Friday, September 13, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 13, 2013: Forbes: Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City (using “other people’s money”)

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, 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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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 13, 2013: Forbes: Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City (using “other people’s money”)

Pennsylvanians Want a School Funding Formula
Press Event Monday September 23rd, 11:30 am Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves an opportunity to learn, whether they are from large or small, rich or not-so-rich, urban, suburban or rural school districts, charter schools or cyber schools; whether their legislator is a freshman state representative or a senate officer.
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: 

Have you signed this petition yet?
One thing that all sides in the education debate in PA seem to agree upon is the need for a fair and adequate funding formula
“One area that got consensus among the committee and the audience was the idea of creating a state-funding formula for schools. Ours is among the few states that don't take into account differences in wealth, achievement and size among school districts to make sure that all schools have equitable funding.”
DN Editorial: Tribal warfare
POSTED: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 3:01 AM
A STATE hearing on education funding Tuesday held at the Franklin Institute often seemed not so much a hearing as a temporary détente among warring factions. Overseen by Reps. Mike Sturla and Brian Sims, of the House Democratic Policy committee, the proceedings tapped a variety of voices representing charters, parents, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Philadelphia School Partnership. These factions are rarely in the same room together, and even more rarely agree on public-education fixes. One area that got consensus among the committee and the audience was the idea of creating a state-funding formula for schools. Ours is among the few states that don't take into account differences in wealth, achievement and size among school districts to make sure that all schools have equitable funding.

PDE: State Board of Education Approves New Academic Standards and Revised High School Graduation Requirements
PDE Press Release September 12, 2013
Harrisburg – The State Board of Education today approved revised regulations to update the state’s academic standards and high school graduation requirements.
These changes in the Academic Standards and Assessments will ensure that Pennsylvania’s students are graduating prepared to enter postsecondary education, the workforce and the military, acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said.

While some opponents continued to voice objection to the proposed standards, others urged the board to de-couple the graduation testing requirement from the adoption of more rigorous standards. They say requiring students to pass a test will lead to increased drop-out rates. They say it will narrow the curriculum to focus on test preparation. 
And, Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester County, among others, was very outspoken on the unfairness of passing regulations without knowing the cost of implementing them and without any assurance that the state will provide funding needed to provide the educational supports for struggling students to pass the exams.
He said all that is doing is putting an unfunded mandate on school districts that local taxpayers will have to cover.”
State Board of Education approves Common Core-related standards and graduation testing requirement
By Jan Murphy |  on September 12, 2013 at 11:54 AM
The State Board of Education has signed off on a controversial set of state-developed academic standards that are closely aligned to the Common Core standardsadopted by other states. With them comes an equally controversial statewide graduation-testing requirement.
Following an at-times fiery discussion, the board on Thursday voted 13-4 to advance the so-called Chapter 4 regulations that spell out the grade-level learning goals called Pennsylvania Core Standards. The regulations also lay out a framework for implementing them and assessing students’ mastery of these standards.
The assessments include a new provision that will require students, starting with this year's ninth graders, to demonstrate their proficiency in Algebra I, Biology I and language arts on the Keystone Exams or a state-approved alternative assessment.

Pa. Board of Education OKs Common Core standards
Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau LAST UPDATED: Friday, September 13, 2013, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 1:28 PM
HARRISBURG The State Board of Education approved a controversial plan Thursday to require all Pennsylvania students to pass proficiency tests in science, math, and language arts before graduating. The 13-4 vote to approve the so-called Common Core standards came after state officials said they would limit the proficiency tests to public schools, and agreed not to impose a statewide curriculum or reading lists, or expand the collection of students' personal data. "Gov. Corbett believes that these new academic standards will ensure that our children are graduating high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with their peers locally, nationally, and internationally," said acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq. Critics have raised concerns about the costs to districts - as much as $300 million, according to lawmakers - and the schools' ability to transition to the requirements that could be in place by 2017.
Read more

Roebuck raises concerns on costs and consequences of state academic standards and assessments
HARRISBURG, Sept. 12 – State Rep. James Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee and member of the State Board of Education, released the following statement after the board's vote on regulations for state academic standards and assessments:
"While I support the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards and the new Keystone Exams, today I voted against final adoption of the Chapter 4 regulations regarding academic standards and assessments because of my concerns about the future costs to school districts and the consequences for our students of implementing these new standards -- particularly to my own School District of Philadelphia that is grappling with a $300 million deficit.

