Monday, September 2, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 2, 2013: Trombetta & Assocs. $88K to make the world friendlier for cybercharters

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 2, 2013: Trombetta & Assocs. $88K to make the world friendlier for cybercharters

Save the Date: Pennsylvanians Want a School Funding Formula
Press Event Monday September 23rd, 11:30 am Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg
Grassroots Advocacy by Education Voters PA; Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley and the Keystone State Education Coalition
Sign up here if you may be able to join us to represent your schools and community: more details will follow.

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Upcoming Meetings
1. Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 4th, 10:00 am at the Nittany Lion Inn State College
To consider special education funding and charter schools
2. Save the date: September 19 tentative meeting date in Reading; no venue announced yet
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

Referenced in the indictment, but not the subject of any criminal count, are $40,000 in campaign contributions.  Those contributions represent a small fraction of the political involvement of charter school-related businesses in the political process. They are noteworthy, though, because of the allegation that they were made by executives of Avanti Management Group -- and their spouses -- at Mr. Trombetta's direction, and that the donors were reimbursed by the firm.
Donations from ex-cyber school raise concerns
Former CEO directed funds to campaign contributions
By Rich Lord and Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 1, 2013 12:02 am
Elected officials who received political contributions from former associates of cyber school pioneer Nick Trombetta -- checks referenced in an indictment issued late last month -- said last week that they hadn't known the donations might not be legal.
The indictment of the former CEO of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School spurred some politicians to start tallying Trombetta-related campaign contributions, and to consider what to do with them. Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election committee, for instance, will send back a $5,000 contribution made by Mr. Trombetta in December 2011, campaign manager Mike Barley said last week.

PPG: PA CYBER Founder and Associates Political Donations Summary
$88K to make the world friendlier for cybercharters

91 checks by 10 donors to 28 campaign committees in PA and OH from 2007-2013

Indictment of ex-CEO of cyber charter resonates in Erie
BY ED PALATTELLA, Erie Times-News Sept. 1, 2013
Two years ago, when Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams repeated his call to reform funding of online charter schools, Nick Trombetta said the concerns were unfounded. 
Trombetta was then the chief executive of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which he launched in 2000 from the small town of Midland, near Pittsburgh, and which had grown to enroll 11,000 students statewide.
Trombetta bristled at claims, from Badams and other educators, that unfair funding formulas had allowed the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and other online schools to stockpile taxpayers' money at the expense of traditional school districts.  Trombetta said his school, the largest of its kind in the state, had to borrow money to stay solvent, and he said "we'll be lucky to be balanced at the end of the year."
"We aren't a moneymaking machine," Trombetta told the Erie Times-News in March 2011.
Today, Trombetta, 58, is accused of 11 federal charges that he stole $990,000 in public funds from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School between 2006 and 2012. Trombetta, of East Liverpool, Ohio, left as CEO of the school on June 30, 2012.

“Asked to give Gov. Corbett a grade for his performance on several key issues in the state, respondents were the most critical by far of the governor’s handling of education. Only 11% gave him an A or B for “improving public education,” while an overwhelming 56% gave him a D or F. In fact, 31% – almost a third of those surveyed – gave Gov. Corbett a failing grade on education, a far larger proportion than failed him on any other issue.”
Movements Work
Yinzercation Blog September 2, 2013
In celebration of Labor Day today, it’s a good time to remember that movements work. They’re messy, fractured, and can take an awfully long time, but they work. What we call the labor movement of 19th and 20th centuries was actually scores of different movements, with different leaders, different goals, many painful losses, and some incredibly important wins: child labor laws, the weekend, minimum wage, healthcare, retirement, and major improvements in occupational safety, to name just a few.
But how do we know if our education justice movement is working? Here’s a great clue from a Pennsylvania poll released this past week: respondents listed “education and school funding” as one of the two most important issues facing the state today. Of those surveyed, 23% said it was their top priority, just behind “jobs” and “the economy” (which combined, totaled 28%). 

Early absenteeism in school can point to later problems in life
Back to School/Missing Class: The first of three parts
By Eleanor Chute and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 1, 2013 12:19 am
It's just kindergarten.  Maybe you had that thought when your 5-year-old woke up with a tummy ache or when you wanted to take your youngster on a trip for a few days or when your child missed the school bus.  What's the harm in missing a day -- or two or three -- of school?
Consider this:
Children who miss a significant number of days in kindergarten often continue to miss a significant number of days in first grade.
By third grade, fewer than 1 in 5 of those significantly absent in kindergarten and first grade are at grade level in reading.
By fourth grade, when reading is required to learn just about everything, many never catch up. They may disengage from learning, have behavior problems and later drop out.

Scranton cheating investigation ends with no discipline
Scranton Times-Tribune by Sarah Hofius Hall Sept 2, 2013
When the Scranton School District starts another school year this week, there will be no evidence that cheating on standardized tests was ever suspected. 

Education digest: Volunteers sought to shadow CASD administrators
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By AMBER SOUTH, @AESouthPO September 1, 2013
Chambersburg Area School District Foundation is seeking 17 community members to shadow administrators in each of the district's schools Oct. 11 for the "Principal for a Day" program.
Volunteers will spend the morning following in the footsteps of a principal or assistant principal as they carry out their daily responsibilities, according to Angela Lynch, foundation executive director. The experience will show individuals who support the school district through financial or other means how their work impacts daily operations.
"We're looking for community leaders who are interested in learning more about educational leadership, in terms of supporting the efforts of our school administrators," Lynch said.

