Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 26, 2013: “(SB1085) turns taxpayers into cash machines for charter schools…giving unelected charter operators the power to spend tax dollars without any oversight or controls”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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What the charter and choice movement has done is sell the line, 'All you have to do is look out for your own child.' So escape if you can and leave everyone else behind. Public education is a civic obligation,"

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 26, 2013:
“(SB1085) turns taxpayers into cash machines for charter schools…giving unelected charter operators the power to spend tax dollars without any oversight or controls”

SB1085: Senate bill causes uproar, could authorize expansion of charter schools in Cumberland County
The Sentinel Newspaper by Christen Croley Sentinel Reporter November 24, 2013
Senate Bill 1085 could authorize the “unprecedented” expansion of charter schools in Cumberland County — and public school advocates want to know why Midstate officials, including Sen. Pat Vance, R-31, support it.   “I think that Cumberland County residents would like to know why Sen. Vance is supporting this bill,” said Susan Spicka, co-founder of Education Matters in Cumberland Valley, a public school advocacy group based in Shippensburg. “(It) would create taxation without representation and a mandate that taxpayers pay for a system of privately-operated charter schools in addition to the traditional public schools taxpayers already fund, during a time when they can ill afford to pay higher property taxes and when our school districts are making unprecedented cuts in educational opportunities for our children.”

“Purported to unshackle the growth in educational opportunity for school children across the state, the bill contains provisions that turn taxpayers into cash machines for charter schools who have no financial risk and would be granted relatively immutable contracts for ten years. Unfortunately, this statement is not hyperbole. The bill would give charters the sole power to determine how many students they wish to enroll each year, going so far as making voluntary enrollment agreements with school districts illegal. The bill then directs the Pennsylvania Department of Education to directly pay charter schools for each student enrolled deducting the amount paid to the charter from the home school district’s budget.”
SB1085: Opinion: From Public Citizens for Children and Youth
UC Review • Wed, Nov 20, 2013
The Pennsylvania Senate is poised to pass Senate Bill 1085, a charter school bill that among its far reaching changes would give for-profit companies that operate colleges or universities the power to authorize new charter schools across the state.  Senate Bill 1085 permits any college or university to authorize a charter. Since only half of students who enter college graduate after six years, with poor and minority students dropping out at jaw-dropping rates, it’s hard to see the wisdom of this approach. Even high quality charters should oppose this legislation because it will make what is clearly the train wreck of Pennsylvania’s charter school law—which already permits the formation and operation of charters that perform worse than their home school districts-a full-on catastrophe.

SB1085: Reform movement split in PA over proposed cuts to cyber charter schools
VIRTUAL LEARNING: If it wins approval, S.B. 1085 would be the first legislation in 16 years to address regulation of Pennsylvania’s 174 public charter schools, including 15 cyber charter schools.
Pennsylvania Independent November 25, 2013 | By Eric Boehm
By Maura Pennington | Watchdog.org
PHILADELPHIA — The public charter school reform movement has split over its support for state Senate bill 1085.  The recent push to bring the legislation forward has created fractures among charter school administrators, parents and allies in education reform organizations.
“Our opponents have done a superb job of dividing up our movement,” said James Hanak, CEO of PA Leadership Charter School, a cyber charter based in West Chester.
If it wins approval, S.B. 1085 would be the first legislation in 16 years to address regulation of Pennsylvania’s 174 public charter schools, including 15 cyber charter schools. The state Senate last week adjourned until December without taking a vote.

SB1085: Legislators, Educators in Pa. Embroiled in Charter Debate
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Katie Ash on November 22, 2013 4:32 PM
As state senators in Pennsylvania debate the passage of a bill that would change the state's charter school law and educators in Philadelphia navigate a funding crisis for the city's schools, much media attention is being paid to the impact of charter schools on local districts there.
The state Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amended version of the charter school bill, reports the Patriot-News, moving it one step closer to being voted on by the senate as a whole.  The bill—which has the support of education reform groups like StudentsFirst Pennsylvania,PennCAN, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, and the Philadelphia Black Alliance for Educational Options—would allow colleges and universities to become charter school authorizers, extend charter renewals from five years to ten, and remove enrollment caps on charter schools. It is opposed by the AFT Pennsylvania as well as the Education Law Center, which has posted a critique of the bill on its website.

Computer expert details bogus charter school documents
The former business manager of Dorothy June Brown's charter school network admitted in federal court Monday that he was lying to federal investigators when he told them the school boards had approved emergency loans to each other.  In fact, Anthony Smoot said, he lied over the course of seven interviews with federal agents.  But Smoot said he was telling the truth on the stand - he had to, he said, under his plea agreement with prosecutors. He has already pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the $6.7 million charter fraud case and prosecutors have told him he could be charged with lying to federal agents if he does not say what really happened.

