Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 15, 2013: PA Right-To-Know and charter schools: still waiting 7 years later….

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.

The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?

These daily emails are archived at
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PSBA Region 15 Members (Delaware and Chester Counties) May 30
Jeffery B. Clay, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will present on the topic of pension reform.

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 15, 2013:
PA Right-To-Know and charter schools: still waiting 7 years later….

Speaker Appoints House Members to the New Special Education Funding Commission
PA House Republican Caucus 5/14/2013
First meeting set for Wednesday 5/15/13
HARRISBURG – Act 3 of 2013 creates a commission to addresses current issues with the state’s distribution of special education funding, and Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Armstrong, Indiana and Jefferson counties) has appointed four House members to the new Special Education Funding Commission. The first meeting of the commission is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 15, in Room 8 in the Capitol East Wing.
The Speaker appointed:
  • Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks County)
  • Rep. Michael Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne Counties)
  • Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster)
  • Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer County)
The 15-member commission was created through Act 3 of 2013 (House Bill 2, Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks County). The commission consists of the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Education committees, eight legislators, the secretaries of Education and Budget, and the state deputy secretary for elementary and special education.
The commission will hold public hearings this summer to help it develop a new funding formula. It has until Sept. 30 to recommend a new funding formula to more effectively pay for special education throughout the state.

Pennsylvania Common Core: Differences get aired at the Capitol
By Jan Murphy |  on May 14, 2013 at 7:05 PM
State policymakers appear to have three choices about how to resolve the controversies surrounding the proposed Pennsylvania Common Core Standards:….. Concerns about any of those options will undoubtedly be discussed at Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, just as they were at today’s House Education Committee meeting.

Pennsylvania getting swept into national 'Common Core' education debate
Senate Democrats call on Gov. Tom Corbett to halt start of Common Core standards; House and Senate to hold hearings on Common Core.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 12:32 a.m. EDT, May 14, 2013
HARRISBURG — In the last three years, the Bethlehem Area School District and other districts have spent lots of money rewriting curriculum and lessons to prepare students for tougher state-sanctioned academic standards and exams.  "It's got to be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands," said Bethlehem's Chief Academic Officer Jack Silva.
In January, the district's first batch of high schoolers took the algebra I, biology and literature Keystone exams that follow a 5-year-old universal set of standards — known as the Common Core — that Pennsylvania and 44 other states have adopted. Starting Tuesday and lasting through Thursday, another batch of Bethlehem students, some as young as middle school, will take the Keystones, which will become a graduation requirement for students who will be seniors in 2017 and beyond.
"The Keystones are here," Silva said.  But for how long?
On Monday, a group of Senate Democrats, accompanied by members of the American Federation of Teachers, called on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and the Department of Education to drop the Keystone's graduation requirement starting with the 2017 class. They also asked the administration to stop implementing the Common Core standards, which Corbett's Democratic predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell, started to get students ready for college and careers.

Senate Public hearing on Common Core
Wednesday, May 15, 1:00 PM, Hearing Room 1 North Office Bldg

This panel discussion is in Philadelphia from 4:30 – 6:00 pm this evening
Panel to discuss pushback on high-stakes testing
Notebook by Helen Gym on May 14 2013 Posted in Commentary
A panel on high-stakes testing features speakers Michelle Fine and Stan Karp.
High-stakes testing and communities pushing back have been all over the news lately. Just this week, Senate Democratic leaders held a press conference opposing the implementation of Keystone exams, mandatory end-of-course state exams that will go into effect for September's 9th-grade class. Amid a backdrop of unprecedented statewide cuts under the Corbett administration, Senate leaders said the Keystones would "cost taxpayers dearly" and were being implemented "without a full understanding of the benefits for students, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers.”

Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.  Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.
"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."

PA Right-To-Know and charter schools: still waiting 7 years later….

Charter school should reveal deal, court says

By Dan Hardy INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: February 17, 2006
The management contract between the Chester Community Charter School and a for-profit charter-management company headed by Main Line lawyer and businessman Vahan H. Gureghian should be made public, Commonwealth Court has ruled.  In its ruling, the court said Pennsylvania's charter school law makes clear "that charter schools are generally governed by statutes applicable to public schools," including the Right to Know Law.

Easton has slashed more than 200 jobs over the past three years. For the current school year, the district adopted a budget that cut 49 teaching positions, then came back mid-summer and lopped off an additional 17 teachers, six interventionists and a middle school principal.”
Easton schools may hike taxes 1.7 percent
Preliminary budget also includes unspecified number of layoffs, $750,000 drawdown of reserves.
By Kevin Duffy, Special to The Morning Call 10:26 p.m. EDT, May 14, 2013
Easton Area School Board on Tuesday settled on a 1.7 percent tax hike for 2013-14 that would mean an unspecified number of layoffs.  The 6-3 vote for a preliminary budget that sets spending at $134.3 million came in front of a quiet crowd of about 30 people.
The proposed tax increase, under which the average taxpayer would pay about $56 more, represents the middle ground of three options the board had considered:

Pittsburgh Public Schools exploring options for different learning models
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 13, 2013 11:40 pm
With options such as charter, private and parochial schools as well as district-operated magnet schools, only 40 percent of K-12 students in the city are attending the feeder school assigned by where they live.  Pittsburgh Public Schools still manages to keep 70 percent of the students in grades K-12, losing 20 percent to parochial and private schools and 10 percent to charter schools, which are public schools chartered by the district but operated by a separate board.

