Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 17, 2013: According to minutes from 12/18/12 Agora Cyber Board mtg, your PA tax $$$ paid for 19,298 local TV commercials


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 April 17, 2013:
According to minutes from 12/18/12 Agora Cyber Board mtg, your PA tax $$$ paid for 19,298 local TV commercials

According to the minutes (pg. 7) from the December 18, 2012  K12, Inc.’s Agora Cyber Charter School Board of Trustees meeting, your tax dollars paid for 19,298 local TV commercials.
No mention of ubiquitous radio and internet ads in that total.

As of February, 2013 Agora Cyber was serving 2,857 Philly students, the most of any PA cyber

Agora has never made AYP. Agora 2012 grad rate was 45%; Philly SD grad rate was 57%

In 2011, Agora parent company K12, Inc. CEO Ron Packard’s total compensation was $5 million

“The USA TODAY analysis finds that 10 of the largest for-profit operators have spent an estimated $94.4 million on ads since 2007. The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., has spent about $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012."
Online schools spend millions to attract students
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY5:17 p.m. EST November 28, 2012
Virtual, for-profit K-12 schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising, an analysis shows.
If your local public high school has empty seats, the district might lay off teachers. If it's operated by K12 Inc., the company will take out an ad on CNN, The Cartoon Network or VampireFreaks.com and fill those seats.
An analysis by USA TODAY finds that online charter schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising over the past five years, a trend that shows few signs of abating. The primary and high schools -- operated online by for-profit companies but with local taxpayer support -- are buying TV, radio, newspaper and Internet ads to attract students, even as brick-and-mortar public schools in the districts they serve face budget crunches.

“Cooper also said the District shouldn’t expand any charters until it has the money to also expand high-quality traditional public schools. She pointed to the example of Penn Alexander Elementary, which recently had to turn away parents from within its surrounding neighborhood because it didn’t have the space.  "We don’t have a printing press for cash," said Cooper. "So we need to … look at the state and say, 'restore the cuts that were made, and then we can turn around and have this discussion about expansion and more quality seats.'"
Rally urges expansion of Philadelphia charter schools
by thenotebook on Apr 16 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Saying that thousands of children are being denied quality educational opportunities, about 200 students, parents, and charter proponents rallied outside School District headquarters Monday demanding that the School Reform Commission grant the expansion requests of at least 20 charter schools.  "Our children are begging for opportunities. Let them get in!" said Naomi Booker, the CEO of Global Leadership Academy Charter in West Philadelphia and the president of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence.
But District officials said a vote on the charters’ requests, which had been tentatively scheduled for this Thursday, has been postponed indefinitely.

Philly Advocates: Teacher contract must promote learning
PhillyTrib Written by  Damon C. Williams Tuesday, 16 April 2013 11:18
Existing deal with union, school district expires in August
As the collective bargaining agreement between the School District of Philadelphia and one of its biggest unions, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, winds toward its August termination, a broad grassroots group is calling for the district and the PFT to come to terms on a new contract that will ultimately improve teaching standards and pupil results.
The Coalition for Effective Teaching – which includes member groups Aspira, Congreso, Education Voters, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and the Urban League of Philadelphia – is calling for a certain teacher and principal-sought contractual changes, including maintaining smaller class sizes, allowing school leaders full site selection for assigning teachers, and an increase in pay for teachers with additional, specialized skills.

Group pushes bills to end school taxes
Property taxes would be replaced with mix of taxes under plans in state House, Senate.
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader By STEVE MOCARSKY  April 14. 2013 11:17PM
While some local legislators still have reservations about bills that would eliminate school property taxes, a petition drive is pushing forward to change their minds.
Thousands of people in Luzerne County and communities throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania are rallying behind House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76 — identical pieces of legislation known as the Property Tax Independence Act, said Charlie Urban, head of the state retirees group of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Urban, who has been spearheading a petition drive in the region on behalf of the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Cyber Coalition, made a presentation at a Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers Association meeting the week before last, explaining the bills and asking that people circulate petitions.
The bills were designed by the cyber coalition — a group of 78 taxpayer groups across the state. Essentially, the legislation would replace school property tax revenue by increasing the state sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, expanding the sales tax base of items that could be taxed and increasing the earned income tax from 3.07 to 4.34 percent.

