Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 18, 2013: “Hite said enrolling a student in the Philadelphia Virtual Academy would cost the District about $4,100 less per child, per year than the state-approved cybers”

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 18, 2013:
“Hite said enrolling a student in the Philadelphia Virtual Academy would cost the District about $4,100 less per child, per year than the state-approved cybers”

Pension reform appears to be moving on to Legislature's front burner
By Jan Murphy |  on April 17, 2013 at 7:23 PM
Elements of Gov. Tom Corbett’s pension reform proposal have the support of two statewide organizations representing school district officials.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials endorse his proposal to lower the multiplier used to calculate state government and school employees’ pension benefits for future service.
But they are not on board with other aspects of his proposal, based on testimony presented at a House State Government Committee hearing on Tuesday.  The hearing was the first time this year a legislative committee has held a hearing to address the looming pension crisis that some see as threatening the state's long-term fiscal stability. 

PSBA says pension crisis is a perfect storm for public education
PSBA Press Release Steve Robinson, Publications and PR Director 4/15/2013
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.

Testimony of Jay Himes, Executive Director, PA Association of School Business Officials, House State Government Committee Public Hearing on Pension Reform April 16, 2013
I would like to thank Chairman Metcalfe and Chairman Cohen as well as the members of the
committee for the opportunity to discuss with you the very critical issue of pension reform for
school personnel. This morning I would like to present the position of the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) on pension reform for schools generally rather than specific bills that have been introduced.

PSBA says ‘trigger event’ could provide opening to change current state employee pension benefits. Under the Dome email of April 17, 2013
During a state House of Representatives committee hearing about proposed state pension plan changes, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association caught the attention of state lawmakers twice. First, Emily Leader, PSBA’s acting chief counsel, announced, for the first time, PSBA’s support of efforts to change future pension benefits for current employees. “Our current situation is so significant that something fairly aggressive needs to be done to address our $41 billion unfunded liability and the increasing contributions that employers face if we do not take action quickly and aggressively,” said Leader, who went on say, “PSBA is seeking comprehensive pension reform that can only be attained if we address the future benefits of current employees.” Then, later during her testimony, Leader suggested a way state lawmakers might change those future benefits and not run afoul of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s provision that the legislature cannot diminish or impair the state’s contractual obligation, which state courts have interpreted to include the pension condition under which current state employees accrue their retirement savings. Citing the 1993 Supreme Court decision in the Shiomos v. State Employees' Retirement Board case – which involved a state judge who retired but was later convicted of extortion while having senior judge status - Leader said: “The Court noted the act [the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act] provides, ‘Each time a public officer or public employee is elected, appointed, promoted, or otherwise changes a job classification, there is a termination and renewal of the contract for purposes of this act.’ “When Judge Shiomos took office for his second term, he was on notice that the act applied to individuals in his position. At that point, he accepted all of the provisions of the Pension Forfeiture Act and he forfeited his right to all benefits arising from his public employment, including those accrued prior to his second term of office.” Leader suggested if a “triggering event” - which creates a new or amended contract between the public employee or official and the Commonwealth – took place, that could afford the state with the opportunity to then restructure the future pension benefits for existing employees. To read all of Leader’s testimony presented during the House State Government Committee hearing on Tuesday, CLICK HERE. And CLICK HERE to read a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Leader’s remarks.

“The district will pay the Chester County IU roughly $5,700 per student enrolled in the virtual school, depending on the students' needs. It currently pays an average of more than $10,000 per pupil enrolled in cyber charters”
Philadelphia hopes to launch online cyber school in fall
Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 3:01 AM
Cyber charter schools, watch out. The Philadelphia School District is coming for your students.
Come September, the district - pending School Reform Commission approval Thursday night - will launch the Philadelphia Virtual Academy, an online school for city sixth through 12th graders.
The move could net the financially distressed district millions of dollars. This year, about 6,000 city students are enrolled in cyber charters, at a cost to the school system of about $60 million.
"Here in Philadelphia, we want to begin to compete for students," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday.

