Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 13: SB1085 gives unelected charter school operators the power to spend school tax dollars without any oversight or controls

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, 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

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 13, 2013:
SB1085 runs roughshod over the powers of elected school boards and voters by giving unelected charter school operators the power to spend school tax dollars without any oversight or controls

“Ultimately, SB 1085 would gut local control over charter school authorization and growth, encourage unfettered expansion of even poorly-operated charter schools, take already underfunded school districts to the brink of financial collapse, and remove important accountability tools that school districts can use to ensure that charter schools are performing well and equitably serving all kinds of students.”

Its harder to do this with nine pairs of elected eyes watching……
Charter School East: Witness in educator's fraud trial tells how documents were doctored
A teacher who was on the boards of two charter schools founded by Dorothy June Brown told a federal court jury Tuesday how statements and actions came to be attributed to her in official meeting minutes even though she had not attended the sessions.
Lisa Cabungcal, who taught at Laboratory Charter School in 2000 and left in 2007, was the fourth former employee and phantom board member to testify in the $6.7 million fraud trial who had purportedly approved contracts with management companies Brown controlled.
In sometimes tearful testimony, Cabungcal, who was Agora Cyber Charter School's board president, said she signed many documents in that capacity, including the charter granted by the state Department of Education.
Although she said she had trouble recalling details, Cabungcal said she attended some board meetings, but testified that she never presided over a meeting or voted on any resolutions.
She said she prepared the minutes for the evening meetings even though she did not attend them because she had to pick up her children by 5 p.m.
When Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello Jr. asked Cabungcal how she could take minutes if she had not been at the meetings, she replied: "I wrote down what Dr. Brown wanted in the minutes."
Why did those minutes include comments and votes that indicated the Cabungcal had participated, Costello asked.
"I was supposed to be present so I had to put in my name," she said.

Charter School West: FBI, Pittsburgh School Dist. Now Involved In Urban Pathways Investigation
CBS Pittsburgh Reporting Andy Sheehan November 11, 2013 6:21 PM
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The FBI and Pittsburgh Public School District are now involved with an investigation into misuse of taxpayer funds by Pittsburgh’s Urban Pathways Charter School.
Allegedly, the school’s board has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars at some of the best restaurants in the city, top flight catering at ever staff and school meetings and administration and board retreats to exclusive resorts and spas.
There were also cellphone bills for board members’ spouses and local tax dollars to develop another school out of state. Now the Pittsburgh School District wants to know how and why that money was spent.

“The bill runs roughshod over the powers of elected schools boards and the voters by giving unelected charter school operators the power to spend school tax dollars without any oversight or controls. Pennsylvanians who are already seeking legislative solutions to rising property taxes should rally to stop this bill or risk voter anger over the roof-raising local tax increases to pay for charter school growth as a result of this bill.”
SB1085: PA Charter Bill Bad For Students and School Districts
Public Citizens for Children and Youth PCCY Newsletter November 8, 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. It’s no secret that the for-profit higher education sector is rife with fraud and abuse. Yet the Pennsylvania Senate is about to hand them the reigns of approving new charters as well as the regular review of their operations.
The for-profit question aside; 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.

“now, watch your blood pressure as you read the list…..”
SB1085: Killer Weeds
Yinzercation Blog November 13. 2013
The PA General Assembly is back in session today and we need to go wading into the policy weeds for a moment. This is where we pay attention to potentially-lethally-boring policy details around bills such as SB 1085. These are killer weeds all right, but the real threat is to our schools. I promise you’ll be perfectly safe as you read this message: your blood pressure might rise, but then you will click “TAKE ACTION” at the bottom of this page, and you will feel much better.
Remember Senate Bill 1085? This is a charter “reform” bill that will actually hurt school districts. [See “When Charters Cause Harm”] In a recent analysis of the bill, the Education Law Center concluded, “Ultimately, SB 1085 would gut local control over charter school authorization and growth, encourage unfettered expansion of even poorly-operated charter schools, take already underfunded school districts to the brink of financial collapse, and remove important accountability tools that school districts can use to ensure that charter schools are performing well and equitably serving all kinds of students.” [Education Law Center SB1085] Those are very strong words coming from our lawyer friends.

SB1085: Don't De-regulate Charter Schools
Education Voters PA
The PA Senate is considering a new bill to reform charter schools, SB1085. This bill is bad for students, parents, and the community.
We oppose it for the follow reasons:
  • SB 1085 will create a statewide authorizer, which would allow designated entities to authorize charter schools, which takes away the power from communities to make local decisions. This gives the power to approve charter schools to high-education institutions – but local tax-payers would still foot the bill!
  • SB 1085 removes enrollment caps, which means communities lost more control over how these institutions function within their community and over how public education is delivered – while still being responsible for the cost. 
  • SB 1085 will prevent school districts from stopping the expansion of even poor-performing charter schools. The local school district will not be capable of checking that a charter school’s performance is up to standard and that their enrollment process remains equitable. The bill will also double a charter school’s length from five to ten years, further cutting accountability for a charter that is performing poorly.
Send an email to your state senator below and let them know that calling a bill "reform" does not make it good policy.