Opponents say cyber schools fail
Public education advocates cite data showing students score lower on tests
By Chris Reber Pocono Record Writer November 23, 2013
Cyber charter schools are providing Pennsylvania students with a below average education at above average cost, public education advocates say.  Education Law Center representatives last week asked the state Department of Education to deny six new applications for charter schools.
On Thursday, the group explained how it wants more equitable funding and more transparency from charter schools before they agree to expand the program.
"Our point in general was: we need to stop what we've created with this law," said David Lapp, staff attorney with ELC.  Citing data from the group Research for Action, ELC said that cyber charter students score lower on tests and are more likely to transfer from school to school, putting them behind their peers.  They also cost public school districts millions — $366 million was spent by local districts on cyber charters last year, ELC said

“The employer contribution rate for districts will jump from this year’s 16.9 percent to 21.4 percent next year. Grell expects that will shake up folks enough to call on their legislators to act.”
Pension reform likely to be next major issue for Legislature to tackle
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on November 22, 2013 at 1:07 PM
With the historic transportation funding legislation now out of the way, Rep. Glen Grell, R-Hampden Twp., said he is optimistic the pension reform issue that has been a top priority for him will finally move front and center for the Legislature.  With transportation funding out of the way, the deck is cleared for the Legislature to take on pension reform, said Rep. Glen Grell, who is championing a plan to address this issue.  Giving it a goose, he said, is a notice sent out to school districts from the Public School Employees’ Retirement System on Thursday advising them for budgeting purposes to prepare for the highest-ever employer contribution rate they ever faced.  

Rep. Seth Grove: A plan for real property tax reform (column)
York Daily Record By Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) 11/22/2013 03:23:28 PM EST
The cries of homeowners who feel the burden of property taxes weighing down on them are not lost on the ears of Harrisburg. For decades, lawmakers have tried to find a way to eliminate or reduce property taxes. This year, finally, a bill was passed by the House of Representatives which answers these cries.  This Bill, which overwhelmingly passed by the House 149-46 is not HB 76, but HB 1189.   HB 76, although touted as a miracle drug for curing the property tax crisis in our state, does not work and is, in fact, dead. It failed miserably in the House, as it has the previous three times this concept has been introduced in the General Assembly.

York City schools working on reducing student suspensions
An ACLU report called York City's suspension rate the highest in the state.
York Daily Record By Angie Mason UPDATED:   11/23/2013 06:47:52 PM EST
The York City School District is working on ways to reduce a high number of out-of-school suspensions, though the district disputes a report that puts it at the top of the state in that measure.  The district said its data shows that 1,482 of 5,463 enrolled students -- or a little over 1 in 4 -- were suspended in 2011-12. But that number has been declining, and the district has been working on new efforts to continue to reduce suspensions, according to a news release.
The district doesn't want to remove students from class unnecessarily and wants to provide meaningful educational experiences, the release says.  "Those students must be present in our classrooms in order for that mission to be accomplished," it says.

Childhood poverty has increased by 30 percent in Delaware County since 2008
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times D: 11/25/13, 12:35 PM EST 
CHESTER — Childhood poverty in Delaware County has increased by 30 percent since 2008, according to a report released by a child advocacy organization.
More than 21,000 children are living in poverty, a total that equates to 16.7 percent of all Delaware County children. Nearly half of them are living in deep poverty — $11,755 annually for a family of four.

Corbett’s PA: Finding more ways to punish kids
The notebook Posted on November 22, 2013 by HELENGYM
On Thursday, the IRRC voted 3-2 to implement mandatory Keystone graduation exams beginning with this year’s ninth grade class. The exams are end of course state-level tests which will determine 1) whether you pass the class; and 2) count toward graduation. A failure to pass the exams could result in our children not receiving their diplomas and failing schools at early stages of their high school career. The exams are an unfunded mandate – costing at least $600 per child for a total ranging anywhere from $65-300 million! – and were opposed by a majority of Pennsylvania superintendents. But this was not a decision governed by educational expertise. Instead it’s a perfect example of the extremist and cold-hearted ideology of the worst of the Corbett administration, including State Board of Education member Kirk Hallett, who shrugged off criticism of the exams by saying “That kid is damned anyway.” Parents United is researching ways for students to opt out of the Keystone exams. With failure rates of 50% and above for Philadelphia 11th graders, the implementation of these exams with zero supports is designed to punish our children and set them up to fail. This was the testimony I turned into the board before their vote.

