Monday, August 26, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 26, 2013: Pennsylvania officials: Expand oversight of cyber education

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, the acting PA Secretary of Education, 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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Hey Yinzers/Yo Philly - GOT RAVITCH?

Sept. 16 Pittsburgh; Sept 17 Philly

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 26, 2013:
Pennsylvania officials: Expand oversight of cyber education

There was big news in our weekend posting……
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 24, 2013:
Fed, state probes target PA’s largest charter schools
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, August 24, 2013
Federal grand jury indicts PA Cyber Charter School founder Nicholas Trombetta and his accountant

Pennsylvania officials: Expand oversight of cyber education
TribLive By Debra Erdley Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
An 11-count federal indictment charging the founder of the state's largest cyber charter school with skimming nearly $1 million for himself from the school he founded underscores the need for tougher state oversight, government officials and educators said.
“Clearly, we need to address openness, accountability, accreditation and the funding stream for these schools,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.
The indictment, announced Friday by U.S. Attorney David Hickton, accuses PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta — who resigned as the school's CEO in June 2012 — of using connected profit and nonprofit organizations to skim nearly $1 million in public money for himself from the taxpayer-funded school.
More labor peace in schools
Kathy Boccella, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Sunday, August 25, 2013, 1:09 AM
As parents and students hustle to back-to-school sales and teachers prepare their curriculums for the new year, something unfamiliar is in the late-summer air in several large suburban school districts: labor peace. Bitter, high-profile contract battles in the Pennsbury, Phoenixville Area, and Neshaminy School Districts all ended in deals in recent months. In the case of Neshaminy, the squabble had dragged on for five years. With a slowly improving yet uncertain economy, teachers and other union staffers generally won modest pay hikes but gave back some benefits. Not that all is quiet, and Philadelphia doesn't have a monopoly on labor acrimony.

Teachers struggle to find jobs in tough Delaware County market
Delco Times By JEFF WOLFE @delcoreporter  August 26, 2013
Many feel called to be teachers, but when it comes to finding a job in education few are being chosen in Delaware County.
It’s not that school districts don’t have at least some openings. Upper Darby School District hired approximately 60 new teachers during the summer and Springfield hired 23. But Garnet Valley, with its 5,000 students in the district, hired just four, and Ridley School District actually cut 12 teaching positions.  The issue is that there are a lot of recent education graduates making the supply of potential teachers easily outweigh the schools’ demand. Several area administrators say it’s not uncommon to receive hundreds of applications for just one position.

“Anyone tempted to think that last year -- Pennsylvania's first year without a teachers strike in more than four decades -- ushered in a new and less confrontational era may want to hold that thought.”
As semester looms, teacher contract tensions persist
By Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 26, 2013 12:05 am
In the Shaler Area School District -- one of 11 school districts in Allegheny County holding teacher contract talks as the school year begins -- time is running out.
The teachers union, working without a contract since summer 2011, says it will strike if a settlement is not reached by the Sept. 3 start of classes.

Inquirer Editorial: Crisis requires union action
POSTED: Sunday, August 25, 2013, 1:09 AM Other than the children, there are no innocents in this city's inability to avert a funding disaster in its public schools. The teachers' union can't portray itself as just as victimized as students. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has consistently refused to indicate any willingness to make concessions. So it has no one to blame but itself for the School Reform Commission's decision to unilaterally take needed steps to address the crisis.

“And who is the Philadelphia School Partnership? According to their website, they are a collection of bankers, lawyers and political operatives. They work in secret. They are not elected. And they have more influence over our schools than parents or the community.”
Letters: Who are the Philadelphia School Partnership?
Philoly daily News letter by Kia Hinton POSTED: Monday, August 26, 2013, 12:16 AM
AS A PARENT of children in the Philadelphia school system, I can't help but notice that the Philadelphia School Partnership seems to be behind every misguided school policy reported on in this newspaper.

Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors

Pennsylvania School Boards Association staff unique in qualifying for public pensions
TribLive By The Associated Press Published: Monday, August 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
HARRISBURG — Although many workers covered by Pennsylvania's major public pension systems are not state employees, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association staff is unique among them.  The association represents the state's 500 local school boards and, among other things, advocates on their behalf in Harrisburg.
It is the only such interest group whose employees qualify for public pensions.
Obama talks education, but jabs at Gov. Corbett and GOP
Scranton Times Tribune BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK (STAFF WRITER) August 24, 2013
Arguing a higher education is more important than ever to good-paying jobs, President Barack Obama laid out his plan to reduce college costs and help students manage their college debt while indirectly chiding Gov. Tom Corbett for "brutal cuts" to education.  "Higher education is not a luxury, it's an economic necessity, and every American should be able to afford it," Mr. Obama told more than 2,700 people late Friday afternoon at Lackawanna College.

