Monday, December 2, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 02, 2013: SB1085 Editorial: Why does each so-called attempt at reform contain boons for the charter school industry and the legislature and further financial burdens on school districts and taxpayers?

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


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Three years ago, a Franklin and Marshall poll found that only four percent of Pennsylvanians considered education the state’s most pressing problem. In September 2013, education was the top priority in the survey, with 21 percent.


Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 02, 2013:
SB1085 Editorial: Why does each so-called attempt at reform contain boons for the charter school industry and the legislature and further financial burdens on school districts and taxpayers?


Did you miss our black Friday posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 29, 2013:
Your tax dollars helped pay K12 Inc.’s CEO $19 million from 2009 - 2013

SB1085:Our View: Charter school bill would burden taxpayers
Carlisle Sentinel Editorial November 30, 2013 10:00 pm
A bill co-sponsored by Republican state Republican Sens. Pat Vance and Rick Alloway, purporting to reform the funding and administration of Pennsylvania’s burgeoning charter and cyber-charter school industry, only further shackles home owners and school districts to property tax purgatory.
The general assembly, of course, would be the winners if SB 1085 is approved and passed — the state wouldn’t have to pay its portion of the required reimbursement to charter schools pension costs — freeing up $65 million for lawmakers to do with as they pleased.  With school districts slashing budgets wherever possible, passage of SB 1085 would mean local districts would have to make up that shortfall.  And the Senate sponsors call this “reform” legislation? More a gift to the bloated charter school juggernaut which state legislators seem incapable of countering.
But that’s just for openers. There are 174 brick-and-mortar charter schools in this state which tends to pride itself on the widespread tradition of “local control” when it comes to elementary and secondary education. SB 1085’s opponents cite proposed authorization in the legislation for universities to establish and supervise new charter schools, stripping locally elected school district boards of control.
Reform providing restriction or growth of charter and cyber-charter schools has twice failed in the legislature. A persistent question for lawmakers on this issue: Why does each so-called attempt at reform contain boons for the charter school industry and the legislature and further financial burdens on school districts and taxpayers?

SB1085/HB618 Editorial - Charter schools: Opportunity with accountability
Hazelton Standard Speaker Editorial Published: November 30, 2013
Charter schools are a permanent and permanently controversial part of public education in Pennsylvania.  The charter movement has grown substantially since the state first authorized it in a 1997 law, as have concerns from the public school establishment and some independent sources about charters' performance and costs.
Pennsylvania has 175 charter schools with more than 120,000 students, a bit less than 7 percent of all public school students. Philadelphia alone has 86 charter schools with 55,000 students. Statewide, more than 55 percent of charter students are African-American or Latino, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
For the first time, the Legislature seems poised to significantly amend the charter law. Bills in the House and Senate have major differences. Extracting the best features of each and scrapping the worst of each would make for effective reform.

SB1085: Cuts proposed for cyber charter schools
Pa. Senate legislation would reduce funding by up to 10 percent
Pocono Record By MAURA PENNINGTON Watchdog.org December 02, 2013
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.

Despite dismal record of Pa. cybercharter schools, six more apply to open
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY DECEMBER 2, 2013
For many, "Cyber Monday" may mean shopping.
But for the more than 35,000 Pennsylvania students attending the state's 16 cybercharter schools, it's just another day of the hitting the e-books.  The question now is: Should those numbers climb higher?
In the past few weeks, six prospective cyberschool operators have made pitches to the state department of education in hopes of gaining a charter.  Looking at the performance of the 16 existing cybercharters, some education advocates say the state's decision should be easy.
Analyzing the state's recently released School Performance Profile information, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Research for Action found Pennsylvania's cybercharters to be some of the lowest performing schools in the state.

“In fact, according to the state’s data, the average performance of cyber charters was more than 33 points behind that of traditional public schools, and nearly 23 points behind brick-and-mortar charter schools. Put another way, cyber charters—despite recent expansion—represent less than one half of one percent of the state’s schools, yet account for more than one-third of the state’s lowest-scoring based on that data.”
Cyber Charters: The Worst Schools in Pennsylvania, and More on the Way
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 29, 2013 //
Adam Schott and James Jack write here about the poor performance of cyber charters in Pennsylvania.  You might even say the abysmal performance of cyber charters.
Pennsylvania has 16, more of them than any state in the nation, and six more want to open. No wonder they want to open. It is a lucrative business.

“School districts across the state are being told to prepare for the highest contribution rate to pension funds they have ever faced, which could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to their costs.  The Public School Employees Retirement System last week began sending notices to administrators that their pension costs will jump from 16.9 to 21.4 percent of payroll next year.”
State legislators look ahead to pension reform
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY Staff Writer Dec 01, 2013 06:00
One down, two to go.
When 2013 began, Gov. Tom Corbett identified three items that were crucial to getting the state on the right track — a new transportation funding plan, an overhaul of the public pension systems and getting Pennsylvania out of the booze business.  The agenda got off to a bumpy start when a showdown in the Legislature threatened to derail his plans.  But with a spending bill to fix Pennsylvania's ailing infrastructure safely in the rearview mirror, lawmakers are starting to look ahead to pension reform.
Helping to lead the charge is Lancaster County's Mike Brubaker, a Republican state senator from Warwick Township.  "I'm convinced we're going to take this issue up, and I'll be working as hard as I possibly can to get whatever we can onto the governor's desk," the senator said.
Brubaker has been waiting for the right time to bring his pension reform bill to the front and center in Harrisburg.  And he's optimistic that the right time is now.
Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/925449_State-legislators-look-ahead-to-pension-reform.html#ixzz2mKwtZOn1

