Friday, September 6, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 6, 2013: Pennsylvania is a national poster child for why charter schools need better oversight

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 6, 2013:
Pennsylvania is a national poster child for why charter schools need better oversight

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: 

First order of business in September - SAVE THE DATE 9/23
First order of business: A “thorough and efficient system of education.” 
Education Voters of Pennsylvania September 5, 2013
The legislature returns to Harrisburg on Monday September 23rd. There are a lot off issues that need attention in PA, but surely one of the biggest priorities must be ensuring that schools have the ability/wherewithal to offer the programs that are needed for students to meet state educational standards.

“According to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks, 33 of the 37 lawmakers who represent the 21 districts that received extra funds are legislative leaders, committee chairs, vice chairs or secretaries.”
Legislators give $30.3M to 21 school districts behind closed doors
Lancaster Online By JEFF HAWKES  Staff Writer Originally Published Jul 21, 2013 06:00

PA One of Only Three States Without Education Funding Formula
No accuracy, fairness, or transparency possible without sound formula
Education Law Center Press Release February 28, 2013

Pa. small and rural schools speak out for Philly funding
WHYY Newsworks By Elizabeth Fiedler @EAFiedler September 5, 2013
Philadelphia schools are locked in a funding crisis. But what about the hundreds of other districts across the state?
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools Executive Director Joe Bard said that across the state other schools are feeling the same fiscal pain as Philly. "We have many districts that are struggling for existence because of inadequate state funding and the inability, because of Act 1, to raise their local taxes above a set amount without going to referendum," Bard said.

More info on PARSS – the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Upcoming Meeting
Save the date: September 19 tentative meeting date in Reading; no venue announced yet
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

Special Education Funding Formula Commission Website

Why charter schools need better oversight
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: September 5 at 11:00 am
Charter schools were designed to allow founders the freedom to design and run schools as they wish outside the traditional school system bureaucracy. Here’s a case for why some of that freedom needs to be reined in. This was written by Jeff Bryant, an associate fellow at theCampaign for America’s Future and the owner of a marketing and communications consultancy that serves numerous organizations including Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, PBS, and International Planned Parenthood Foundation. He writes extensively about public education policy at The Education Opportunity Network, where this appeared. Follow Jeff on Twitter: jeffbcdm

Senator Smucker sets sights on charter school reform
NIKELLE SNADER / The York Dispatch 505-5431 / @ydschools Updated:   09/03/2013
State Sen. Lloyd Smucker will take another crack at reforming the charter school system in Pennsylvania - a task that has proven difficult in past years.
The reform bill would allow universities to authorize charter schools, a partnership that would encourage quality education for children across the state, said Smucker, R-Lancaster.
The bill, introduced last week, also aims to make charter schools have the same transparency public school districts do.  If the bill passes, charter schools will need to conduct open meetings and comply with the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.
Smucker said the accountability requirements in his proposal would ensure the charter schools are held to the higher standards they claim.

Smucker Seeks Responsible Reform of Charter School Law
Senator Smucker’s website August 20, 2013
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania must update the charter school law to remove impediments to establishing the schools and to ensure sufficient accountability measures are in place once the schools are operating, Senator Lloyd K. Smucker (R-13) said Tuesday after introducing Senate Bill 1085.
“Charter schools are public schools, so we have an obligation to see that they are run right and perform up to standards,” Smucker said. “Pennsylvania broke ground with its charter school law, incorporating the best thinking of the time. Now we have years of practical experience showing what works and what needs to be fixed. I believe that charter schools are a valuable option for students and families, and they certainly have proved popular; these changes will ensure they remain a trustworthy option, academically and financially. This package is both pro-charter and pro-taxpayer.”
Under SB 1085, accountability measures for charters include: complying with the open meetings law, the open records law, and the ethics act; requiring more detailed reporting and disclosure; and undergoing an annual independent audit.

