Sunday, December 8, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 8, 2013: SB1085 “could create more than 100 potential new authorizers of charter schools …able to establish and control public schools with no input from their local communities”

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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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 8, 2013:
SB1085 “could create more than 100 potential new authorizers of charter schoolsable to establish and control public schools with no input from their local communities”


SB1085 Analysis: “Any Pennsylvania university, or a college, or a community college with 2,000 students would be eligible to start authorizing an unlimited number of new charter schools.  Under these criteria, the bill could create more than 100 potential new authorizers of charter schools, including 15 community colleges and dozens of sectarian institutions authorizing public charter schools. These institutions would be able to establish and control public schools with no input from their local communities. They would do this at no cost to themselves, and in fact, could receive public dollars to do this job.”



A parent sued by Brown will testify in her defense
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, December 7, 2013, 2:02 AM POSTED: Friday, December 6, 2013, 5:53 PM
PHILADELPHIA A former Agora Cyber Charter School parent who is being sued for defamation by Dorothy June Brown told a federal judge on Friday that she would testify for the defense in Brown's $6.7 million fraud trial.

“Any Pennsylvania university, or a college, or a community college with 2,000 students would be eligible to start authorizing an unlimited number of new charter schools.  Under these criteria, the bill could create more than 100 potential new authorizers of charter schools, including 15 community colleges and dozens of sectarian institutions authorizing public charter schools. These institutions would be able to establish and control public schools with no input from their local communities. They would do this at no cost to themselves, and in fact, could receive public dollars to do this job.”
The bill would create an 18-member Charter School Funding Advisory Commission, consisting of the secretary of education; six legislators, four of them from the majority party; and, appointed by the governor, 11 representatives of charters, school districts, and a university.  ….the commission is not bipartisan. Sixteen of the 18 members come from, or will be appointed by, the majority party."
Education Law Center Analysis on SB 1085 Amendments Printer’s No. 1597
December 4, 2013
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1085 by a 15-11 vote on November 19,
2013. Many major amendments were approved, but none addressed the underlying
issues of improving charter school accountability and increasing access for all students
that we raised in our initial analysis of SB 1085. Here are three changes to the bill that raise new concerns for ELC:

“What is the purpose of charter reform and who should it benefit? School boards are publicly accountable to taxpayers within the communities they serve. Charter schools, which receive the same public dollars, should operate with the same level of accountability and transparency. Senate Bill 1085 fails to address this critical issue, and instead, exacerbates the problem by adding private, unaccountable university authorizers and removing checks on existing charters to expand at will, regardless of their quality.”
SB1085: Letters: Charter school bill: A disaster for education in Pennsylvania
Delco Times By LAWRENCE A. FEINBERG Times Guest Columnist  12/06/13
Lawrence Feinberg is a 14 year school director in the School District of Haverford Township. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, a statewide, grassroots, non-partisan public education advocacy group.
Pennsylvania’s 20-year experiment with charter schools has had mixed academic results at best for our kids but has been a veritable bonanza for some adults and politicians.
Senate Bill 1085, the latest attempt at “charter school reform,” includes multiple provisions that would strip local control over tax dollars from school boards elected by their taxpaying neighbors, and permit colleges, universities and the state to spend local tax dollars with no authorization or oversight by local officials. SB 1085 also strips language from the law requiring charter schools to be models of innovation for public schools. That begs the question: What, then, is the purpose of charter schools?

SB1085: Charter schools: Secrecy, federal probes, local tax drains, mixed results (Guest essay)
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online by Lawrence A. Feinberg 12/07/2013 1:02 AM
Pennsylvania's 20 year experiment with charter schools has had mixed academic results at best for our kids but has been a veritable bonanza for some adults and politicians.
Senate Bill 1085, the latest attempt at "charter school reform" includes multiple provisions that would strip local control over tax dollars from school boards elected by their taxpaying neighbors, and permit colleges, universities and the state to spend local tax dollars with no authorization or oversight by local officials.  SB 1085 also strips language from the law requiring charter schools to be models of innovation for public schools; that begs the question: what, then, is the purpose of charter schools?

“Critics, including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Education Law Center in Philadelphia, say they are particularly worried about a provision in the bill that would allow Pennsylvania's colleges and universities to open charter schools without approval from local school boards - even though the districts would have to partially fund the schools.
"It will destroy the local taxpayer voice into whether or not there should be charter schools in their district," said Joan Duvall-Flynn, who chairs the education committee for the Pennsylvania NAACP. "It's taxation without representation."
SB1085: Public-school advocates fear pending revision of Pa. charter rules
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Saturday, December 7, 2013, 8:21 PM
Its sponsors say it is an urgently needed and long-overdue package of reforms for a burgeoning system, but critics contend that Pennsylvania's hotly debated charter-school bill would speed the decline of some conventional public schools.
The legislature is expected to act soon - perhaps in the next few weeks - on Senate Bill 1085, which would embody the first major changes since the once-experimental schools began expanding rapidly across Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.
This year, the Philadelphia School District alone will pay $708 million to charter schools.