School Utilization
Yinzercation Blog May 14, 2013
Last week we talked about school size – a key issue in the debate over whether to close schools, which ones, and how many. I made the argument that we should probably not fear somewhat larger schools, simply on the basis of size, if they come with adequate resources for the students in every building. [See “School Size”]
But school size alone doesn’t tell us much. We need to know how each building is being utilized. Last night, the Pittsburgh Public School administration shared some new data with the Envisioning Educational Excellence advisory group that sheds some light on this very issue. Here’s what I learned.

Education Policy and Leadership Center
EPLC Education Notebook for May 13, 2013

“After the first three, four, five years of life, if you have neglected that child’s brain development, you can’t go back,” he said. In the middle of the 20th century, our society made a decision to take care of the elderly, once the poorest demographic group in the United States. Now, with Medicare and Social Security, only 9 percent of older people live in poverty. Children are now our poorest group, with almost 25 percent of children under 5 living below the federal poverty level.”
Poverty as a Childhood Disease
New York Times By PERRI KLASS, M.D. MAY 13, 2013, 5:03 PM
At the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies last week, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case by case in the exam room.

The most important problem facing American children today
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm
What is the most important problem facing American children today?
According to the Academic Pediatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is the effects of poverty on the health and well being of young people. But, they concede, there is no sustained focus on childhood poverty, or a unified pediatric voice speaking on the problem, or a comprehensive approach to solving it.

Sequestration: NAEP “Nation’s Report Card” Faces Budget Ax: Social Studies Exams to Be Scaled Back
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog By Erik Robelen on May 14, 2013 4:56 PM
Talk about a teachable moment in civics class. NAEP, a.k.a. "the nation's report card," for civics, history, and geography is being scaled back as a result of budget cuts required through sequestration, as my colleague Alyson Klein reports over at Politics K-12.
The result is that only 8th graders will take the exam for the time being.
The executive committee of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, voted recently to indefinitely postpone the 4th and 12th grade tests, Alyson explains. The exams are next scheduled for 2014.
The action by NAGB came in response to a recommendation from the National Center for Education Statistics. NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley told Alyson the action was not because of any lack of interest in social studies. It was simply "trying to make the best decision from a bad set of options."

Are Vouchers Dead?
The American Prospect by ABBY RAPOPORT MAY 9, 2013
The policy that was once the heart of the school choice movement is losing steam. 
When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy.
Yet conservatives have been dominating legislatures since 2010 and there has been little success in creating voucher programs. Louisiana is one of only two states with such a broad program in place. After the 2010 Tea Party wave there was “a big spike in the number of states considering voucher legislation,” says Josh Cunningham, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). But most of those states didn’t actually pass any bills. Since 2010, four states have created new voucher programs. This year alone, according to NCSL, voucher bills have failed in seven states. While vouchers were once a key piece of the school choice agenda, they now play second fiddle to more popular education reform policies. But are they dead?
“Charter schools are the main thing at this point in time,” says William J. Mathis, managing director at the National Education Policy Center, which studies educational policy. “Vouchers just never seemed to grab traction.”

Who Is Profiting From Charters? The Big Bucks Behind Charter School Secrecy, Financial Scandal and Corruption
What we know about the financial incentives offered by charter schools.
Alternet by Kristin Rawls May 8, 2013  |  
This article is part of a two-part series that looks at mass school closings targeting America’s inner cities and the promise of charter schools as a magic solution to alleged “failing schools.” Part I explained how the charter school movement cynically appropriates civil rights rhetoric, but often leaves the most vulnerable students worse off than before. In Part II, AlterNet looks at a more likely motivation for the “reforms”: Profit.

Navigating School Funding Decisions in Harrisburg |
Webinar for School Boards & Superintendents Wed, May 22, 2013 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM EDT
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
This spring marks the third year that superintendents and school boards are struggling to put together budgets with deeply reduced state funding levels. So what is Harrisburg doing about it?
Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center on Wednesday, May 22nd at 3pm for a webinar on the latest in the state budget debate and what it means for education funding in Pennsylvania

Search underway for PSBA Executive Director
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is a nonprofit statewide association of public school boards, pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for the public schools of the commonwealth.  Founded in 1895, PSBA has a rich history as the first school boards' association established in the United States. Pennsylvania's 4,500 school directors become members by virtue of election to their local board -- the board joins as a whole. Membership in PSBA is by school district or other eligible local education agency such as intermediate unit, vocational school or community college……..
Search by Diversified Search, 1990 M St NW, Suite 570, Washington, DC. Questions may be directed to Interested parties should email their resume and cover letter to Please apply by June 1, 2013 for best consideration.

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

Turning the Page for Change celebration, June 11, 2013
Please join us for the Notebook’s annual Turning the Page for Change celebration on June 11, 2013, from 4:30 - 7 p.m. at the University of The Arts, Hamilton Hall, 320 S. Broad Street. We will be honoring a member of the Notebook community for years of service to our mission as well as honoring several local high school journalists. Help us celebrate another year of achievement that included two awards from the Education Writers Association and coverage of other critical stories like the budget crisis and the school closing process.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District March 2013

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight Keystone State Education Coalition (updated May 2, 2013)
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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