Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 21, 2013: Of the 1,741 appeals received by the PA Office of Open Records for denied information requests, 23% pertain to charter schools.

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 May 21, 2013:
Of the 1,741 appeals received by the PA Office of Open Records for denied information requests, 23% pertain to charter schools.


“In fact, Terry Mutchler, head of the state Office of Open Records, has publicly denounced charter schools' lack of openness. Since the open-records law was passed four years ago, she says, charter schools have provided more obstacles to opening their records to the public than has any other type of agency.
Mutchler says charters are "one of the top violators across the commonwealth, repeatedly, at every level. When a citizen appeals, they are flat-out ignored. We order them to release records, and those orders get ignored. Their response borders on arrogant."
Of the 1,741 appeals received by the Office of Open Records for denied information requests, 23 percent pertain to charter schools.”
DN Editorial: We need more info, not less, about Pa. charter schools
POSTED: October 11, 2012
SINCE ACT 22 enabled charter schools in the state 15 years ago, charters have expanded exponentially; Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend about $1 billion a year on 73,000 students enrolled in "bricks and mortar" and cyber-charter schools. With charters championed by lawmakers as a key alternative to traditional public schools, expect even more.
But we are also at a particular tipping point for charters, since more voices are expressing concern that charters are a path to dismantling the traditional public system to put education - and lots of public money - in the hands of private companies with little or no accountability.

Charter schools are publicly funded and should be fully accountable to the taxpayers.
Still waiting on this one…..
Commonwealth Court says Chester Community Charter School must disclose salaries under Right-to-Know request Feb. 29, 2012
Chester Community Charter School (Charter School) appeals an order
of the  Delaware County  Court of Common Pleas (trial court)  directing Charter
School to produce  a number of salary and contract documents requested by  a
newspaper reporter,  Daniel Hardy,  on behalf of  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  In
doing so, the trial court affirmed a decision of the Pennsylvania Office of Open
Records (OOR) that the records were subject to disclosure even though they were
in the possession of a private party that had contracted with Charter School

Seven years later…..
Charter school should reveal deal, court says
February 17, 2006 By Dan Hardy INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.  The school has asked the court to reconsider. A decision on that request is expected within the next 60 days.

Will lawmakers trade booze for new highway money?: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on May 20, 2013 at 7:48 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
State lawmakers start a two-week break this morning, not to return to voting session until June 3. But that doesn't mean the wheels of government aren't grinding slowly, mercilessly onward.
As we noted on Sunday, the chances for a booze privatization deal before the June 30 deadline are looking increasingly remote, what with all the opposition in the Republican-controlled state Senate.  But as our pal Brad Bumsted of The Tribune-Review notes this morning, there's speculation that approval of a privatization plan (which the Senate doesn't want) could come in exchange for a transportation funding package (which the House doesn't want).
But getting two, big-ticket items done in the hothouse environment of June could be a big lift for the General Assembly.

Corbett orders delay in Common Core academic standards' implementation
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on May 20, 2013 at 6:12 PM
Less than two months from when Pennsylvania school districts were expected to begin implementing the controversial Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered a delay.  Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said the governor made that decision to push off the implementation date beyond July 1 after consulting with lawmakers.
Last week, it became clear inHouse and Senate education committees' meetings that not all lawmakers were on board with the move to these grade-level learning expectations that would have brought Pennsylvania public school instruction more in unison with the standards that 44 other states and the District of Columbia were in the process of implementing.

Summer breeze……..
“The postponement will push review and acceptance into late summer.
Under state law, the Board of Education adopts standards. Then the governor's budget and policy offices review the standards and the budget office issues a fiscal note outlining estimated costs. From there, the standards are sent simultaneously to the House and Senate education committees and the regulatory commission.
The commission has 30 days to post the standards for public review. The legislative committees have 20 days to review them. The standards are deemed approved under state law if the legislative committees do not act.
Since the Legislature is not in session in July and August, the committees would have to call special session — or let them quietly sail into effect on a summer breeze.”
Gov. Tom Corbett postpones legislative vote on controversial Common Core education standards
Postponement could allow lawmakers to escape suddenly mounting public anger.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 8:55 p.m. EDT, May 20, 2013
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett decided Monday to postpone seeking final legislative and regulatory approval for new education standards that are facing mounting criticism across the political and ideological spectrums.
The delay may give lawmakers a reprieve from potential voter backlash arising suddenly over Pennsylvania Common Core Standards in English and math.
However, Corbett's decision does not mean the state Department of Education plans to scrap the standards, which have been in the works since 2010 and are tied to the Keystone graduation exams students started taking this school year. The standards were scheduled for approval this week by the House and Senate education committees and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission before local school boards had to adopt them, too, prior to the July 1 start of the 2013-14 school year.