SCHOOL CHOICES – Here’s an update on PA’s EITC supervoucher program; $100 million in diverted tax dollars that never enter the state’s general fund and are not available to satisfy the state’s constitutional mandate of providing a free and appropriate PUBLIC education…….
“The new program is off to a slow start statewide. The state allocated $50 million for tax credits sought by June 30 this year.  However, only $16.99 million was requested. Another $50 million in tax credits is being offered this year.”
EITC: Catholic Diocese raises $446,000 for scholarships
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 12, 2013 10:49 pm
As Catholic school tuition increased this fall, about 150 students so far are getting some extra financial help through the new state Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program.
Through its own scholarship organization, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has raised about $446,000 from businesses that receive state tax credits by making donations to approved scholarship organizations.

“Benninghoff, a Centre County Republican, said he wanted the group to know that he is not their enemy, but as chairman of the finance committee he needs to be realistic about Pennsylvania's financial state.  "I can't let a bill out of committee whose last report I got said it causes a $729 million deficit in the state budget next year and $1.4 billion the following year," he said. "That's why the bill has not been let out of committee, whether you agree or disagree."
TAX REFORM: HB 76: Debate on property taxes disappoints many
Spirited remarks come from lawmaker introducing program
Reading Eagle by Stephanie Weaver Originally Published: 9/11/2013
A debate between state Reps. Jim Cox and Kerry Benninghoff on school property tax elimination Tuesday night left many in attendance disappointed.  For the most part, the event hosted by the Berks Tea Party at the Deluxe Restaurant in Cumru Township contained little to no actual debate between the legislators.
George Guisewhite of Upper Bern Township said he felt the whole ordeal was a dog-and-pony show and felt Cox backed down from confronting Benninghoff.  "There was nothing that was brought up tonight that we didn't already know," Guisewhite said. "We're behind this bill but we feel he (Cox) needs to be more forceful. This being polite thing has got to stop. You got to make compromises, but you can't back down on your principles."
Cox, a Spring Township Republican, is the author of House Bill 76, which would eliminate the current school property tax system and replace it with higher sales and income taxes.
Benninghoff is chairman of the House Finance Committee and has not yet allowed the bill to get out of the committee.

“….Mark Miller doesn’t think so. The vice president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and a school board member for Centennial schools, Miller agreed with the audience that “you cannot continue to pay property taxes at the same rate you’ve been paying. But we have to come at it in a different way.”  “I do not believe HB 76 is the answer.”
He’s for taxing Pennsylvania businesses “earning fortunes and they pay their taxes to another state.” He also wants an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale gas.
“The gas is in our ground,” he said. “They’re not going to be drilling for it in Kentucky.”
Miller is also pushing for a “fair funding formula for education. ... Pennsylvania is one of three states that do not have one,” he said.”
TAX REFORM: Huge crowd turns out for property tax forum
Bucks County Courier Times by Gary Weckselblatt staff writer
Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:00 am  About 350 showed up Thursday night to hear about the merits of legislation to fund schools in ways other than property taxes.
State Rep. Tina Davis, D-141, Bristol, set up the town hall to help inform constituents who have complained to her that the taxes on their homes have escalated to a point they can no longer afford.  “Most of the problems I deal with almost daily are with someone who can’t pay their property taxes,” Davis said. “People are being forced to forgo their prescriptions to pay their tax bill. I don’t believe anyone deserves to have that worry at this time of life.”
House Bill 76, The Property Tax Independence Act, would replace the $10.4 billion collected every year in school property taxes with new revenue generated by increases in sales and personal income taxes.