Reprise PPG Vintage 2007: Cyber-school empire under attack
Beaver County educator fighting grand juries, suits and legislators
By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 18, 2007 12:00 am
In the past seven years, Nicholas Trombetta has climbed from small-town Beaver County school administrator to the head of a sprawling educational network fueled by millions of taxpayer dollars.  Now this onetime wrestling coach finds himself grappling with a ring of powerful opponents -- from law enforcement agencies to the state Legislature to litigators -- who are imperiling the empire he built from scratch.
Detractors claim Dr. Trombetta has misused the public's money and engaged in a range of questionable business practices at his booming Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and affiliated entities. Those include the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, a $23.5 million jewel that sits across from Dr. Trombetta's office on the main drag of Midland, population 3,000.
Although it is not clear exactly what state Attorney General Tom Corbett Jr. is investigating, a statewide grand jury whose term recently ended heard testimony over several months about alleged financial shenanigans within Dr. Trombetta's network. Prosecutors are expected to continue presenting evidence to a new grand jury next month.

K12, Inc. online schools: a view from the inside
K12, Inc., a publicly-traded, for-profit online charter school company, has flooded the Kansas airwaves with advertising this summer and into fall. While K12’s sales pitch might seem attractive, it’s advertising leaves out a lot of key information about the company.
For-profit companies like K12, and the politicians they work to elect, tout online education as a wonderful new education reform - and even describe it as the future of public education. Yet a recent report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado shows the performance of K12’s schools is nothing short of abysmal.

Forging a practical path to pension reform: Glen Grell
By Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Glen R. Grell on September 05, 2013 at 12:45 PM
State Rep. Glen R. Grell, a Republican, represents the Cumberland County-based 87th House District. He is a member of the Public School Employees Retirement Board and serves as chairman of the Republican Caucus Task Force on Pension Reform.
With the state Legislature returning to session in a few weeks to tackle a myriad of questions including pension reform, some issues are worth considering. 
First, Pennsylvania faces a very serious public pension funding problem.
The funding issues surrounding the state pension systems are complex, but as it stands now, these systems together are operating with an unfunded liability of at least $41 billion – and growing.  Our pension debt is now far greater than our annual state expenditures on education, human services, transportation and public safety – combined.

Public hearing to examine public education funding cuts Tuesday, Sept. 10th in Philadelphia
HARRISBURG, Sept. 5 – House Democratic Policy Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today the committee will hold a hearing about Pennsylvania’s public education and funding cuts from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Franklin Institute, Fifth Floor Conference Center, 222 North 20th St., Philadelphia.
State Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., requested the hearing and will serve as co-chairman. The hearing will focus on the importance of public education and how decreasing state funding is hurting schools all over the Commonwealth.
The current hearing agenda is:
  • 2 p.m. – Welcome and opening remarks
  • 2:10 p.m. – Panel one:
    • Dr. Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology, University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education
    • Jamira Burley, executive director, Philadelphia Youth Commission
  • 2:35 p.m. – Panel two:
    • Laurada Byers, co-founder, Russell Byers Charter School
    • Mark Gleason, executive director, Philadelphia School Partnership
  • 3 p.m. – Panel three:
    • Helen Gym, co-founder, Parents United
    • Jerry Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
  • 3:25 p.m. – Panel three:
    • Kathleen Melville, communications coordinator for Teachers Lead Philly and teacher at Constitution High School
    • Christine Carlson, founder, Greater Center City Neighborhoods School Coalition
  • 3:50 p.m. – Closing remarks
The hearing is open to the public and media coverage is invited.

