Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 27, 2013: Virtual indictment: How Pa. regulates charter schools is on trial, too

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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 27, 2013:
Virtual indictment: How Pa. regulates charter schools is on trial, too

Federal Indictment Fuels Concerns About Pa. Cyber Charters
Education Week Digistal Education By Benjamin Herold on August 26, 2013 2:14 PM
Federal investigators recently unveiled a grand jury indictment of Nicholas Trombetta, the founder and former CEO of Pennsylvania's largest cyber charter school, now alleged to have stolen nearly $1 million in public money and improperly diverted a total of $8 million to avoid federal income taxes.
The Cliff Notes version of the indictment is that prosecutors allege Trombetta created a byzantine network of companies and nonprofits, then used those entities to bilk PA Cyber Charter School—and taxpayers—by billing the school for work that was never done, using school employees to do work for the other companies, and redirecting funds to himself and family members. Prosecutors also allege that Trombetta took more than $500,000 in kickbacks related to laptop purchases for students and filed false tax returns in each year between 2007 and 2011. All told, Trombetta is facing 11 fraud and tax charges. His accountant, Neal Prence, was also charged.

“But policies that control the flow of tax dollars to cyber schools -- and that pay them the same sums to educate children as district and charter schools with brick-and-mortar facilities -- must be rewritten to make it easy to follow the money, and to make sure it's being spent on worthwhile programming.”
Virtual indictment: How Pa. regulates charter schools is on trial, too
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial August 27, 2013 12:07 am
The guilt or innocence of Nicholas Trombetta is a judgment for another day.
The former school superintendent and founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School -- hailed as the savior of the Beaver County town of Midland, but now charged with 11 counts of federal fraud and tax crimes -- will have a chance to defend himself in court, as is his right.
But it is not too early to see that the policies governing charter schools in Pennsylvania created a climate where it became too difficult to figure out who was paying whom, and for what. That's no way to properly manage public dollars that should be used to educate children, and it is a problem that the Legislature and the Corbett administration can remedy.

“State Sen. Andrew Dinniman of Chester County, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, said local districts would be on the hook for the ost of implementing the standards, estimated at $300 million statewide. He called the plan "a charade" for "raising false hopes and not providing the resources to make those hopes a reality." "We are on the verge of putting onto our schools the largest unfunded mandate in the last 50 years," said Dinniman, who has introduced legislation to block the standards from taking effect until financial concerns are resolved.”
Keystone exams: Senate Committee weighs new standardized test
Kathy Boccella, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Monday, August 26, 2013, 4:38 PM   As both a teacher and a parent in Lower Merion School District, Danielle Arnold-Schwartz has a unique perspective on the state's proposed Keystone exams which students would need to pass in order to graduate from high school starting in 2017. "The exams are not in the best interest of my own children and my students," Arnold-Schwartz said before the start of a public hearing held by the state Senate Education Committee on the controversial tests at Valley Forge Middle School Monday.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20130827_Senate_Committee_weighs_new_standarized_test.html#0LrSHZ16vCkXzuu7.99

Keystone exams: Pa. School District Officials Blast Idea Of Standardized Test Requirement For Graduation
CBS Philly By Jim Melwert August 26, 2013 4:14 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For several hours, school-board members, parents, school super-intendants, and the teachers’ union voiced their displeasure at a hearing Monday over Pennsylvania’s controversial Keystone Exams.
The main issue with the standardized tests is a plan to use them as a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2017, or students now beginning their freshman years.

East Allegheny middle school students offered new courses
East Allegheny middle schoolers will have more class options, and high school students will be able to bring their electronic devices when classes begin on Sept. 3.
“We're starting nine-week courses in a whole slew of new categories,” Logan Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade principal Mark Draskovich said. “We're really excited about the new course offerings.”  Those courses are Pennsylvania History, Creative Writing, Problem Solving/Critical Thinking, Journalism, Current Events and STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Draskovich said they will be offered opposite reading and math enrichment classes. Students who scored proficient or above on the Keystone Exams will be able to try the new classes.
Corbett Forces Out 2nd Education Chief in 3 Months
NBC10 By Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo Monday, Aug 26, 2013 Updated 7:38 PM EDT
Gov. Tom Corbett dismissed his second education secretary in three months on Monday when he asked for the resignation of nominee William Harner over a what one administration official characterized as multiple and inappropriate comments that arose separately from his state service.  Harner's dismissal came after Corbett, a Republican, removed Ron Tomalis in May without explanation.