Corbett asks for 'modifications' to Pa.'s proposed regulations on school standards
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau May 21, 2013 12:04 am
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett is recommending changes to a set of education regulations that have been criticized by both Democrats and conservatives.  A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education said that, after speaking with legislators, Mr. Corbett decided on Monday to direct the agency to recommend "minor modifications" to regulations governing both a new set of academic standards and end-of-course exams that will become a graduation requirement.

Ward, from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the bill is “ineffective” in closing tax loopholes.  “Many Pennsylvania companies continue to game the system,” she said. “It doesn’t do what it says it does. It will allow companies to continue to take advantage of loopholes, and that means that frankly they have an advantage over Pennsylvania companies (that don’t use loopholes). If you’re going to close loopholes, you should really close them.”
Tax reform bill heads to Senate
PhillyBurbs.com By Crissa Shoemaker DeBree Staff writer Posted on May 19, 2013
The Pennsylvania Senate will consider a measure that would reduce corporate taxes and close the so-called “Delaware loophole” that allows Pennsylvania firms to avoid paying taxes by setting up holding companies in the neighboring state.  House Bill 440, which passed the House earlier this month by a vote of 129-65, has the support of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, which says it will make the state more competitive to attract businesses.
“Incremental improvements adopted under previous administrations have helped create a climate more conducive to business investment,” chamber president Gene Barr said in a statement. “But the corporate tax rate specifically — the highest effective rate in the world when considering federal taxes — remains a huge red flag.”
Opponents claim the bill fails to truly close loopholes in Pennsylvania’s corporate tax code.

A Rolling Rally
Yinzercation Blog May 20, 2013
The wheels on the bus go round and round … Yesterday over 100 parents, students, teachers, and community members got on yellow buses for a tour of Pittsburgh. We drove through neighborhoods impacted by four rounds of school closures during the past ten years. Along the way we heard from students who told us about the effects of displacement from multiple school relocations and their disrupted education. And we got pledges from elected officials as well as candidates for school board, city council, and mayor, who agreed to three specific points in our grassroots call to action:

“The approval makes Harrisburg the first school district in Pennsylvania to approve a recovery plan since Act 141 took effect last July.”
Distressed Districts: Harrisburg School District approves recovery plan, secures $6.4M loan
By Emily Previti | epreviti@pennlive.com  on May 17, 2013 at 6:34 PM
The Harrisburg School District Board of School Directors voted 9-0 Friday to approve the recovery plan meant to help the district resolve its financial troubles and improve students' academic performance.   "We can no longer allow the past to hinder our future.," said Board President Jennifer Smallwood. "Is this plan perfect? No, it isn't. but we'll use it as the blueprint it's intended to be."

Distressed Districts: Duquesne youngsters could end up at W. Mifflin
McKeesport Daily News  By Patrick Cloonan   May 18, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
A plan to transfer Duquesne Education Center elementary students to West Mifflin Area schools is back in play.  “Discussions with West Mifflin Area have resumed in regard to the enrollment of K-6 students for the 2013-2014 school year,” court-appointed Duquesne City School District receiver Paul B. Long said in an email on Friday to faculty members and administrative staff.
“There are several scenarios with varying involvement of grade levels and schools that are being considered,” Long continued, in an email The Daily News received through other sources. “Nothing is yet final. However, I expect that a preferred scenario will become clear over the next few weeks.”
“The real problem is that the school district's request for $120 million is $30 million more than the proposed increase in basic education budget for the entire state.”
Karen Heller: Not investing in Pa. students now will cost us later
By Karen Heller, Inquirer Columnist May 19, 2013
We're in budget season, which means the city school district is experiencing yet another round of asking for money from local and state governments that have grown inured to the perpetual crisis, as common a sign of spring as azaleas.
In Harrisburg, donor fatigue has set in, a weariness to throw more millions at the perpetual well of need with little to show. And there is little love.