Parents Considering Legal Action Over Hobbled Philadelphia Schools
CBS Philly By Mike DeNardo September 5, 2013 1:36 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With short-staffed Philadelphia schools opening in four days (see related stories), parents are weighing their legal options.
Tired of waiting for answers on how schools can open Monday with overcrowded classes and barely any counselors or support staff, parents are looking at taking matters into their own hands.
Helen Gym, founder of Parents United for Public Education, says parents are meeting with attorneys to talk about the process of filing complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Parents get legal tips for special-ed needs
Susan Snyder, Inquirer Staff Writer LAST UPDATED: Thursday, September 5, 2013, 11:11 PM POSTED: Thursday, September 5, 2013, 8:16 PM With the start of school just days away, parents and advocates for children with autism, physical disabilities, or other special needs are becoming increasingly concerned that the Philadelphia School District will not be able to adequately educate those students because of staff and budget cutbacks. A group of parents met Thursday with officials from the nonprofit Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia to learn what steps to take if they believe their child's school is failing to provide education as required by law. "We want parents to know how to file a complaint immediately," said Helen Gym, cofounder of Parents United for Public Education and a public school parent. "We want them to demand that their children get the service required under the law."

Countdown, Day 4: Talks to resume Friday; Philly teachers are under a 'status quo' contract
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 05 2013
Teachers' contract negotiations took a break on Thursday for Rosh Hashanah, with plans to resume Friday and likely continue through the weekend.  "The expectation is that they are going to go on into the weekend," said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.
Meanwhile, teachers are working under what is known as a "status quo" contract. How is that different from a contract extension?  It means that nothing changes: Teachers will get paid whatever they were paid in June and will not get automatic increments they might qualify for due to working an additional year or acquiring an additional degree.
"Status quo means status quo," said George Jackson, spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Gallard confirmed that this is the case.  It also means that, for now, the benefits package is intact.

Laid-off school counselor gets a star turn
By Susan Snyder, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: September 02, 2013
A former Masterman School guidance counselor gained rock-star status Saturday when she was invited onto a Made in America festival stage to make a pitch for counselors laid off from the Philadelphia School District.
Taking the mike from Flavor Flav, Heather Marcus urged the crowd watching Public Enemy to contact elected officials to tell them to "stop playing games and stand up for students."
"Do you think every child in Philadelphia deserves to have a certified school counselor?" Marcus shouted.
The crowd roared back.

Philly Schools: Really, who knows anything? Opinion by LISA HAVER POSTED: Friday, September 6, 2013, 3:01 AM  
Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
DOES anyone really understand the current state of the Philadelphia School District's finances? The numbers thrown around for the past few months seem designed to confuse more than clarify. The district's 2013–14 operating budget is $2.3 billion; $1.95 billion of that is presently in its coffers. For months we have been told that that is not enough. We are now told that the mere promise of $50 million - 2 percent of the budget - is enough to open schools. With more than 87 percent of the budget in place right now, why would the question be: Can we open schools on time? Isn't the real question: How can we keep schools running until June?

The Color of School Closures (Graphic)
National Opportunity to Learn Campaign Posted on: Tuesday April 23rd, 2013
Mass school closings have become a hallmark of today's dominant education policy agenda. But rather than helping students, these closures disrupt whole communities. And as U.S. Department of Education data suggests, the most recent rounds of mass closings in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia disproportionately hurt Black and low-income students. 

Common Core Assessment Myths and Realities: Moratorium Needed From More Tests, Costs, Stress Submitted by fairtest on September 3, 2013 - 12:55pm 
Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), each state set its own learning standards and developed tests to measure them. But NCLB’s failure to spur overall test score gains or close racial gaps led “reformers” to push for national, or “common,” standards. With millions in federal Race to the Top money and NCLB “waivers” as incentives, all but a few states agreed to adopt Common Core standards. Two multi-state consortia — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — won federal grants to develop Common Core tests, which are due to be rolled out in 2014-15. Here are the realities behind major Common Core myths.  

A Map of Who's Got the Best (and Worst) Internet Connections in America
In the digital age, access to high speed internet is fundamentally important. But some regions of the country are still left out in the cold. We took a look at where you can get the best—and not best—internet in the U.S.

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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