$520M in PA education budget lines cut or reduced since 2009 (pre-Obama stimulus):

Likely to Succeed
Amanda Ripley’s ‘Smartest Kids in the World’
New York Times Book Review By ANNIE MURPHY PAUL August 22, 2013
“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World,” may lead readers to imagine that her book belongs to a very particular and popular genre. We love to read about how other cultures do it better (stay slim, have sex, raise children). In this case, Ripley is offering to show how other nations educate students so much more effectively than we do, and her opening pages hold out a promising suggestion of masochistic satisfaction. “American educators described Finland as a silky paradise,” she writes, “a place where all the teachers were admired and all the children beloved.”

How to teach
Aug 20th 2013, 21:21 by Video runtime 8:31
AMANDA RIPLEY discusses "The Smartest Kids in the World", her new book about what schools in Finland, Poland and South Korea are doing right

Reprise Sept. 2012: Our failing public schools: 104 of 141 members of JPL’s Mars team graduated from public schools
“The overwhelming proportion of the Mars exploration team came from America's public high schools. A JPL website, "Zip code Mars," carries brief bios of the Mars team. When this article was written, 141 names were posted.  Of those, 104 graduated from public high schools.”
Our public schools still launch Earth's best, brightest thinkers
Los Angeles Daily News By Ralph E. Shaffer Posted:   09/01/2012 04:49:46 PM PDT
CRITICS of American education ought to be holding their tongues these days. The almost unbelievable success of the Curiosity mission to Mars should have silenced them.
But despite the brilliant achievement of America's space pioneers, the uninformed and opportunistic continue to make our public school system a whipping boy. That they are wrong is demonstrated by the educational background of the engineers and scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab in La Ca ada Flintridge - men and women who built Curiosity and landed it on Mars. Their efforts convincingly demonstrate that America's public schools still nurture Earth's finest minds.
The critics won't be interested, for the facts interfere with their agenda. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in his keynote speech to the Republican convention last week, charged that American education is not competitive with the rest of the world. Without saying it, Christie was comparing America's Olympic medal collection to what he believes is our dismal performance in educating our children.
However, if the space race was an Olympic competition, the team at JPL would have won more gold, silver and bronze than the rest of the nations combined.  The overwhelming proportion of the Mars exploration team came from America's public high schools. A JPL website, "Zip code Mars," carries brief bios of the Mars team. When this article was written, 141 names were posted.  Of those, 104 graduated from public high schools.

 “The Justice Department's primary argument is that letting students leave for vouchered private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Those orders almost  always set rules for student transfers with the school system.  Federal analysis found that last year's Louisiana vouchers increased racial imbalance in 34 historically segregated public schools in 13 systems. The Justice Department goes so far as to charge that in some of those schools, "the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration."
U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems
By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune 
on August 24, 2013 at 11:02 AM, updated August 24, 2013 at 8:38 PM
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana inNew Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers "impeded the desegregation process," the federal government says.  Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems  to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

“The commercial companies that manage virtual schools have come under heightened scrutiny from lawmakers, who fear their outsize influence on public education policy.
While many educators believe online instruction can benefit students in some circumstances, they have also raised concerns over insufficient financial oversight and poor academic performance in full-time virtual schools.”
In Texas, Cyberschools Grow, Fueling New Concerns
New York Times/Texas Tribune By MORGAN SMITH Published: August 24, 2013
The number of full-time cyberschools serving Texas public school students will double in the coming school year despite a history of lackluster performance and a new law limiting the number of online courses that public school students are allowed to take at the state’s expense.

Feds Charges Pa. Cyber Charter School Founder
Education Week By The Associated Press Published Online: August 23, 2013
The founder and former CEO of Pennsylvania's largest cyber-charter school has been charged with siphoning more than $8 million from the school through a network of companies, then scheming with his accountant to avoid income taxes.
Nicholas Trombetta surrendered to the FBI on Thursday on charges announced Friday in Pittsburgh. They stem from his tenure at The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which he founded in Midland in 2000, and from which he drew an annual salary between $127,000 and $141,000 during the years covered by the indictment, 2006 to 2012.

