Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for July 20, 2013: Trombetta cyber school probe nearing an end

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 2250 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?
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More than 2250 PA education policymakers have the Education Policy Roundup from the Keystone State Education Coalition ready with their morning coffee.  If you have colleagues or coworkers who would like to be added to our list please have them send their name, title and affiliation.

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for July 20, 2013:
Trombetta cyber school probe nearing an end

School Choices: Are your PA tax dollars, intended for the classrooms of Chester Upland, funding this 20,000 sq.ft. mansion on the beach instead?

“Because of a long-term deficit in the underfunded pension plan, district contributions to the Public School Employees Retirement System will rise from 12.36 percent to 16.93 percent next year and 21.31 percent the following year.”
The School Tax Vise Taxes soar, but still suburban districts struggle. And the problem's worsening.
Jessica Parks and Chris Palmer, Inquirer Staff Writers POSTED: Sunday, July 21, 2013, 3:01 AM Struggling to pay her taxes and save her Bucks County home, 80-year-old Catherine Gudknecht has worked part time for 17 years on an assembly line. This year, she is making $8.05 an hour. "I really don't know where I'm going to go if I have to give my house up," she told the Bristol Township School Board last month at a public meeting, her eyes welling with tears. "I try to do it on my own, but it's getting hard." In the last 10 years, the school portion of the annual tax bill on her Levittown home has increased about $1,000, to more than $3,300. Despite her emotional plea, taxes went up again July 1. But Bristol's school-tax increase is modest compared with those of other districts in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware Counties.

Trombetta cyber school probe nearing an end
Trombetta focus of federal review of PA Cyber School
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 20, 2013 12:07 am
A federal probe of former employees of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School appears to be reaching a conclusion, according to a letter sent by attorneys to employees of a key vendor of the Beaver County-based online educator.  The recent letter from attorneys Tom Farrell and Jay Reisinger to employees of the National Network of Digital Schools Management Foundation names PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta and is the first public indication that he is the central figure in the grand jury investigation.  The nonprofit NNDS, which was founded by Mr. Trombetta in 2005, manages PA Cyber and provides its curriculum.
"All signs are that the investigation is coming to a close, and a decision to charge individuals or to decline to bring any charges is imminent," according to the letter, dated this month and obtained Friday by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

House votes to replace 'No Child Left Behind' education law By The Associated Press  on July 19, 2013 at 5:33 PM
WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted Friday to dismantle the troubled No Child Left Behind law for evaluating America's students and schools, saying states and local school districts rather than Washington should be setting rules for ensuring that kids are getting good educations.
The legislation would eliminate federally required testing of students, which has been controversial from the start. But the measure passed with no Democratic support and drew a veto threat from the Obama administration, which said it would be a "step backward" in efforts to better prepare children for colleges and careers and to bring improvements to low-performing schools.
Democrats in the Senate, where they hold the majority, are working on their own bill. It would also give states greater flexibility in designing school improvement standards. But it would maintain the authority of the federal education secretary to approve those plans. A Senate vote on that legislation is unlikely until autumn.
The House bill, which Republicans named the Student Success Act and Democrats dubbed the Letting Students Down Act, passed 221-207, with every Democrat, and 12 Republicans voting against it.

“NSBA supports the bill’s overwhelming shift in direction to ensure that greater flexibility and governance will be restored to local school boards during this Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  The bill clearly acknowledges that the footprint of the federal government in K-12 education must be reduced.  Despite NSBA’s concerns with several provisions, NSBA supports final passage of the bill given the overall benefits of the final legislation.”
NSBA praises House passage of ESEA bill
NSBA’s School Board News by Joetta Sack-Min Today July 19, 2013
The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  is pleased that Student Success Act, H.R. 5, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 221-207. H.R. 5 is the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.
Key elements of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, were incorporated in H.R. 5, with some provisions included in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce bill and others in an amendment on local school district flexibility offered by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).

Pa. budget's education funding smoke, mirrors (Guest essay)
Chamberburg Public Opinion Online By SUSAN SPICKA July 18, 2013
The day after the 2013-14 Pennsylvania budget was signed, Gov. Tom Corbett and his political allies practically dislocated their shoulders as they patted themselves on the back for providing public schools with what they described as increases in state funding.
They even proudly proclaimed that Pennsylvania is providing more state funding to our public schools than ever before.  If only their press releases and newsletters contained something more than political spin and accounting gimmicks.

Pa. must respond to the school crisis BY SEN. VINCENT HUGHES POSTED: July 18, 2013
AS THE various elements of the imperfect funding package for the Philadelphia School District come into place, it is important to understand the context in which it was cobbled together, its specifics, the one silver lining and what must be done about education funding in Pennsylvania going forward.  Here's the context: Gov. Corbett, playing out his part in the national attack on public education, cut over $1 billion from education funding statewide in his first three years. These cuts caused a drop in test scores, over 20,000 jobs being eliminated, classroom and extracurricular programs being reduced and over 70 percent of the school districts in Pennsylvania raising property taxes to make up for the loss in state funding.

School safety grant program being readied for fall rollout
By Jan Murphy |  on July 19, 2013 at 5:52 PM
Schools and municipalities hoping to get a share of the school safety grant money included in the 2013-14 state budget to pay for school police or school resource officers will have to wait until last August or early September to apply.
The state Department of Education is going through the process of finalizing guidelines for this $8.5 million competitive grant program, said department press secretary Tim Eller.
A notice will be issued when that process is completed and the application period opens, he said.