 “By temperament, Corbett is an establishment Republican, not a Tea Partier. But there isn’t much daylight between Corbett’s policies and those of the party’s right wing. He signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, is fighting gay marriage in the courts, has aligned himself with the state’s growing fracking industry, and has decimated education funding. Recently, it is the school cuts that are most hurting Corbett in the polls.  Three years ago, a Franklin and Marshall poll found that only four percent of Pennsylvanians considered education the state’s most pressing problem. In September, education was the top priority in the survey, with 21 percent.”
Tom Corbett Went From Establishment Republican to Tea Party Ally. Bad Move. Explaining Pennsylvania's unpopular governor
The New Republic BY PATRICK KERKSTRA PURPLE RAGE NOVEMBER 28, 2013
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's popularity, or lack thereof, has just hit a new low. A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday found his approval rating has slid to 24 percent, making him the least popular governor of the 43 states PPP has polled recently. Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians disapprove of Corbett, including 51 percent of his Republican peers. If next November’s election were held today, Corbett would lose by double-digit margins to a wide array of Democratic challengers.
The poll is no outlier. Survey after survey finds that Corbett—who cruised into office two years ago as a conservative, corruption-busting prosecutor—is widely reviled in a state that, so far, has never failed to re-elect an incumbent governor.
But why? How has a mild-mannered governor like Corbett so enraged Pennsylvania’s typically placid electorate? Corbett’s own failings—from his reclusive nature to his bumbling legislative strategy—are mainly to blame. But it is also clear that Pennsylvanians, a largely moderate lot that have voted Democrat in the last six presidential elections, have little taste for truly conservative governance. In a purple state that has been steadily swinging left in recent years, Corbett looks increasingly anachronistic.

Philadelphia Futures, Gettysburg College mark 12-year tie
SUSAN SNYDER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: Sunday, December 1, 2013, 10:57 PM
For Ashley Trawick, the dilemma was purely academic.
"The hardest thing is coming up with the title of my major," Trawick, 19, told Ruth De Jesus, associate dean of intercultural advancement at Gettysburg College. The sophomore from Southwest Philadelphia is eyeing a mix of developmental psychology and education.
First-generation graduates from Philadelphia public high schools like Trawick once faced much bigger obstacles: How to get into college, how to afford it, and once among the largely white student bodies, how to fit in.
But with a boost from Philadelphia Futures, a nonprofit that helps inner-city students get into and through college, Trawick is on a free ride at the school. She's maintaining a 3.0-plus grade point average - and even feeling comfortable enough to branch out and design her own major.

A+ Schools group seeking volunteers to critique Pittsburgh district
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 2, 2013 11:36 AM
The A+ Schools education advocacy group is looking for volunteers for its Board Watch program, which observes and grades the performance of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board.
The group said the installation of four new school directors on Monday is the perfect time for Pittsburgh residents to become active in Board Watch to help give meaningful feedback to the new board members and new board leadership.
The Board Watch program was created four years ago when A+ trained about 40 volunteers to attend agenda and legislative meetings of the school board and report back.
Board Watch volunteers are trained to evaluate the board of five indicators of effective board governance. They are: focus and mission; transparency; conduct; role clarity; and competency.

Costly consultants: Wilkinsburg cannot afford to waste tax dollars
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial December 1, 2013 12:00 AM
Wilkinsburg School District administrators looked pretty bad in September when their decision to spend $15,000 for a staff retreat at the swanky Nemacolin Woodlands Resort was revealed. It turns out that extravagance was a mere trifle in the struggling district’s spending for out-of-town consultants.  Since October 2010, the district has spent $470,206 for the services of two consultants from Louisiana, including $43,931 on airfare, hotels, meals and transportation. Those figures are based on a review by the Post-Gazette’s Mary Niederberger, who received invoices through a Right to Know request.

Favoritism 101: The Baldwin-Whiteball board helps its own
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial December 2, 2013 12:00 AM
If a professor were teaching a civics course in what not to do in public office — let’s call it Favoritism 101 — this might provide a suitable lesson:
A special meeting of a school board fills the seats of two resigning board members. But minutes later, without any public discussion, board members vote 7-1 to approve a new $120,000-a-year, five-year position for one of the departing board members. The public is expected to believe this new job was created without any prior deliberations.
Any student given such a scenario might think the professor was making it up. Surely public officials could not be so outrageous as to create a lucrative job without discussion and give it to one of their colleagues. It reeks of favoritism and scorn for the taxpayers.
But the lesson here isn’t theoretical. These are the facts alleged in a lawsuit brought by a Baldwin resident against the Baldwin-Whitehall School District claiming violations of the Public School Code at the Nov. 19 special meeting


Do You Shop at Walmart? Don’t.
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 30, 2013 //
If you are a parent of public school children; if you care about your local public schools; if you are a teacher or administrator or school board member, you should think twice before shopping at Walmart.   The Walton Family Foundation spends nearly $200 million every year to undermine public education. It gives to groups that open charters and promote vouchers. It throws a few thou to the Bentonville Public Schools, but the big money is available only to those who want to bust unions and privatize public education.

How public opinion about new PISA test scores is being manipulated
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 1 at 2:31 pm
This Tuesday, new reading, math and science results will be released from the  Program  for International Student Assessment, or PISA, given every three years to 15-year-old students in more than 65 countries and education systems by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The results are always big news — and the usual average U.S. scores are always cause for great cries of concern about what they mean for the future of the country’s economic health and national security. They don’t mean much, if anything, but that doesn’t stop people from saying they do.


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.

PA SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING FORMULA COMMISSION
Public Meeting, 12/11/2013, 10:00 AM  Hearing Room 1, North Office Building
Public hearing to consider final recommendations and release final report)

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 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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