Here’s a sample of regular local press coverage detailing public school budgeting that impacts local taxpayers.  When’s the last time that you saw anything comparable detailing budgeting/spending for charter schools?  How about for private and religious schools using diverted tax dollars under EITC?
Parkland School Board eyeing 2.73 percent tax increase for 2013-14
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times  on April 16, 2013 at 8:37 PM
As promised, Parkland School Districtadministrators continue to find ways to whittle away the proposed tax hike for 2013-14.  Director of Business Administration John Vignone at tonight's school board meeting identified nearly $1.475 million in new revenue and savings that translate into a 2.73 percent tax increase, down from the 4.35 percent increase discussed in March.

“The PSBA supports legislation that protects the pension benefits already earned by current employees but allows for changes to future benefits.  Ms. Leader said without meaningful pension reform school districts will be forced to cut programs and services for students in order to meet future pension payments.”
Pa. School Boards Association says Corbett changes to pension benefits legally possible
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 16, 2013 11:37 am
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association today released its legal argument supporting changes that Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to pensions for current state employees and teachers which it claimed are legal under the state constitution.
In a statement based on testimony of PSBA acting chief counsel Emily Leader before the House State Government Committee, the organization said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allows changes to current employee's benefits under the Public Employee Forfeiture Act "if they were on notice of its provisions prior to accepting a new term of office, a promotion or new appointment."

PSBA says pension crisis is a perfect storm for public education
PSBA Press Release  4/15/2013  Steve Robinson, Publications and PR Director
In testimony before the House State Government Committee, PSBA urged the committee members to enact pension reforms that would ease the financial crisis facing school districts and their taxpayers.  "Solutions need to be worked out or the pension tidal wave will wash over taxpayers and school districts leaving them angry and frustrated," said Emily Leader, PSBA acting chief counsel. She said public education is facing a perfect storm with the merging of increased pension expenses and escalating healthcare benefit costs, which continue to outpace inflation, and the yearly Act 1 index, which sets the maximum tax rate districts may approve unless they fall within very narrow exceptions. Without meaningful pension reform, schools will be facing years of strained budgets that will leave them no option but to continue to cut programs and services for students.

D.C. custodial staff were evaluated by student test scores. Really.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on April 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm
How obsessive have school reformers been with linking student standardized test scores to the evaluations of adults in school buildings?
Well, a lawsuit filed in Florida today by seven teachers and their unions is asking for an end to the state’s evaluation system that insists that most teachers be evaluated in part by the test scores of students they didn’t teach — in subjects they don’t teach.
It may sound crazy, but it’s true. Read about it here.
And then there’s this: Until this year, Washington D.C.’s IMPACT evaluation system, begun under former chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2009, linked student standardized test scores to the evaluations of D.C. school custodians. Really.

Florida: Teachers Sue Over Evaluation System
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: April 17, 2013
Seven Florida teachers have brought a federal lawsuit to protest job evaluation policies that tether individual performance ratings to the test scores of students who are not even in their classes.

“In reality, test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are the highest in history. High school graduation rates are the highest in history. The nation’s dropout rates are the lowest in history. Such positive news is drowned out, however, by the purposeful barrage of negative messaging by critics of public education, she said.”
Ravitch at NSBA: Public schools facing ‘unprecedented assault’
NSBA 2013 Conference Daily by Del Stover|April 16th, 2013
Public education is under attack. Local school boards are under attack. Local governance is under attack.  That was the blunt message delivered by Diane Ravitch at the closing General Session of NSBA’s annual conference in San Diego.
A nationally recognized education researcher and author, Ravitch has become a fierce critic of many of the education reform models that, in the past decade, have been advocated by misguided state and federal policymakers, as well by wealthy ideologues. And she shared her criticisms and concerns with conference attendees.

“The nation’s 90,000 school board members are influential community members, each of whom has a constituency and political connections and access to more than 50 million schoolchildren.”
Pickler: Let’s ‘change the conversation’ about public schools
NSBA 2013 Conference Daily by Del Stover|April 16th, 2013
School board members have watched the efforts to privatize public education through vouchers and charter schools, and they’ve seen the authority of local school governance eroded by the decisions of state and federal policymakers.  They’ve also watched public education put on the defensive in national debates—and heard the arguments that the nation’s public schools are failing and school boards are obstacles to reform.
But none of this will go unchallenged in the future, NSBA’s new president, David A. Pickler, told attendees at the closing General Session of the annual conference.

