01
GUESTS: BENJAMIN HEROLD, WILLIAM HITE JR., LORI SHORR March 8, 2013
We'll respond to the school closures announced last night, and the politics and process that led the School District of Philadelphia to the extremely controversial management strategy. Joining guest-host MAIKEN SCOTT for the hour is BENJAMIN HEROLD, education reporter for WHYY's NewsWorks and the Public School Notebook. And we'll start off the hour with a short interview with School District of Philadelphia Superintendent WILLIAM HITE JR. and we'll close the hour with an interview with LORI SHORR, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer and director of the Office of the Public School Family and Child Advocate.

PCCY STATEMENT ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS: EFFECTIVE STUDENT TRANSITIONS FROM CLOSED SCHOOLS
Philadelphia, PA — Following the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s (SRC) decisions on school closures Thursday, Public Citizens for Children and Youth today released the following statement calling on the SRC to now focus priority attention on the safe, productive transfers of about 6 percent of the School District’s students from closed schools into their new schools:
The District must ensure that the new schools into which students transfer are as good as --or better than -- the closed schools. This means that at a minimum class sizes should be conducive to learning and the supports students received in the closed buildings should be available in the new buildings.

“The school is one of the foundations of the community,” said Rosemarie Hatcher, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, which represents local home and school associations. “It’s like a village. The schools know our kids and they look out for our kids.”
Rational Decisions and Heartbreak on School Closings
New York Times News Analysis By MOTOKO RICH and JON HURDLE
Published: March 8, 2013
The overflow crowd on Thursday at the meeting of the School Reform Commission, at which school closings were announced.  At University City High in Philadelphia on Friday, staff members and students were trying to absorb the decision by a state commission to close the school along with 22 others in the city.

Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement
School Library Journal By Debra E. Kachel and Keith Curry Lance on March 7, 2013
Imagine trying to teach kids how to swim in an empty pool.
That’s exactly what Baruch Kintisch envisioned when he took a hard look at the effects of his city’s deep education cuts. Philadelphia’s “schools are underfunded; classrooms are crowded; libraries, labs, and special-education services are outdated or nonexistent,” writes Kintisch, the director of policy advocacy and a senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center (see the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “City Schools’ Real Problem,” August 9, 2012).
Simply put, students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, we’ve found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians. “Nearly every public school in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties has a library with certified staff, which has been proven to increase student reading and comprehension,” notes Kintisch. “In contrast, most public schools in Philadelphia do not employ a certified librarian, and more than 140 do not have a library.”
He’s right. More than half of Philadelphia’s public schools are currently without a library. 

Our View: Help save arts in Erie schools
ERIE TIMES-NEWS OPINION PUBLISHED: MARCH 7, 2013 12:01 AM EST
Youngsters need to plan for their careers at an early age, and students who excel in science, technology, engineering and math courses will be ready to land good jobs. That's the conventional wisdom in education and business.  In Erie, we are fortunate that local organizations such as Erie Together and the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership are involved in efforts to better align schooling and employment. On Wednesday, we praised Fort LeBoeuf High School for taking the initiative to offer six career-track programs to students in the new school year.  But students also need a well-rounded education that goes beyond technical subjects. There's also evidence that exposure to the arts improves academic achievement. That's why we were pleased to learn that the Erie School District has produced two arts education advocates from within its own ranks -- Andrew Dolan, a senior at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, and Daria Simon Devlin, a graduate of Central High School who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colgate University.

Philipsburg charter school proponents mull next steps
Centre Daily Times By Lori Falce — For the CDT Published: March 7, 2013 
PHILIPSBURG — According to organizers of the Central Pennsylvania Charter Academy, the fate of the proposed Philipsburg area charter school is still up in the air.
On Tuesday, the Philipsburg-Osceola Area school board officially rejected the group’s application. The secondary charter school was envisioned as an inquiry-based environment modeled on theHarkness method, the kind of discussion-as-learning program that is used in some of the country’s most sought-after preparatory schools, such as the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., where it was developed.  District solicitor Scott Etter cited a number of reasons for his recommendation to deny the petition, including inconsistencies and a lack of information on the application, and the lack of a physical location. Another point said that the proposed teaching method does not rise to the requirement for a charter school, in that it is not significantly different from the education already provided at Philipsburg-Osceola Area Senior High School.

