Thursday, November 21, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 21, 2013: SB1085: Charter school reform bill now positioned for Pa. Senate vote. Taxation without Representation?

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 21, 2013:
SB1085: Charter school reform bill now positioned for Pa. Senate vote.  Taxation without Representation?

“Chalker, a former kindergarten teacher, worked for Brown for more than 25 years. Until stepping down in March, she was chief executive of Planet Abacus in the city's Tacony section, one of Brown's four charters.  During more than four hours on the stand, Chalker recounted instances of manufacturing charter board meeting minutes, preparing phony resolutions, and forging a signature on a doctored contract between Planet Abacus and AcademicQuest L.L.C., a management company Brown owned.”
Another Brown charter school employee says he forged signature
After one of Dorothy June Brown's former top aides testified in federal court Wednesday about creating bogus documents to help Brown profit from the four charter schools she founded, another former key employee came forward to say he had done the same.

Grassroots Advocates Gym, Poyourow, Ramey, Spicka:
What Democratic Candidates for PA Governor Should be Saying about Public Education
Keystone Politics Posted on November 20, 2013 by Jon Geeting #
(This guest post comes to us from Helen Gym, Rebecca Poyourow, Jessie B. Ramey, and Susan Spicka – four public education advocates we respect immensely for their vigilance on behalf of high quality public schools in the Commonwealth. The following represents their ideal public education platform for the Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania Governor.)

What They Should be Saying
Yinzercation Blog November 20, 2013
It’s a lot of chilly heads as eight Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania governor have already tossed their hats in the ring. All eight are eager to take on Governor Corbett, whose latest approval rating is so far in the tank that only 20% of registered voters think he deserves re-election. With 61% of those surveyed a few weeks ago saying the state is “on the wrong track,” even Republicans are calling for Corbett to step aside (44% think he should let someone else run). [Franklin & Marshall poll, 10-31-13]
Not surprisingly, that same poll found, “Nearly one in four (22%) registered voters believes unemployment and the economy is the state’s most important problem, followed closely by schools and school funding (21%).” With education consistently rated as Pennsylvania’s #2 concern, right behind jobs and the economy, candidates for the state’s highest office need to be talking about what they will do for our public schools. A few have started, but the conversation needs to get much louder and deeper.
To give them a boost, the education grassroots community has developed this handy guide. Here’s the list of Democratic candidates for Governor and what they should be saying about public education:

Here’s one……..
“Hanger says he will redirect $700 million per year from poor performing charter schools into public schools and charter schools with good student performance.  “I am the only candidate who unapologetically opposes funding charter schools that have poor student performance,” the paper states.  “The huge amount of money going to all charter schools – more than $1 billion annually – is the major reason why both school taxes are going up and the quality of public education is deteriorating.”
Hanger: Top education policy goal - stop the war on public education
Hanger for Governor website Posted On November 20, 2013 · Flag
HARRISBURG – The highest priority facing Pennsylvania’s public schools is to stop the “concerted and deliberate” effort by Gov. Corbett and the privatization lobby to destroy public schools and make way for privatized schools to take over.  So says John Hanger, Democratic candidate for Governor, in a newly released policy paper on public education in the state.
In the policy paper, which can be found at the Hanger for Governor website, Hanger points out that all the Democratic candidates for Governor promise to restore the $1 billion in state school aid that Corbett has cut and to return to a fair and full funding formula, similar to what the Rendell administration used.

“Even if a local university authorizes a charter school, the board of the university is legally obligated to their own schools, and not to the local taxpayers who will pay tuition bills. It is taxation without representation,” Spicka said.”
SB1085: Charter school reform bill now positioned for Pa. Senate vote
By Jan Murphy |  on November 19, 2013 at 7:20 PM
Controversial legislation that would overhaul the state’s 16-year-old charter school law is now positioned for a vote in the state Senate in the coming weeks.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amended version of the billon Tuesday by a 15-11 near-party-line vote.   While this bill will continue to be a work in progress, supporters hailed it as a positive step forward toward addressing flaws that have emerged from the state's experience with these independent public schools.  

SB1085: PCNTV November 19: Charter Schools with Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster and York), Vice Chair of Senate Education Committee
PCN By Larry Kaspar on Nov 19, 2013 Video runtime 27:41
(VIDEO) Lawmakers believe that fifteen years of charter school experience in Pennsylvania puts them in a good position to update the law.  Sen. Smucker says his plan addresses accountability, payments to charters, enrollment caps, and the entities who authorize charters.   School districts, who often complain about the so-called “pension double-dip,” will be interested in the senator’s ideas.