Penn-Trafford teachers union chief calls for changes in cyber-school funding
Tribune-Review By Chris Foreman Published: Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In the wake of a federal indictment against the founder of PA Cyber Charter School, the president of the Penn-Trafford teachers union is calling for reforms to the funding formula for cyber schools in the state.  Cyber schools have a place in education, but they're getting too much money from local school districts, said Shaun Rinier of the Penn-Trafford Education Association.
Rinier's comments at the Penn-Trafford School Board meeting on Monday stemmed from the federal case against Nick Trombetta, who is accused of taking nearly $1 million from PA Cyber and a foundation he started. Trombetta has pleaded not guilty.
Critics of the funding formula for cyber schools complain that per-student subsidies are awarded to the cyber schools based on the varying cost of educating students in each public district instead of the cyber school's operating expenses.
Philly Students: "You're destroying the reasons we go to school"
Citypaper By Samantha Melamed  Published: 09/12/20130 Comments Posted
At age 17, Zach Kaufmann is used to fighting for his education. Last year, as a ninth-grader at Charles Carroll High School, he joined protests with Youth United for Change to keep his school open. It closed anyway. On Sunday night, outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s Philly office, he and YUC were protesting again — this time against the Philadelphia School District’s budget, which despite a summer of negotiations, is still beyond austere. 
Kaufmann, who plays the guitar, transferred to Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School in the hope that he could learn to read music. Now, he says, “With the School District cutting back music, this basically defeated my whole purpose.” 
Students from Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School say they’ve been told their dance program and art classes are gone, and that music education has been cut. “They cut all the things that make our school what it is and what it’s supposed to be,” says Deionni Martinez, 16, a 10th-grader at Kensington CAPA.

PCAPS announces new campaign to fight for school funding
by thenotebook by Isaac Riddle on Sep 12 2013 Posted in Latest news
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a press conference Thursday at City Hall to announce a new campaign that would call on City Council and other elected officials to fully fund District schools.  The campaign, called Full Funding Fridays, encourages parents, students and teachers to wear the “fund our schools” sticker or button every Friday in solidarity with the battle for school funding. Rallies will be held every Friday at different schools and other “symbolic” locations to call for more dollars for the city’s schools.

Will They or Won't They?
Politically Uncorrected Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young September 12, 2013
Will they or won't they? That is the central question before Pennsylvania lawmakers as they return from their long summer break. Will the Republican-controlled legislature finally pass any of Governor Tom Corbett's highly touted first-term agenda?
In case you have forgotten what that agenda is -- and you could be pardoned for doing so since a considerable proportion of the legislature seems to have done just that -- Corbett's trifecta of “must-do legislation" includes roads and bridge funding, the privatization of the state's liquor stores, and pension reform for teachers and state employees.

Forbes: Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City
Forbes by Addison Wiggin, Contributor9/10/2013 @ 5:31PM 2,245 views
On Thursday, July 25, dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors gathered in New York to hear about the latest and greatest opportunities to collect a cut of your property taxes. Of course, the promotional material for the Capital Roundtable’s conference on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies” didn’t put it in such crass terms, but that’s what’s going on.
Charter schools are booming. “There are now more than 6,000 in the United States, up from 2,500 a decade ago, educating a record 2.3 million children,” according to Reuters.
Charters have a limited admissions policy, and the applications can be as complex as those at private schools. But the parents don’t pay tuition; support comes directly from the school district in which the charter is located.   They’re also lucrative, attracting players like the specialty real estate investment trust EPR Properties EPR -0.97% (EPR). Charter schools are in the firm’s $3 billion portfolio along with retail space and movie megaplexes.
Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies. In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state’s charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state’s charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans

Fat City in PA #1? – You decide; here’s info on the man behind Pennsylvania’s largest brick and mortar charter school:
Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian

Fat City in PA #2? – You decide; here’s info on the man behind Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter school:
Former cyber CEO Trombetta allegedly directed funds to campaign contributions