Here's a directory of Pennsylvania state Senators on Twitter:

Pittsburgh school district considers raising taxes
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Bill Zlatos Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools administrators proposed an operating budget of $529.2 million next year and left open an option of raising the real estate tax by .16 mills.
“Financially, everyone can see why that would help,” said Superintendent Linda Lane after Tuesday's meeting of the board's Business and Finance Committee. But, she added, she understands the board's sensitivity to tax increases.  Ronald Joseph, chief operations officer for the district, said the increase would raise property tax rates from 9.65 to 9.81 mills and generate an additional $2.6 million.  Joseph said the 2014 spending plan marks a 1.4 percent increase from this year and includes a deficit of $18.3 million. The district would have to dip into its reserves to wipe that out. He said the tax increase would reduce the deficit to $15.7 million. It is the most the district can raise taxes under state law without having to hold a referendum.
Joseph said next year's budget is driven by flat state funding and enrollment and increasing costs for retirement, health care, utilities, transportation and charter schools.
“The major reasons for the budget increase include $2.7 million in contractual salaries, $3.2 million in pension obligations and $500,000 in medical premiums, he said.”
Easton Area School District projecting $5 million deficit
Officials say district would have to raise taxes, cut staff and programs.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 10:49 p.m. EST, November 12, 2013
The Easton Area School District faces a nearly $5 million budget deficit for 2014-15, and that's with a tax increase.  So once again, staff and program cuts loom.  On Tuesday, Chief Operating Officer Mike Simonetta gave the school board its first look at next year's budget, which includes projected expenses totaling $141 million and revenues totaling $136 million.  The district would have a $4.99 million budget deficit even if it raises the property tax by 2.7 percent, Simonetta said.
“The district has about 300 students attending cyber charter schools and will be reaching out to them about the new cyber program.  Holmes said later that the district pays about $10,000 for each regular education student who attends a cyber charter, and $22,000 for a special education student.”
York City School District plans to start cyber program
Pending board approval, students could take computer-based courses in January.
York Daily Record By Angie Mason 11/11/2013 09:23:02 PM EST
The York City School District plans to offer a cyber program for students, starting in January, through an agreement with the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.
The intermediate unit already offers its Virtual Solutions online program, which allows students to take courses by computer, in several districts in Lancaster and Lebanon counties. At a school board committee meeting Monday, York City Supt. Eric Holmes said the district chose to work with that intermediate unit in order to offer a program similar to one in the Lancaster City School District.  Students would take courses online and be given computers and reimbursed for internet access, according to school officials. They would graduate with William Penn Senior High School diplomas and be able to participate in school activities.

Philadelphia Schools See Cash in Old Classrooms
New York Times By JON HURDLE Published: November 12, 2013
PHILADELPHIA — The financially troubled school district here is seeking buyers for more than two dozen school buildings that it shuttered last summer in one of the country’s biggest school closing programs.  And while one prospective developer, Municipal Acquisitions, a firm based in Washington, has offered $100 million for the entire portfolio, both Drexel and Temple Universities are considering the purchase of individual schools near their campuses.
The school district published details on its website of 27 buildings, totaling about 3.7 million square feet, and the land they sit on, in the hope that the properties could be adapted and reused by buyers, who could provide the district with desperately needed cash. The public school system laid off 3,800 workers to close a $304 million budget deficit at the start of the current school year.

Draft Preschool Bill Follows Obama Proposal, With Some Changes
Education Week Campaign K-12 By Alyson Klein on November 12, 2013 7:47 AM
Last week we told you that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House education committee, plus Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., were on the verge of introducing legislation that would dramatically expand access to prekindergarten programs for 4-year olds, a proposal that President Barack Obama unveiled in his State of the Union address.
The legislation has not been finalized yet, and won't be officially introduced until later this week. But a draft of the legislation that's been widely distributed among education advocates shows that Harkin and Miller are largely following the president's proposal.
The draft would seek to bolster program quality. To get the grants, states would have to establish early-learning standards (they all have them) and promise to start linking preschool data to K-12 (at least 30 states were in a position to do this as of the spring), as well as provide state-funded kindergarten. And, early-education teachers would have to have bachelor's degrees. States that don't meet these quality standards could apply for grants to help them get up to snuff. Additional info here from the Huffington Post.

 “One of the unfortunate effects of our polarized education climate is that it makes enemies of people who might be able to add value to each other's work.  We force each other into a defensive crouch, protecting our favorite flavors of schools from attack, admitting no weakness, and becoming hostile to those who have different ideas of about how schools should be organized, funded, run and evaluated.  Different and valuable ideas.”
Ed Reform Needs a Nixon-to-China Moment
Education Week Bridging Differences Blog By Deborah Meier on November 12, 2013 8:31 AM
Today, Robert Pondiscio, the executive director of CitizenshipFirst, joins Deborah Meier on Bridging Differences. He will blog with her for the next month or more.
Thanks Deborah, for inviting me to blog with you at Bridging Differences.  I'm grateful to have the opportunity to engage with you here over the next few weeks. 
Let me tell you about two of my friends in education, Chris Lehmann and Doug Lemov.  I admire them both personally and professionally, although you could hardly imagine two more different characters.  Chris is the son of a labor lawyer who founded the Science Leadership Academy  (SLA), a progressive magnet high school in Philadelphia. Doug is revered in the world of so-called "No Excuses" charter schools.  I've been a big booster of his work, especially his book Teach Like a Champion.  Doug is as quiet as Chris is gregarious.  I sense they would bond over their love of sports, teaching, and kids, but as far as I know, they haven't met. They probably won't.  And that's a problem. 