The Biggest Fallacy of the Common Core Standards
Huffington Post by Diane Ravitch Historian, NYU professor Posted: 08/24/2013 8:08 am
Boosters of the Common Core national standards have acclaimed them as the most revolutionary advance in the history of American education.
As a historian of American education, I do not agree.
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core national standards, and they are being implemented this year.
Why did 45 states agree to do this? Because the Obama administration had $4.35 billion of Race to the Top federal funds, and states had to adopt "college-and-career ready standards" if they wanted to be eligible to compete for those funds. Some states, like Massachusetts, dropped their own well-tested and successful standards and replaced them with the Common Core, in order to win millions in new federal funds.
Is this a good development or not?

“Pennsylvania budget secretary Charles Zogby said his state managed to get through the first round of sequestration budget cuts without massive cuts in personnel—but that may change. “Thus far, that hasn’t been part of the challenge. It may be in round two,” he said.
Pennsylvania and many other states are on a firmer financial footing now than they have been since the recession, but they don’t have enough money to compensate for additional federal cuts.”
States Brace for New Round of Sequester Cuts
Stateline (Pew Charitable Trusts) By Elaine S. Povich, Staff Writer August 21, 2013
States have been forced to gear up for a potential second round of across-the-board federal spending cuts after Congress left for its summer recess without a budget deal.
Another round of sequestration would reduce federal spending on everything from Meals on Wheels to Head Start, according to Federal Funds Information for States. FFIS is a Washington group that helps states manage their federal money.
On average, the federal budget accounts for about 30 percent of state revenues, making it the largest single source of money for many states. About 90 percent of the federal dollars come in the form of grants. About three-quarters of those grant programs would be subject to sequestration, according to an FFIS report.

A Guide To The Nation's Most Vulnerable Governors August 25, 2013
If you're looking for the most interesting gubernatorial races to watch in the coming year, the nation's biggest states are a good place to start.
Democrats Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo look like safe bets for re-election in California and New York, respectively. And, despite the pending retirement of Rick Perry, Republicans are confident of maintaining their hold on the governor's mansion in Texas.
But Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois all feature embattled incumbents whose reelection campaigns will easily cost tens of millions of dollars. Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder could also face a real contest.

In D.C., controversy over academic testing has new frontier: preschool
Washington Post By Michael Alison Chandler, Published: August 24
The controversy over academic testing has spread to an unlikely frontier in Washington: preschool.  Some D.C. parents are protesting a proposal by the city’s public charter school board to rank preschools based largely on how children as young as 3 are performing on reading and math tests.

Acting PA Education Secretary to speak at Lancaster Lebanon IU 13 on Sept. 10
Penn Manor SD website by Brian Wallace August 16, 2013
William Harner, the acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, will speak Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, 1020 New Holland Ave. The address is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. School administrators, board members, teachers’ union representatives, PTO/PTA officers and others interested in education issues are urged to attend. Registration is requested by Sept. 6 at :

Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee Public hearing on Common Core
Thursday, August 29, 2013, 9:30 AM Capitol, Hearing Room 1, North Office Bldg.

Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Philly at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17 at 7:30 pm..
Diane Ravitch | Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
When: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 7:30PM 
Central Library
Cost: $15 General Admission, $7 Students
Ticket and Subscription Packages 
Tickets on sale here:

Yinzers - Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
5505 Forbes Avenue  Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
Free and open to the public; doors open at 5:00 pm
The lecture is being hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh, which is a new coalition of community, faith, and labor organizations consisting of Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.  Co-sponsors for the event include the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, the PA State Education Association, Temple Sinai, and First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh Social Justice Endowment.

Join the National School Boards Action Center Friends of Public Education
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

PSBA is accepting applications to fill vacancies in NSBA's grassroots advocacy program. Deadline to apply is Sept. 6.
PSBA members: Influence public education policy at the federal level; join NSBA's Federal Relations Network
The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in filling vacancies for the remainder of the 2013-14 term of the Federal Relations Network. The FRN is NSBA's grassroots advocacy program that provides the opportunity for school board members from every congressional district in the country who are committed to public education to get involved in federal advocacy. For more than 40 years, school board members have been lobbying for public education on Capitol Hill as one unified voice through this program. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start!

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:

Electing PSBA Officers: 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates
Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online now
PSBA Website Posted 8/5/2013
The 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates is being officially published to the members of the association. Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online at

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).

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