SB1085: PSBA Legislative Update on Charter Reform Bills
PSBA website Nov. 19, 2013
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an omnibus amendment to charter school reform legislation under Senate Bill 1085, and the measure will now go to the Senate floor where further changes are anticipated.  While PSBA remains concerned with components of Senate Bill 1085, the association had a key role in the negotiations process yesterday and is continuing to work directly with Senate leaders and the bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) to achieve further changes to the bill on the Senate floor.  If Senate Bill 1085 is approved by the end of the year, it will then move to the House of Representatives where negotiations will continue early next year.  

Bill advances in Pa. House to bring more sunshine to school labor contracts
By Jan Murphy |  on November 19, 2013 at 11:11 AM
School boards would be required to give the public a 48-hour heads up about what a proposed labor agreement with employees contains before voting on it under a bill that won House Education Committee approval on Tuesday.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union, was approved by a 15-9 party-line vote. It is now positioned to be considered by the full House.
It would require districts to post the proposed agreement on their website 48 hours before a board vote and keep it on the site for 30 days after the vote.

If the school district is responsible for paying the salaries what does TFA do with the $750K in Gates money?  Does 5 weeks of training for 30 college grads cost $750K?
Pittsburgh would pay Teach for America $750,000 with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and hire up to 30 secondary school teachers in areas such as math, science social studies and foreign languages. The district would pay their salaries, which would be $40,000 next school year for teachers with a bachelor's degree.”
Bringing Teach for America to Pittsburgh generates opposition
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Bill Zlatos  Nov. 20, 2013, 9:21 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is thinking of hiring up to 30 recruits annually for the next three years from Teach for America to work here next school year — an idea that upsets the teacher's union and some parents and board members.  “We have some areas where we're really struggling to fill positions,” said Superintendent Linda Lane at Wednesday's meeting of the school board.
Teach for America is a nonprofit group based in New York City that recruits, trains and develops college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in high-need urban and rural schools. It has about 11,000 teachers in 48 cities in 35 states, said Nicole Brisbane, the group's managing director for new site development. Philadelphia is the only city in Pennsylvania where it has a presence.
"Next year," Stanski told Council, "our costs are expected to increase by $75 million to $100 million, due to higher pensions and health benefits, utility expenses, charter school payments, and salaries."
Philadelphia schools see another hole on horizon
PHILADELPHIA Even as it limps through this school year with a shortage of staff, supplies, and programs, the Philadelphia School District must plan for another crisis on the horizon - a hole that could reach $400 million or more for 2014-15.
As it does this year, the district will likely need $300 million just to open schools at bare-bones levels, plus as much as $100 million more to pay next year's bills.

New Hope Academy Charter School parents file lawsuit
By Angie Mason Daily Record/Sunday News  11/19/2013 09:47:44 PM EST
Several New Hope Academy Charter School parents and one student have filed a federal lawsuit against the York City School District and several current and former school board members, alleging that the decision not to renew the school's charter violated their rights.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court by seven parents and one student, alleges that the district and board members made up their minds about not renewing New Hope's charter before starting the process of non-renewal hearings in 2012. The lawsuit alleges the district wanted to close New Hope for financial reasons and says the district's financial recovery plan cited the need to reduce charter school enrollment to improve finances.

Rep. Aument: Linking Spending with Student Progress
By State Representative Ryan Aument, 41st Legislative District 11/19/2013
Last year, Pennsylvania taxpayers invested more than $26 billion in K-12 public education. In fact, more than 41 cents of every taxpayer’s dollar is used to support education in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, we still have more than 20 percent of students scoring at or below basic levels in math and reading. When we, as consumers, make decisions and pay for professional services, we expect to get what we pay for.   Education should not be any different. What is more important than ensuring a return on investment with regard to our children’s education? Are the investments we make resulting in a positive academic outcome for our future leaders?
During the last three state budget debates, education discussions have centered on spending. Unfortunately, what has been lost is a meaningful conversation on how those dollars are being used. We need to be concerned with whether our kids are actually benefiting from those dollars, not just how much or how little they are receiving. Far too often, government spending serves to deter genuine reform, efficiency, innovation and improvement. Spending alone is never the solution. We cannot solve our school district financial challenges with an unlimited supply of taxpayer money. To ensure our children are receiving a quality education, we need to look closely at how well current resources are being deployed to support student achievement. Currently, policy makers have no reliable and uniform way of analyzing how resources are used, how spending is prioritized or how to identify and share best practices in spending efficiency. 