Schools with school police and resource officers on the payroll
This link is from the PennLive article above.

CTU calls CPS’s 2,113 teacher and other staff layoffs ‘a bloodbath’
Chicago Sun Times BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter July 18, 2013 6:55PM
Chicago Public Schools officials announced late Thursday that 2,113 teachers and other employees would be laid off Friday, largely due to a giant pension obligation increase that’s straining the system.  “In fiscal year ‘14 we’re facing a historic deficit of $1 billion that is driven primarily by a $400 million increase in our annual teacher pension payments,” said CPS spokesman Becky Carroll. “Absent pension reform in Springfield, we have very few options available to us to close that gap, and that has resulted in bringing this crisis to the doorsteps of our schools.”

“But the real world is proving to be a difficult place for Hanushek’s theories to be verified. No school has ever replicated the results predicted by his “four great teachers in a row” theory. In fact, there is no real research to support the idea that we can improve student achievement this way—it is all based on extrapolations.”
Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers By Anthony Cody July 19, 2013
Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, and spent 18 years teaching middle school science. He now leads workshops focused on Project Based Learning.
Earlier this month in New Zealand, the minister of education Hekia Parata shared a piece of knowledge that has become common the world over. In the Southland Times, “Experts have found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.”  The source of this is an American economist by the name of Eric Hanushek, a professor at Stanford University, who has been spreading this for the past several years. According to Hanushek, “Good teachers are ones who get large gains in student achievement for their classes; bad teachers are just the opposite.”

Don’t fall for Wal-Mart’s latest hypocrisy
While the retail giant's P.R. machine chugs along, the truth behind the press releases is dark and ugly BY JAMILA AISHA BROWN THURSDAY, JUL 18, 2013 02:54 PM EDT
Protester outside a Walmart store (Credit: Reuters/Noah Berger)
Last month, amid the flap enveloping disgraced celebrity chef Paula Deen, Wal-Mart put on a face of corporate responsibility. “We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed,” its official statementread.
Yet, behind the appearances of zero tolerance for the kind of hostile work environment — rife with racial slurs, discrimination and harassment – that Deen allegedly fostered, was a deep irony. Wal-Mart, like Deen, was engaging in its own bullying right around the same time.

National School Boards Action Center July 2013
Join the Friends of Public Education and participate in a voluntary network to urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support federal legislation on Capitol Hill that is critical to providing high quality education to America’s schoolchildren.  Federal legislation has direct policy and financial impact on your local public schools and students, and federal legislators need to hear the local impact – directly from you, their constituent.  By becoming a part of the Friends of Public Education, you are joining a national campaign to support a strong public education for all students.  When you sign up, you will receive information on critical education legislation and NSBAC will ask you to contact your members of Congress at key strategic times during the legislative process.  NSBAC will notify you through calls to action and provide sample letters that you can personalize so you can easily communicate with your elected federal leaders.
So, join today.  (…And recruit your friends and family to do the same).
Thank you for your support for America’s schoolchildren.

Yinzers - Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm.  Location and details to come.

Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Philly at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17 at 7:30 pm.  Details to come.

Know Your Child’s Rights! 2013-2014 Special Education Seminars
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia July 9, 2013
The Law Center’s year-long Know Your Child’s Rights! seminar series on special education law continues in 2013-2014 with day and evening trainings focused on securing special education rights and services.  These seminars are intended for parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and others who are in a position to help children with disabilities receive an appropriate education. Every session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability and is co-led by a Law Center staff attorney and a guest speaker.
This year’s topics include Tips for Going Back to School; Psychological Testing, IEEs and Evaluations; School Records; Children with Autism; Transition Services; Children with Emotional Needs; Discipline and Bullying; Charter Schools; Children with Dyslexia; Extended School Year; Assistive Technology; Discrimination and Compensatory Education; and, Settlements. See below for descriptions and schedules of each session.

PSBA members will elect officers electronically for the first time in 2013
PSBA 7/8/2013
Beginning in 2013, PSBA members will follow a completely new election process which will be done electronically during the month of September. The changes will have several benefits, including greater membership engagement and no more absentee ballot process.
Below is a quick Q&A related to the voting process this year, with more details to come in future issues of School Leader News and at More information on the overall governance changes can be found in the February 2013 issue of the PSBA Bulletin:

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference
October 15-18, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Important change this year: Delegate Assembly (replaces the Legislative Policy Council) will be Tuesday Oct. 15 from 1 – 4:30 p.m.
The PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference is the largest gathering of elected officials in Pennsylvania and offers an impressive collection of professional development opportunities for school board members and other education leaders.
See Annual School Leadership Conference links for all program details.

PAESSP State Conference October 27-29, 2013
The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA
The state conference is PAESSP’s premier professional development event for principals, assistant principals and other educational leaders. Attending will enable you to connect with fellow educators while learning from speakers and presenters who are respected experts in educational leadership.
 Featuring Keynote Speakers: Charlotte Danielson, Dr. Todd Whitaker, Will Richardson & David Andrews, Esq. (Legal Update).

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.

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 Prior Posting
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny

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