“On his blog for philly.com, Will Bunch summed up his view of why Rhee failed to act in this situation: "Because it would have demolished her credibility as an 'education reformer' and an author."
How Will Michelle Rhee's Policy and Politics Work Fare in States?
Education Week State EdWatch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on April 15, 2013 4:06 PM
The biggest national education story of the past week was John Merrow's discussion of a memo about possible, even likely cheating in D.C. Public Schools under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and how she may have swept the issue under the rug, or just passively let it get buried and lost under other paperwork, depending on how you look at it. (As my colleague Lesli Maxwell documents, Rhee claims not to remember the memo.)
But it's important to remember that Rhee is not an abstraction, and she hasn't retired—she's the leader of a K-12 advocacy group that is steadily expanding its role in many states, getting involved in both policy lobbying and campaign donations. StudentsFirst's website now says it is active in 18 states, including California, New York, and Florida, three of the five biggest states in the country by public school enrollment. It has also begun grading state policies, a key component of older groups with similar views like the Center for Education Reform and the American Legislative Exchange Council. So the important question on that front is, will doubts about the integrity of D.C. schools under her tenure damage StudentsFirst's work in statehouses and with elections?

RNC Votes to Oppose Common Core, Inappropriate Overreach
Alabama Republican Party website By jbarbee on April 12, 2013
Los Angeles, CA - Today, the Republican National Committee meeting in Los Angeles voted to oppose the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), stating that they “…do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level.”
The resolution adopted by the committee goes on to say, “(The) Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is– an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived ‘normal…’

California Democrats blast efforts to overhaul schools
They call StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform fronts for GOP and corporate interests. Also, Harris and Newsom tout stands on same-sex marriage.
By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times April 14, 2013, 7:55 p.m.
SACRAMENTO — California Democrats on Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation's schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests.
Before delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution excoriating the groups on the final day of the party's annual convention here, speakers urged them to focus on protecting students and teachers.  "People can call themselves Democrats for Education Reform — it's a free country — but if your agenda is to shut teachers and school employees out of the political process and not lift a finger to prevent cuts in education, in my book you're not a reformer, you're not helping education, and you're sure not much of a Democrat," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a registered Democrat whose office is nonpartisan.


Dozens of new bald eagle nests reported across Pa.
Observer-Reporter published apr 15, 2013 at 8:36 am (updated apr 15, 2013 at 8:36 am
HARRISBURG (AP) — Dozens of new bald eagle nests are being reported across Pennsylvania this spring.  Officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission say new nests have so far been sighted in Lebanon County, Allegheny County, Blair County and Bucks County. They’ve also been spotted in Chester, Indiana, Lancaster, Lawrence, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.

Superintendents, Business Managers, School Board Members, Union Leaders, Any Others interested in PSERS and wanting to learn more about Pension Reform . . .
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 Registration: 6:30 p.m.  Presentation: 7:00 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit  475 East Waterfront Drive  Homestead, PA  15120  McGuffey/Sullivan Rooms
Jeffery B. Clay, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will present on the topic of pension reform.  Mr. Clay’s presentation will review the increases in retirement contributions and the Governor’s proposal on pension reform.  As one concerned about public education, we are sure that you will find this meeting enlightening and a valuable investment of your time.
In order to accommodate those attending and prepare the necessary materials for the meeting, please register using the following link:  http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6252177431  by May 7, 2013.
If you have any questions regarding the registration process, please contact Janet Galaski at 412.394.5753 or janet.galaski@aiu3.net.

Sign Up Today for PILCOP Special Ed CLE Trainings
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Spots are filling up for the final three trainings in our 2012-2013 Know Your Child’s Rights series with seminars on ADAAA, Pro Se Parents and Settlement Agreements.
April 30, 2013: ADAAA, 504 and Chapter 15: Services Needed, Discrimination Avoided
May 29, 2013: PRO SE Parents: Doing It on Your Own
May 30, 2013: Settlements: Signing on the Dotted Line (OR NOT)

NAACP 2013 Conference on the State of Education in Pennsylvania
A Call for Equitable and Adequate Funding for Pennsylvania's Schools
Media Area Branch NAACP
Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:00 am2:30 pm (8:30 am registration)
Marcus Foster Student Union 2nd floor, Cheyney University of PA, Delaware County Campus

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny; Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars

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