More PA districts require fees for sports participation
PSBA Press Release Steve Robinson, Director of Publications and PR11/20/2013
The percent of school districts reporting sport participation fees has tripled from 13% in 2010 to 38% in 2013.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) partnered with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association (PSADA) to survey all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania on participation fees and district fundraising.  Pennsylvania does not consider sports a part of guaranteed public education which leaves school boards and districts able to charge participation fees at their discretion. Survey results show not only a growing number of school districts requiring fees, but also prices per student, per activity, are increasing. In 2010, the average activity fee was far below the national average with prices ranging between $5 and $50. In 2012 and 2013, the average pay-to-play or participation fee increased to $65 and $80, respectively.

NPR: Kids Pay The Price In Fight Over Fixing Philadelphia Schools
NPR Morning Edition by CLAUDIO SANCHEZ November 21, 2013 3:25 AM
Audio for this story from Morning Edition will be available at approximately 9:00 a.m. ET.
This is the first in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis. 
Sharron Snyder and Othella Stanback, both seniors at Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High, will be the first in their families to graduate from high school. This, their final year, was supposed to be memorable. Instead, these teenagers say they feel cheated.

Philadelphia Parents Flood State With Special Education Complaints
Education Week On Special Ed By Christina Samuels on November 20, 2013 4:58 PM
Parents of students in the financially troubled Philadelphia school district have filed hundreds of special education and educational-adequacy complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, saying that insufficient funding is denying children the education they are guaranteed under state and federal law.   More than 800 complaints have been filed as part of an effort led by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Parents United for Public Education. The organizations are directing parents toa website where they can file complaints electronically. The goal, they say, is to show the state that inadequate funding is having real, and damaging, effects on the 136,000-student district. 

How Poverty Impacts Students' Test Scores, In 4 Graphs
Huffington Post Posted: 11/19/13 EST  |  Updated: 11/19/13 EST
Earlier this month, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that while national test scores are slightly improving, most fourth- and eighth-graders around the country are not proficient in math and reading, and a sizable portion only have a basic understanding of the core subjects.  But how do these numbers look when you break them down based on social class?  Below we have created graphs comparing how the NAEP results looked for students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch based on their families’ income versus how they looked for students whose families’ are of a higher social strata.
The graphs unsurprisingly indicate that poverty is bad for learning, as students eligible for free and reduced lunch did significantly worse on the tests than their wealthier counterparts. Clearly, if we want to raise our nation’s test scores and reach a higher level of global competitiveness, lifting vulnerable learners out of poverty would be one way of doing so.

N.Y. school principals write letter of concern about Common Core tests
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS  November 21 at 4:00 am
A group of eight prominent school superintendents from around New York State have drafted a letter to parents expressing their deep concerns about the validity of new Common Core-aligned standardized tests that  state education officials are giving to students in grades three through eight — and in just a few weeks more than 530 other principals and nearly 3,000 parents and teachers have signed in support.

Virginia Group backs cutting some of 34 SOL tests
BY ZACHARY REID Richmond Times-Dispatch | Updated Yesterday
A group of 12 Virginia education organizations is pushing for big changes in the state's education policy.  In a joint resolution released Tuesday, the groups said they will push for an overhaul of Virginia's Standards of Learning assessments during the upcoming legislative session.
The plan they presented would eliminate some of the 34 SOL tests that students take between third and 11th grades and would increase use of other means of assessment and other ways of gauging the success or failure of schools, teachers and administrators.
"The members of all 12 education organizations … believe that holding educators accountable for student achievement is important, but not the way that it's currently done by the state by testing students 34 times," Virginia Education Coalition Chairman Steven R. Staples said in a statement.
"Educators welcome evaluation in order to receive constructive feedback," he said. "However, the state's method of evaluating their performance based on improvement in test scores by comparing entirely different groups of students is statistically invalid."
The coalition includes state associations for teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards, among others.

Campaign Seeks to Recruit Top Students to Become Teachers
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: November 20, 2013
If you can’t do, teach. The three best things about teaching? June, July and August.
With so much teacher bashing, who in the world would want to teach?
Seeking to combat such sentiments, the Department of Education — in partnership with the Advertising Council, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance, Teach for America, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and several other educational groups — is unveiling a public service campaign this week aimed at recruiting a new generation of classroom educators.