“Hite said enrolling a student in the Virtual Academy would cost the District about $4,100 less per child, per year than the state-approved cybers. If the new online school were to draw just 85 students back from cybers next year, he said, the District would break even.”
Philadelphia district to launch online school
by thenotebook on Apr 17 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
The Philadelphia School District plans to launch its own online school this summer, part of an effort to reclaim thousands of students and millions of dollars now going to independently operated cyber charters.  The proposed Philadelphia Virtual Academy would offer students a combination of "anytime learning" in their homes and in-person support from teachers and other staff at "learning centers" around the city. District officials hope to immediately enroll as many as 1,000 students in grades 6 through 12.

Pittsburgh Public Schools board expected to vote on expanding Online Academy
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 17, 2013 9:36 pm
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools is expected to vote next week on expanding its new Pittsburgh Online Academy from grades 6-12 to grades 4-12.

The funding proposal: Shorr said the Great Schools Compact is specifically recommending that Corbett and legislators in Harrisburg consider providing the $120 million requested by the SRC via:
  • Increasing the state’s subsidy for public education, paid to every traditional school district in the state.  
  • Restoring some version of the “charter reimbursement” line item, which previously provided tens of millions of dollars to districts annually to help offset the cost of charter schools. The charter reimbursement was eliminated by Corbett prior to the 2011-12 school year.
  • Forming a bipartisan commission to develop and implement a “weighted student funding formula” that is based on district’s actual enrollments and accounts for the specific needs of individual students.
Philadelphia pleads with Harrisburg for $120 million for city schools
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold, @benjaminbherold April 17, 2013
Saying it’s time for Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett to relieve the pain caused by massive cuts in state aid to public education over the past two years, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and a coalition of district, charter and Catholic schools are making a push in support of the School Reform Commission’s request for $120 million in additional state aid for city schools.
“What’s happening at the school level doesn’t lie,” said Lori Shorr, the mayor’s chief education officer. “Talk to parents in a charter school or a district-managed school.  They understand what the cuts have meant.”
Nutter, along with the Great Schools Compact, is calling on Corbett and the state legislature to increase the state’s basic education subsidy, restore state reimbursements to districts for money they spend on charter schools and adopt a “student-based funding formula” as a long-term solution to the district’s chronic budget woes. 

10 Recommendations for School Reform Commission Charter Renewals
Public Citizens for Children and Youth Press Release April 17, 2013
(PHILADELPHIA) April 17, 2013 – As the Philadelphia School Reform Commission considers whether to renew the contracts of 16 charter schools, an audit by Public Citizens for Children and Youth shows many of the schools do not enroll Special Education, English Language Learner and low-income students at average District rates.
And some charters, based on publicly available data, show consistently poor academic performance.  “We cannot ignore these factors,” PCCY Executive Director Donna Cooper said. “City-wide charters should reflect the realities of the District’s student population. We should operate with common goals. All schools should be accessible to all students and at a minimum showing academic output as strong as the District.”

Prevailing wage changes advance, over Dems' and union objections: Wednesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on April 17, 2013 at 7:55 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Even the most casual student of American letters is familiar with the tale of Moby Dick
C'mon, you remember: Big white whale, crazy guy with a peg-leg who hunted him to the ends of the Earth, even though it cost him his life and his sanity. Call me Ishmael.We know you remember.  If there's a modern day analogue for Pennsylvania Republicans, it might be their obsession with repealing the state's prevailing wage laws, which require more expensive union scale wages to be paid for public construction projects. 

North Pocono teacher strike begins today, teachers blast district
Scranton Times-Tribune April 18, 2013
COVINGTON TWP. - North Pocono teachers will strike today for the first time in the district's history. Bill Lydick, a spokesman for the North Pocono Education Association, said he was still waiting for confirmation from the state Department of Education that the strike can last a maximum of two days under state law. (read more) 

Academic gains in NYC, D.C., and Chicago overstated, report contends
Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 04/17/2013 - 11:56 Posted in Latest news | Permalink
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared at Education Week.
by Lesli A. Maxwell
The school improvement strategies highly touted by leaders such as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee have produced overwhelmingly disappointing results for the poor and minority children in Chicago, New York, and the District of Columbia, contends a forthcoming report written by a national group that favors a more holistic approach to improving public schooling.

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:  by May 7, 2013.
If you have any questions regarding the registration process, please contact Janet Galaski at 412.394.5753 or

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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