Strings attached to Phila. school grant rankle many
Troy Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Monday, September 2, 2013, 1:08 AM
When it comes to educating Philadelphia's public school children, what constitutes "reform" of the system? Opinions vary, but the ones that matter right now reside in Gov. Corbett's administration. That's because Corbett won't release a $45 million grant the School District of Philadelphia needs until his education secretary decides reforms have begun to make the schools better and more fiscally sound.

As the PFT has about 15,000 members, to achieve $103 million in savings comes out to an average of nearly $7,000 per union member. The District is seeking pay reductions ranging from 5 to 13 percent depending on salary level.
As deadline passes, Jordan says progress made, but still no settlement
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 01 2013 Posted in Latest news
Negotiators for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers reached the midnight deadline without reaching agreement on a new contract.  PFT president Jerry Jordan said in an interview that the two sides "made some progress," although there were still many unresolved issues.  Asked if the two sides were still far apart, he said, "There are a number of outstanding issues, we were not close enough to close the deal."
Jordan said that the negotiations would continue Sunday and throughout the holiday weekend. He is still planning to hold a general membership meeting on Monday night.

School unions deserve a friend
Inquirer Letter by Gerald D. Klein Sunday, September 1, 2013, 1:09 AM
Jerry Jordan's teacher union and other unions associated with the School District do not seem to have many friends these days. However, I am in their corner. An important ingredient in a successful school year is teacher and staff morale, and morale will suffer if the concessions others want reduce teacher and staff standards of living. I learned this during a career as a university professor in management. Philadelphia teachers are professionals. They and other school staff do work that is absolutely essential for the commonwealth, often work under conditions that are far from ideal - even abysmal - and are not at all part of the school-funding problem in my view and that of many Philadelphia parents. As other Inquirer letters and editorials have shown, teacher compensation is not at all exorbitant. The funding crisis is a consequence of, among other elements, inadequate state funding - driven, in part, by a nationwide attack on public unions by Republicans, the city's failure to collect revenue it is owed, and legislative dysfunction

“For starters: Make teaching a precarious occupation. Tie pay to test scores. Put teachers on annual contracts to make firing them easier. Stop respecting teacher judgment. Assign grades to schools and close the troubled ones or, preferably, hand them over to charter chains. Abolish recess. Lengthen school days and years. Cut out art, music, physical education, free reading, and other frills and use the time to hammer academics.
Most importantly, tighten the curriculum screws. Focus with intensity on the “core” subjects—math, science, language arts, and social studies. Write standards that tell teachers what to teach, monitor them continuously to make sure they don’t go off script, and give their students high-stakes tests to keep them on their toes. Give the screw-tightening strategy an impressive name that appeals to the conventional wisdom.
Do all this quietly, then roll it out with a massive public relations campaign. Give money to prestigious organizations and media outlets in exchange for support and good press.”
A quiz on America’s core curriculum
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: August 31 at 1:30 pm
How much do you really know about the core curriculum that American students are taught? Exploring this is the following piece — along with a quiz — by Marion Brady, who was a classroom teacher for years, has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall),  professional books, numerous  nationally distributed columns (many are available here), and courses of study.

 “…an Education Week (Gates money: $7,232,037) commentary written by Richard Laine, the education division director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (Gates money:$26,524,137), formerly with the Illinois Business Roundtable, and Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (Gates money: $79,033,200), former Strategic Initiative Director of Standards, Assessment and Accountability, where he led the development and adoption of the Common Core;”

With Help from Bill Gates Beneficiaries, Vermont Secretary of Education Provides Boilerplate Reply to 28 Questions About the Common Core

Vermont Commons Blog by Susan Ohanian 08/29/13
This year, my tax bill to support public education in Vermont is $9,478.32, and, historically, I've felt it was money well spent. Right now, though, I'm frustrated that the Vermont Secretary of Education's answers to my 28 Questions about the Common Core aren't worth a plug nickel. I wanted to know the decision-making process that led Vermont to embrace the Common Core. Secretary of Education Vilaseca tells me, "The answers to many of the questions that you ask are available through work done by national organizations, and I would encourage you use those resources to gain information and answers to your questions." 

What Can Martin Luther King, Jr. Teach Us About Our Education System?
Huffington Post by Diane Ravitch Posted: 08/30/2013 9:30 am
I received a note from an outstanding superintendent in a fine suburban district in New York, someone I greatly admire. He is experienced and wise. He has the support of parents, staff, and community. He runs one of the state's best school districts.  He wrote of the excitement and joy of the beginning of the school year. He talked about the commemoration of Dr. King's legacy. But he ended on a sad note. He said he experienced the sadness and humiliation of telling teachers and students about their test scores and ratings, about how many students had failed the absurd Common Core tests, which meant their teachers too had "failed."
Suddenly, it struck me that the best way to remember Martin Luther King was not to think of him as a statue or an icon, but to take to heart his example. He did not bow his head in the face of injustice. He did not comply. He said no. He said it in a spirit of love and non-violence. But he resisted.

The High Turnover at Charter Schools
New York Times Letters to the Editor Published: August 29, 2013
Re “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice” (front page, Aug. 27):
Thank you for shedding light on the appalling turnover rate for teachers at many charter schools. Research has shown that teacher-student relationships are absolutely crucial to student success. These relationships cannot be built in a year or two.

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 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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