OPM:  School boards are far from perfect but they provide 9 pairs of eyes to review budgets, check registers and contracts.  School board members see the folks that elected them every day.
Charter schools may be “public”, but they receive “shrink-wrapped” tax dollars and never have to look the taxpayers in the eye….As Vince Fumo said, “it’s other people’s money”…..
PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

Schools boards urge U.S. Senate to rethink No Child Left Behind
NSBA School Board News Today posted by Alexis Rice September 12th, 2013
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Senate to take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, S. 1094.
In a letter, NSBA asks the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to schedule the bill for a Senate floor vote within the next 30 days so that the bill could be considered in a joint conference committee. In addition, further delays could mean that the U.S. Department of Education would initiate another round of waiver requests early next year only for local school districts to subsequently have the new ESEA law take them in a different direction. Reauthorizing ESEA now would “avoid confusion and waste of resources locally to the extent legislative policy differs from waiver requirements,” the letter states.

Let's Reverse the Damage From Race to the Top, EPI Report Says
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Michele McNeil on September 12, 2013 9:05 AM
A new report by the Economic Policy Institute finds big flaws in the Race to the Top program and questions how much the $4 billion spent to spur education improvements in the states will actually narrow achievement gaps and improve student outcomes.
The report was released today by the American Association of School Administrators and the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, a national campaign launched by the left-leaning EPI. The Race to the Top is the Obama administration's signature education-improvement tool, funded originally with $4 billion in economic-stimulus money provided by Congress in 2009. It led to a fierce competition among states, who provided supposedly ideas to improve data systems, standards and tests, low-performing schools and teacher-evaluation systems. Eleven states and D.C. shared the original $4 billion.

New Mathematica TFA Study is Irrational Exuberance
Cloaking Inequity Blog September 12, 2013 | Julian Vasquez Heilig
Teach For America (TFA) has sought to direct attention to a new study recently released by Mathematica.  A blogger at the Washington Post even argued that my prior critiques of TFA were “not true anymore.” (See all of my prior posts on TFA here.) Is that the case? Next week I will start an entire series on the Mathematica TFA study, but for now, because there is an avalanche of email and media inquiries about the study, I will discuss several important issues that I have noted in the study.

How Wal-Mart’s Waltons Maintain Their Billionaire Fortune: Taxes By Zachary R. Mider - Sep 12, 2013 12:01 AM ET
“Thanks Alice!” reads one. “Merci Alice Walton, pour la vision!” reads another.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) heiress Alice Walton founded Crystal Bridges in 2011 in a wooded ravine next to her childhood home, supplying dozens of paintings from her personal collection. Bankrolled by more than $1 billion in donations from her family, the museum attests to the Waltons’ generosity and vast wealth. It’s also a monument to their skill at preserving that fortune across generations.  America’s richest family, worth more than $100 billion, has exploited a variety of legal loopholes to avoid the estate tax, according to court records and Internal Revenue Service filings obtained through public-records requests.

Elvis has left the building…..
NASA says Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system
Post Gazette By Alicia Chang / Associated Press September 13, 2013 12:18 am
LOS ANGELES -- NASA's Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system, boldly going where no machine has gone before.  Thirty-six years after it rocketed away from Earth, the plutonium-powered spacecraft has escaped the sun's influence and is now cruising 11 1/2 billion miles away in interstellar space, or the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, NASA said Thursday.
And just in case it encounters intelligent life out there, it is carrying a gold-plated, 1970s-era phonograph record with multicultural greetings from Earth, photos and songs, including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," along with Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Louis Armstrong.

Education Law Center Annual Event Sept. 18th, 2013
Featuring Morris Dees and honoring education advocates Barbara Minzenberg and the Philadelphia Student Union.  Wednesday, Sept. 18th at 5:30 p.m., Crystal Tea Room, Wanamaker Building 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Upcoming Meeting Has Been Rescheduled to Sept 26th in Reading
Was originally scheduled for September 19.  No venue announced yet
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

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 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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