No relief in sight for Philly District’s troubled finances
Most additional funding has been on a one-time basis, so a gaping budget hole is likely yet again for next school year.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa
This story will appear in the Notebook's forthcoming print edition focusing on school funding, due out on Dec. 2.
Nearly three months into the school year, the School District of Philadelphia is still navigating treacherous fiscal waters, having made little progress in convincing state and city lawmakers to provide financial relief and stability.  Faced with a $304 million budget gap for this fiscal year, the District had sought $180 million in new revenues from the state and city and $133 million in labor concessions. As of mid-November, it had received $112 million in increases from the state and city, but just $17 million of that is in recurring funds. And it had reached no agreement with its unions.  As a result, it is still operating schools with shrunken staffs, sparse instructional materials, inadequate counseling services for students, and classes at their contractual maximum. 

“The Wall Street Journal reports that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute estimates the national cost for compliance with common core will be between $1 billion to $8 billion and the profits will go almost directly to publishers. According to Peter Cohen, CEO of Pearson's K-12 division, Pearson School, "It's a really big deal. The Common Core standards are affecting literally every part of the business we're involved in."
The Common Core and the grassy knoll
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch November 25, 2013
President Kennedy may have died 50 years ago this week, but something else was born: The modern conspiracy theory. How could people not watch the shootings not just of JFK but of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and George Wallace during such an otherwise tumultuous era -- and not think that it was more than a coincidence, that it couldn't have just been "a lone nut" in every case.  But like all things, the life span of the modern conspiracy theory craze is finite...and today it's on life support. The number of people who don't believe the Warren Commission's central finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy is beginning to drop.

Why so many parents hate Common Core
CNN By Diane Ravitch updated 7:52 AM EST, Mon November 25, 2013
  • Diane Ravitch: Education department should not push Common Core standards
  • Ravitch: Just  31% of N.Y. students passed because standards unrealistic
  • Ravitch: Teachers are not prepared to teach them; parents don't like them
  • Field-testing should have been done, she says, not fast implementation
Editor's note: Diane Ravitch is research professor of education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the author of more than a dozen books about education, including the recent bestseller "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and The Danger to America's Public Schools."
(CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from having any control over curriculum or instruction in the nation's public schools, but nonetheless Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a zealous advocate of the new Common Core standards for students' proficiency in English and math.  First, he said their critics were members of extremist groups, and he recently assailed the parents who criticize them as "white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."

What Happens When Great Teachers Get $20,000 to Work in Low-Income Schools?
Slate By Dana Goldstein November 2013
Teacher merit pay. It’s one of those perennially popular policy ideas that, historically, hasn’t worked very well.
A few years ago, New York City offered teachers in select schools $3,000 if the entire school’s test scores went up. But scores at the merit pay schools did not improve any faster than scores at control schools. (In some of the merit-pay schools, scores actually went down.) In Nashville, teachers who volunteered for a merit pay experiment were eligible for $5,000 to $15,000 in bonuses if kids learned more. Students of those teachers performed no better on tests than students in a control group. And inChicago, teachers were paid more if they mentored their colleagues and produced learning gains for kids. Again, students of the merit-pay teachers performed no better than other kids.  That’s why the results of a new study, the Talent Transfer Initiative, financed by the federal government are so important. Surprisingly, this experiment found merit pay can work.

Art Makes You Smart
Nw York Times Opinion By BRIAN KISIDA, JAY P. GREENE and DANIEL H. BOWEN November 23, 2013
FOR many education advocates, the arts are a panacea: They supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools. Most of the supporting evidence, though, does little more than establish correlations between exposure to the arts and certain outcomes. Research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent.
A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Artopened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.
Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.

NPE National Conference 2014

The Network for Public Education November 24, 2013
The Network for Public Education is pleased to announce our first National Conference. The event will take place on March 1 & 2, 2014 (the weekend prior to the world-famous South by Southwest Festival) at The University of Texas at Austin.  At the NPE National Conference 2014, there will be panel discussions, workshops, and a keynote address by Diane Ravitch. NPE Board members – including Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimson, and Julian Vasquez Heilig – will lead discussions along with some of the important voices of our movement.
In the coming weeks, we will release more details. In the meantime, make your travel plans and click this link and submit your email address to receive updates about the NPE National Conference 2014.

PCCY’s Public Education County Reports
Public Citizens for Children and Youth November 2013
·                            Bucks County
·                            Delaware County
·                            Chester County
·                            Montgomery County (updated 11/14/13)

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014 Register Online » Print Form »
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 robinson@eplc.org.

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.
·                             Register now! – Register for both the conference and housing using our online system.
·                            Conference Information– Visit the NSBA conference website for up-to-date information
·                             Hotel List and Map - Official NSBA Housing Block
·                             Exposition Campus – View new products and services and interactive trade show floor
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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