Philly Counselors United May 2013
Every student in Philadelphia deserves a School Counselor!
The School District of Philadelphia’s administration has decided that due to the budget deficit for the upcoming 2013-14 school year that one of the “services” that students of the district could live without would be school counselors.  Currently there is at least one school counselor in every school but next year that could all change if the district passes the current budget proposal.  The role of the school counselor has long been undefined and we have always played a “multi-purpose” role.  To that end, if school counselors are eliminated, students could be without the following services:

Special education: School officials say legal expenses big factor in rise in special education costs
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era By GIL SMART  Staff Writer  gsmart@lnpnews.com Updated May 19, 2013 20:14
When all else fails, you can always call an attorney.
Local school officials say one of the reasons special education spending has risen in recent years is that legal costs are skyrocketing.  Parents, better educated about the law and the schools' requirements than ever before, are more apt to call a lawyer if they don't think schools are doing all they can to provide their kids an "appropriate" public education in the "least restrictive environment."

Special education faces dilemma
As costs rise and revenues don’t, school budgets are threatened
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Sunday News
By GIL SMART Staff Writer  gsmart@lnpnews.com May 19, 2013 06:00
Inside the "sensory room" at Pequea Elementary School, all is calm — by design.
Here, students with autism or similar disorders can escape the classroom cacophony. Kids can crawl through gauzy colored tubes, relax in a rope swing, dig in a sand pit or squeeze through a "steamroller," a device designed to exert soothing pressure.
The colors and textures help stimulate, develop or balance kids' sensory systems, says Theresa Kreider, Penn Manor School District director of student support. It works — and now the district is outfitting a second sensory room at Central Manor Elementary School.
The accommodations aren't unique to Penn Manor. The School District of Lancaster, for example, has a sensory room at Carter & MacRae Elementary School and is planning a second at Price Elementary. And they're not particularly pricey — Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said it cost about $3,000 to furnish the room, a drop in the ocean when it comes to the district's overall special education spending.
And yet, at Penn Manor and every other school district in Lancaster County, the water level is rising — and threatens to swamp school budgets.

“But perhaps the most compelling fact is that private and religious schools would not have to accept all students—and could expel any student for just about any reason they choose.”
What’s wrong with school ‘choice’? Here’s what.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, May 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm
The idea of giving students a choice of where to go school — with public funds — may sound good, but there are problems attached. The following post explains some of them. It was written by David A. Pickler, president of the National School Boards Association and former chairman and now member of Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education.

Tennessee Charters Lose Struggling Students Before State Tests
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav May 20, 2013
Tennessee charters have learned the secret to high test scores: push out low-performing students right before testing time.
That way, the charter keeps the money, and the public school gets the low score.

 “A projected 210,000 children would lose eligibility for free school meals as well.”
House Committee OKs massive cuts to food stamps in farm bill
MSNBC byNed Resnikoff@resnikoff 3:09 PM on 05/17/2013 UPDATED: May 18, 12:16 p.m.
The Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee on Thursday approved a version of the 2013 farm bill that cuts more than $20 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over 10 years.

GOP looks at big cuts for Labor, Education, HHS
Politico By DAVID ROGERS | 5/16/13 6:09 PM EDT
House Republicans late Thursday began circulating new spending targets for appropriations bills for the coming year with Labor, Education and Health and Human Services facing a nearly 20 percent reduction on top of the cuts already made in the March 1 sequestration order.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) appears to be backloading the larger reductions in order to salvage a few of the 12 annual bills this summer.

EPLC Education Policy Fellowship Program – Apply Now
Applications are available now for the 2013-2014 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).
With more than 350 graduates in its first fourteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 12-13, 2013 and continues to graduation in June 2014.

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 PSBA@divsearch.com. Interested parties should email their resume and cover letter to PSBA@divsearch.com. 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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