Ousted acting Education Secretary William Harner issues statement about his accomplishments and firing
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on August 26, 2013 at 5:58 PM, updated August 26, 2013 at 6:33 PM
William Harner, who was dismissed from his position as Gov. Tom Corbett's acting education secretary on Monday, expressed disappointment in not being able to serve longer in the role to which he was appointed in June but looks forward to continuing his work as a school district leader in the future.  The following is a statement he issued through his friend, Carlisle attorney John Abom:
"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Governor Corbett and the residents of the commonwealth in the capacity as acting secretary of education. During my lifetime of service to my state, community, and my nation, these months have been equally rewarding. I am disappointed that I will be unable to continue to serve in this role as we had a strong team in place to improve education for Pennsylvania students.

William Harner, acting Pennsylvania education secretary, resigns abruptly
By Kate Giammarise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 27, 2013 12:22 am
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday forced out his nominee to lead the state Department of Education, William Harner, three months after the selection was announced.
A spokeswoman for the governor declined to say why Mr. Corbett asked for the resignation of Mr. Harner, who had served as acting secretary of education since June 1, other than to say "it is entirely a personnel matter."
Aides to the top two Republican senators, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said the administration had indicated the governor will nominate Carolyn Dumaresq, a former superintendent and teachers union official who is now acting education secretary, to the position. But the governor's communications director, Lynn Lawson, said no decision had been made about a nomination.

Acting Education Secretary William Harner loses two jobs in same year
By PennLive.com  By John Luciew, Eric Veronikis and Jan Murphy
on August 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM, updated August 26, 2013 at 4:57 PM
William Harner would have been out of a job come June 30 if Gov. Tom Corbett had not named him as his acting education secretary, according to a Cumberland Valley School District official.
The Cumberland Valley School Board voted 7 to 2 in a closed-door session to not retain him as the district’s superintendent when his contract expired on June 30, according to the official who spoke on the condition he not be named. Another source familiar with the situation confirmed the account.  On Monday, Harner, 56, of Carlislewas let go from his acting education secretary's job.

Corbett "troubled" by statements of controversial new hire
POSTED: Monday, August 26, 2013, 7:47 AM Gov. Corbett is concerned about the inflammatory social media trail left by a Bucks County tea party leader recently hired by his administration. A top Corbett aide said some statements made by activist-turned-Revenue Department employee Ana Puig are disturbing. "Has she said some things that are troublesome and offensive to the governor? Yes," said  Corbett's communnications direcotr Lynn Lawson in an interview Friday.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/harrisburg_politics/Corbett-troubled-by-statements-of-controversial-new-hire.html#qpdB9miKmmqdBTv8.99

Countdown, Day 14: Most noontime aides rehired; asst. principals to be recalled soon
Notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 26 2013
The School District has recalled 1,109 noontime aides -- rebranded "school safety officers" by their union -- which is just about all of those who had been laid off and had not chosen to leave or retire.  Altogether, according to a document made public Monday, District officials used the $50 million in additional funds promised by the city to restore 907 positions, including some counselors, teachers, and others. That came on top of 742 positions that had been restored with $33 million that Superintendent William Hite eked out of his existing budget, for a total of 1,649.

Open letter to Corbett
Philly.com Opinion by DENNIS M. O'BRIEN POSTED: Monday, August 26, 2013, 12:16 AM
Dennis M. O'Brien (R) is a Philadelphia City Councilman-At-Large.
GOV. CORBETT, it's clear that you want Philadelphia taxpayers and public-school teachers to close the Philadelphia School District's more than $250 million budget gap with tax hikes and pay cuts. You call this "shared sacrifice"; however, the facts tell the true reality. In 2011, you cut state funding for the school district by $308 million, a 19 percent decrease. Of that total, $130 million represented federal stimulus funds that the state had given to public schools over the prior two years in lieu of state funding. The remainder - $178 million, nearly 60 percent of the total - was 100 percent commonwealth funding, having nothing to do with the stimulus.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20130826_Open_letter_to_Corbett.html#EMSyiDSVzwvztF0M.99

“Polls show that one reason for Corbett's low job-approval rating is the perception, stoked by Democratic attacks, that he has slashed spending on public education. Voters notice cuts in their local school districts and ever-increasing property taxes, and they're not happy about it. Education is a make-or-break issue among swing voters in crucial suburban areas, and Corbett's strategists also know that earlier state cutbacks probably have contributed to the gender gap he's facing in the polls.”
…..“But what of the Corbett claim that it is spending more state money on education than at any point in state history? "The only way that works is if you count additional state payments into the pension system" for school employees, said Ron Cowell, president of the EPLC. That was $160 million this year, mandated by law.”
Thomas Fitzgerald: Corbett's people hit back on education spending
Thomas Fitzgerald, Inquirer Politics Writer POSTED: Tuesday, August 27, 2013, 1:08 AM "Obama disgraces the office," said the subject line of an e-mail blast from the Pennsylvania Republican Party last Friday, sent soon after the president finished a speech in Scranton. Sounded serious. Another Watergate? Oval Office sex with an intern, a la Bill Clinton? Benghazi, perhaps? Nope. It seems that President Obama criticized Gov. Corbett, without even mentioning the man's name.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20130827_Thomas_Fitzgerald__Corbett_s_people_hit_back_on_education_spending.html#gJKAAsKuuESQ7VS4.99