Lawmakers weigh in on Philly school contract dispute
PhillyTrib by Damon C. Williams  Thursday, 07 March 2013 17:12
Using two different methods, two politicians with measurable clout and statewide power are taking the School Reform Commission to task for its handling of the school closure situation, and for its dealings with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as it recently opened contract negotiations with its biggest union.  State Senator Vincent Hughes, who serves as Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman, recently sent a scathing letter to SRC Chair Pedro Ramos that accused the district of offering a “draconian contract proposal” to its biggest union as the sides open up contract talks that appear to be careening toward hostility.

Harper Poll: Corbett, Sestak Lead Guv Primaries
PoliticsPA Written by Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor March 7, 2013
The latest numbers from Harper Polling show Gov. Tom Corbett in command of a hypothetical Republican primary, although he falls just shy of the 50% mark.  He leads Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor 49% to 21% among likely Republican voters with 30% not sure.
…..Former Congressman and 2010 Senate candidate Joe Sestak leads with 20% statewide, followed by Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz at 19%. Sestak has made only vague statements about the possibility he might run. Schwartz appears by all intents and purposes to be moving toward a bid.  Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord came in third with 7%, followed by Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox at 3%. Two cabinet secretaries from the Rendell administration took 1% each: DEP Sec. John Hanger and Revenue Sec. Tom Wolf. Hanger has declared his candidacy; each of the others has indicated strong interest.

Is Closing Underperforming Schools Really Good for Students?
The Atlantic Cities by SARAH CARR March 8, 2013
For better or for worse, today's school superintendents have become CEOs. Corporate principles and the lexicon of business are pervasive throughout American schools. Teachers work to shore up a bottom line defined by test scores. And if numbers fail to improve, the district drops the school from its portfolio.  In some communities, the record numbers of public school closures have set off a fiery backlash among activists and educators. Philadelphia school officials voted yesterday to shutter nearly 10 percent of their schools next fall. Chicago leaders are weighing the closures of dozens of possible schools. And the New York City Department of Education, which eliminated 140 schools between 2003 and 2012, is eyeing another round. Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Oakland have also tried to close large numbers of schools in the past few years.

Hartford's New 'Parent Academy' Aims To Teach Mothers, Fathers About Children's Education
Participants Are Sought For Workshops To Begin This Month
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, vdelatorre@courant.comThe Hartford Courant
6:36 p.m. EST, March 6, 2013
HARTFORD ——  School administrators plan to recruit dozens of city parents for new evening workshops that aim to connect families with the school system and teach mothers and fathers how they can educate their children at home.  The school board voted this week to allow Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to finalize a $79,166 contract between the district and Parent Academy, or La Academia Para Los Padres, a Hartford nonprofit group that has provided English literacy classes to Latino parents since 2010.

“Rep. Mike Hope, a Republican from Snohomish County, has introduced a bill that would require school districts each year to provide a host of information to parents about the battery of standardized tests their kids are subjected to these days. That would include how much time each test would take, whether the test is required by the state or federal government, the impact of test scores for students and--perhaps most interestingly of all-- how much the tests cost.”
Anti-Testing Movement Gains Voice in the WA Legislature With Bill Asking for Tally of Costs
Seattle Weekly Blogs By Nina Shapiro Fri., Mar. 1 2013 at 7:00 AM
The Seattle School District wrapped up its MAP testing yesterday, despite a boycott by teachers and students at Garfield High and several other schools. Teachers who refused to give the test, claiming it was a waste of time and money, are now waiting to hear the consequences. Early in the boycott, the district warned of a possible 10-day suspension to "insubordinate" teachers--but that was before the protestcaught fire nationally, generating support among schools from coast to coast, and getting airtime on the Dan Rather report.
Now, the legislature is getting in on the action.

Parent-Trigger Bills Progress in States' Legislatures
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Katie Ash on March 8, 2013 3:21 PM 
At least three states—Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma—advanced parent-trigger laws this week, although none of those efforts have yet become laws.

The Network for Public Education
Daily KOS Blog By teacherken March 7, 22013
The Network for Public Education was announced today.   If you care about saving public education from privatization, from the so-called "reformers" like Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee, the corporatizers like Joel Klein, this is an organization you should join and support.

ANNOUNCING THE LAUNCH OF THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
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.


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 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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