Radical Scholarship Blog by P.L.Thomas
“Sometimes writers write about a world that does not yet exist,” Neil Gaiman begins his Introduction to the 60th Anniversary Edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:
This is a book of warning. It is a reminder that what we have is valuable, and that sometimes we take what we value for granted….
People think—wrongly—that speculative fiction is about predicting the future, but it isn’t; or if it is, it tends to do a rotten job of it….
What speculative fiction is really good at is not the future but the present—taking an aspect of it that troubles or is dangerous, and extending and extrapolating that aspect into something that allows the people of that time to see what they are doing from a different angle and from a different place. It’s cautionary.
Fahrenheit 451 is speculative fiction. It’s an “If this goes on…” story. Ray Bradbury was writing about his present, which is our past.
Like Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds, Gaiman’s clarification about the purposes of science fiction/speculative fiction builds a foundation for reading (or re-reading) Fahrenheit 451 as well as for considering why Bradbury’s novel on book burning endures.

FairTest Examiner, November 2013
The National Center or Fair and Open Testing November 2013 FairTest Examiner
Welcome to the new issue of the FairTest Examiner. This is an exciting time. Last spring saw the largest upsurge against standardized testing our country has ever experienced, and this year looks to be still greater. This issue includes a roundup of protests around the nation. Meanwhile, new colleges continue to join FairTest’s SAT/ACT-optional list, a website list that receives 280,000 visitors annually. We highlight six recent additions to the list.
Resistance to the overuse and misuse of tests is growing because students, parents and teachers are fed up and proclaiming, “Enough is enough!” and “Ya Basta!” Our article on “high-stakes horrors” focuses on some of the worst recent examples of the widespread damage. This fall’s SAT and ACT scores provide more evidence that test-driven “school reform” has failed, as do the books and articles we review in this issue.

The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice
Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:30pm
University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg Rm. 111
3620 Walnut St. PhiladelphiaPA 19104
See map: Google Maps
Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University. She brings to her wide-ranging scholarship first-hand experience, as a classroom teacher and union officer.
In her presentation at University of Pennsylvania, she will analyze how changes being made to public education in Philadelphia, including school closings, budget shortfalls, and use of standardized testing to judge student and teacher performance, relate to the global project that is reshaping education throughout the world. Her presentation will take up ideas she explores in her most recent book, The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice(Haymarket Press, 2012).

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! .

The November 13 episode of EPLC/PCN "Focus on Education" will discuss Special Education: Student Rights and Services. 
The hour long program produced by EPLC and PCN is broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. PCN also typically repeats the episode at later times each month.  Previous episodes can be viewed online here. Topics we have covered thus far in 2013 are school violence, student testing, the work of school boards, how schools are funded, the dropout crisis, parents as advocates, and arts education.  To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page. Information about sponsorships available for the show can be obtained by contacting Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or

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

Common Core/Keystone Exams: The PA State Board of Education (Board) has submitted the final-form regulation entitled “Academic Standards and Assessment."
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) plans to meet and act on this regulation at our public meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Regulation #6 – 326: Academic Standards and Assessment
Amends existing regulations to reflect Pennsylvania's Common Core Standards in English language arts; address test security concerns; and require students to demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate from high school.
The agenda and any changes to the time or date of the meeting will be posted on IRRC’s Web site at note that any comments should be submitted to the Board prior to the 48-hour blackout period, which begins at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday,November 19, 2013. Please provide IRRC with a copy of any comments submitted, as well. Please note that all correspondence and documents relating to a regulation submitted to IRRC are a matter of public record and appear on IRRC’s Web site.
For a copy of the regulation or if you have any substantive questions regarding the regulation, please contact the Board at (717) 787-3787. You can also download the final-form regulation from IRRC’s Web site using the following link:

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education presents  “Building the Capacity of Schools to Meet Students’ Needs”
Pedro A. Noguera, PhD; Friday, November 15, 2013; 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
David Lawrence Hall, Room 121; 3942 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh
The event is free and open to the public

Philadelphia Education Fund 2013 EDDY Awards November 19, 2013
Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm WHYY, 150 North 6th Street, Philadelphia
Invitations coming soon!

Building One Pennsylvania Fourth Annual Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony, November 21, 2013 6:00-8:00 PM
IBEW Local 380   3900 Ridge Pike  Collegeville, PA 19426
Building One Pennsylvania is an emerging statewide non-partisan organization of leaders from diverse sectors - municipal, school, faith, business, labor and civic - who are joining together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, revitalize local economies and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.

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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