Let’s look at the facts about Charter Schools
Axis Philly by Tom Ferrick, Aug. 26, 2013
When some people look at the troubles of the Philadelphia School District they see the rise of charter schools as a major contributing factor. The argument is that the growth charters have undergone in the last decade has siphoned off students and resources from the district.
One theory is that charters are part of a vast conspiracy to undermine public schools and squelch teachers unions; a rightwing campaign to privatize public education.
Those dark forces talked about today were not evident in Pennsylvania in 1997 when the charter law was passed. I know because I was present at the creation.
As we spiral toward some sort of conclusion to the district’s tale of distress it may help to know the facts.

Kellogg Foundation to Invest $5 million in Family Engagement Efforts
Education Week K-12 Parents and the Public Blog By Karla Scoon Reid on August 26, 2013 11:27 PM | No comments
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation plans to invest $5 million to enhance and develop family engagement efforts to support the education of children from birth to age 8 living in low-income and/or minority communities.  Organizations could receive up to $500,000 for one to three years for family engagement models that emphasize family leadership development, effective teaching strategies, and work on aligning early-childhood education programs.
Carla D. Thompson, the Kellogg Foundation's vice president of program strategy, said the foundation hopes to identify and support programs that are helping parents become advocates for not only their children but all children. She said the foundation wants to cultivate parents as education policy advocates as well.

At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: August 26, 2013 32 Comments
HOUSTON — Tyler Dowdy just started his third year of teaching at YES Prep West, a charter school here. He figures now is a good time to explore his next step, including applying for a supervisory position at the school.
Mr. Dowdy is 24 years old, which might make his restlessness seem premature. But then, his principal is 28. Across YES Prep’s 13 schools, teachers have an average of two and a half years of experience.
As tens of millions of pupils across the country begin their school year, charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth cult in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable. Teachers in the nation’s traditional public schools have an average of close to 14 years ofexperience, and public school leaders and policy makers have long made it a priority to reduce teacher turnover.

$5M in new market tax credits to help fund York charter school expansion
NIKELLE SNADER -- The York Dispatch Updated:   08/23/2013 02:50:17 PM EDT
An award of $5 million in new market tax credits will help the York Academy Regional Charter School expand to educate students through eighth grade.
The tax credits were awarded by the Community First Fund, based in Lancaster, to Kinsley Properties, which owns the grounds where the charter school's expansion will occur.
Dan Betancourt, the chief executive officer of the fund, said the charter school was chosen to receive tax credits because of its projected positive impact on the community.
"We get to see an opportunity for young families in York to attend the charter school," Betancourt said. He added that the high quality of education in the school will benefit families of varying income levels.

Charter Schools Benefit From New Markets Tax Credit Financing
Laura Vowell, Vice President and New Markets and Historic Tax Credit Investment Business Development Officer, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation Spring 2011
The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) is a popular and flexible community development financing tool that may be used for both the development of real estate facilities and the funding of operating businesses. Established in 2000, the NMTC Program pairs traditional free-market forces with public resources—essentially teaming up the private sector and the federal government—to bring economic and community development to low-income communities. From job creation to increased access to essential educational, health, and retail services, and from the rehabilitation of blighted communities to the development of renewable energy sources, NMTC projects have benefited neighborhoods throughout the country.
NMTC financing allows community development corporations (CDC) and NMTC equity investors such as the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) to have a substantial positive impact on the communities they serve. The financial health of a project is, of course, important. Most bank CDCs are looking for returns—projects that have solid returns on investment (ROI) in the traditional sense. However, economic concerns are not a CDC’s sole criterion.
CDCs are also looking for projects that benefit their communities in multiple ways and are redefining the term ROI. Facilitating a community’s access to quality education, for example, has been identified as an important aspect of most community development programs. Therefore, charter schools have been a popular project for NMTC investment.

Albany charter cash cow: Big banks making a bundle on new construction as schools bear the cost
Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction.
The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.
In Albany, which boasts the state's highest percentage of charter school enrollments, a nonprofit called the Brighter Choice Foundation has employed the New Markets Tax Credit to arrange private financing for five of the city's nine charter schools.

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
Hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh: Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.
Co-sponsored by Carlow Univ. School of Education, Chatham Univ. Department of Education, Duquesne Univ. School of Education, First Unitarian Church Social Justice Endowment, PA State Education Association, Robert Morris Univ. School of Education & Social Sciences, Slippery Rock Univ. College of Education, Temple Sinai, Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Education, and Westminster College Education Department.
Children’s activities provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s HearMe project. 

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 www.psba.org. 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 http://www.psba.org/elections/.

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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