Expanded Learning Organization Names Former Treasury Secretary to Board
Education Week Time and Learning Blog By Alyssa Morones on November 20, 2013 3:00 PM
Lawrence H. Summers, a former U.S. Treasury Secretary and top economic adviser to two presidents, will serve as chair of the nonprofit Citizen Schools, the organization announced recently.  Citizens Schools, located in Boston,  partners with middle school students from low-income backgrounds to expand the learning day, with the goal of increasing their learning time by over 400 hours per student each year. Working with 24 schools in seven states across the nation, from Massachusetts to California, the organization's model is aimed at closing the opportunity gap. It opened its first expanded learning time program in 2006 in Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.  The organization provides opportunities for apprenticeships and academic support for students by connecting them to community, company, government, and philanthropic resources. It mobilizes a team of "citizen teachers," including educators and volunteers, to provide students with real-world learning projects.

Rhee Cancels Debate with Ravitch at Lehigh University
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 20, 2013 //
earlier posted that Michelle Rhee and I would debate at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on February 6.  As you may recall, Rhee first demanded that we have two people on each team, then three people on each team.  I readily assented and selected a wonderful second and third for the debate.  Early on, Rhee said her second would be Rod Paige.
My choices were the Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg (a visiting scholar at Harvard this year) and Philadelphia parent activist Helen Gym.

Louisiana school vouchers case still on, federal court says
By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune  updated November 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM
Politicians sent out a flurry of news releases Tuesday morning to say the U.S. Justice Department had dropped its school desegregation lawsuit against Louisiana's vouchers program. But U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle's clerks said the case is still on. Oral arguments are still scheduled Friday for 10 a.m., all parties are expected to attend and the court has received no documents indicating anyone wants to dismiss or leave the case.
State Superintendent John White said the same thing, despite announcements of victory in the case by the man who picked him for the post, Gov. Bobby Jindal. 

Religious Schools Struggle As Charters Expand in Urban Centers, Report Says
Education Week Charters and Choice BlogBy Katie Ash on November 20, 2013 2:14 PM
The newly formed National Commission on Faith-Based Schools has released a report detailing the steady decline of religious schools in urban centers throughout the United States in part because of competitive pressures from charter schools.
Expanding vouchers, the report argues, is a key to preserve faith-based educational institutions.
Catholic schools have been hardest hit, partly because of the introduction of charter schools in urban centers—a mainstay source of students for Catholic schools. Another factor: a sharp decline in the number of teaching nuns has raised overall costs for operating the schools, says Peter H. Hanley, the author of the paper and executive director of the American Center for School Choice, which houses the faith-based schools commission.
Between the 2001-02 and 2009-10 school years, the number of students in Catholic schools declined by nearly nine percent, according to federal data.

PCCY’s Public Education County Reports
Public Citizens for Children and Youth November 2013

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014
Announcing School Board Academy’s New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
You will need a wealth of information quickly as you jump out of the starting block and hit the ground running as a newly elected member of the board of school directors. New board members, as well as veterans who might like a refresher, will want to make the most of the opportunity to attend PSBA's New Board Member Training Program: Great Governance, Great Schools! .

EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns 
EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns beginning January or May of 2014 in the downtown Harrisburg offices. One intern will support education policy work including the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign. The second intern position will support the work of the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network. Ideal candidates have an interest/course work in political science/public policy, social studies, the arts or education and also have strong research, communications, and critical thinking skills. The internship is unpaid, but free parking is available. Weekly hours of the internship are negotiable. To apply or to suggest a candidate, please email Mattie Robinson for further information at

The Last Waltz Philly benefit for Philadelphia School Children at the Trocadero on Saturday, November 30th
WXPN The Key November 5, 2013 | 12:25 PM | By Bruce Warren
On Saturday, November 30th the Trocadero Theatre hosts The Last Waltz Philly, a benefit for Philadelphia school children. Producers of the event Fergus Carey (owner of Fergie’s, Monk’s Cafe, Belgian Cafe and Grace Tavern), Bryan Dilworth (of Bonfire Booking), singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke, and musician and producer Kevin Hanson. The Last Waltz, a concert by rock group The Band and featuring numerous guest musicians including Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and others, was held on Thanksgiving in 1976. The Last Waltz Philly will celebrate the music of The Band’s farewell show all for an excellent cause.

The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition April 5-7, 2014 New Orleans
The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.  Our first time back in New Orleans since the spring of 2002!
General Session speakers include education advocates Thomas L. Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, as well as education innovators Nikhil Goyal and Angela Maiers.
We have more than 200 sessions planned! Colleagues from across the country will present workshops on key topics with strategies and ideas to help your district. View our Conference Brochure for highlights on sessions and focus presentations.
Questions? Contact NSBA at 800-950-6722 (NSBA) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST

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

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