Budget cuts + unrestricted charter growth = Philly's Katrina?
A bill to overhaul the charter law now under consideration in Harrisburg would prohibit enrollment caps, allow universities to authorize charters, and reduce the power of the SRC to control charter growth. District officials say, without that ability, they cannot reasonably plan financially given the way that the District and charter schools are funded.”
Where did the 4,000 lost Philly students go? District says 1,500 in charters
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 06 2013
School District officials say that just over 1,500 students above what they budgeted for are enrolled in charter schools this year, opening up a new $12 million to $15 million hole in its budget.  Spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the District was not prepared to say yet what steps it may take to close the gap.  The charter law requires the District to pay charters for each Philadelphia student enrolled. The District itself does not get money for those students from the state or the city on a per capita basis.
"We are closely monitoring the District's monthly revenues and expenditures to determine possible savings in order to meet the new cost estimates for charter schools," Gallard said. The District had already allocated 29 percent of its $2.4 billion operating budget, or $708 million, in payments to charter schools.
The 1,500 number does account for any additional students who may have moved into cyber charters. UPDATE: Gallard said that as of October, there were 6,350 Philadelphia residents enrolled in cyber charter schools, about 400 more than last year. If  those numbers hold, Gallard said, the District will pay about $68 million to cybers, some $9 million more than in 2012-3. END UPDATE 

School Closings in Philadelphia
By James Jack & John Sludden, Research for Action, Urban Ed Journal Summer 2013
In 2012, the School District of Philadelphia closed six schools.  In 2013, it closed 24.
The closure of 30 schools has occurred amid a financial crisis, headlined by the district’s $1.35 billion deficit.  School closures are one piece of the district’s plan to cut expenditures and close its budget gap.  The closures are also intended to make Philadelphia’s school system more efficient. Superintendent William Hite summarized the strategy: “This path will lead to greater educational investments throughout our more than 200 schools and improved educational outcomes for students.  This path will reverse our enrollment declines as we create safer, more modern learning environments and build sustainable community partnerships and coalitions” (Hangley Jr., 2013).
Research on the experiences of other major school districts that have undertaken large-scale school closings suggests a gap between the stated goals of the district’s plans and the likely outcomes, particularly regarding academic and financial benefits to district students, staff, and taxpayers.  …..Despite existing evidence and significant opposition, large-scale closings proceeded in Philadelphia. The intent of this article is to examine why. The following investigates school closings, the policies and factors contributing to these decisions, existing research on this subject, and what these developments may portend for the years ahead in Philadelphia.

Seniority rule fails Pa. students
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Dec 06, 2013 09:18
How tough is it to get rid of a bad teacher? Very tough.
In Pittsburgh, a work force reduction in 2012 resulted in the furlough of 16 of the public schools' most effective teachers.  Twelve of the 16 have since returned, but so have 11 of 17 furloughed teachers who had been deemed as failing in the classroom.  The reason? Seniority.
Currently, state law allows teachers to be laid off, but only for very narrow reasons, such a sharp decline in student enrollment or when too few students take certain classes.
And when a school district does furlough teachers, it must do it by seniority.
"Furlough and recall policies based solely on seniority have taken highly effective educators away from students and forced us to return ineffective teachers to classrooms," says Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools.
With the support of the Corbett administration, some state House Republicans are attempting to change that.

State Supreme Court won't hear charter school appeal
Scranton Times-Tribune Published: December 7, 2013
High court won't hear school case
TOBYHANNA - The state Supreme Court has declined to hear the Pocono Mountain School District's appeal of a judge's ruling that allowed the Pocono Mountain Charter School to remain open as officials appeal a decision to revoke the school's charter.
A Commonwealth Court judge in August allowed the school to continue to operate pending a final decision on the charter.  The state's Charter Appeal Board voted earlier this year to revoke the charter, citing the school's financial connection with the Shawnee Tabernacle Church.
The school appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court. Attorneys for the district and charter school are scheduled to argue the case on Dec. 11.

Erie School Board Denies Charter School... Again
Go Erie by By John Last  Posted: Dec 03, 2013 5:20 PM
The Erie School Board has once again voted down an application for a specific charter school.
For the third time, the board voted down the Erie New Americans Friendship Academy Charter School.  The school would target children who are new to this country.  Board members say the segregation of immigrant children does not meet the criteria for a charter school.
The vote came as the Erie School District continues to lose funding to charter schools and cyber schools.  "Are we going to have public education or not? Or are we going to privatize and turn everything into charters and choice?" said Dr. Jay Badams, Erie School Superintendent.

Pittsburgh school board sets five public hearings for Dec. 16
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 6, 2013 2:27 PM
The Pittsburgh Public Schools board today announced it has scheduled five public hearings on one night, beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 16.  The meeting will start with the board's regular public hearing on any topic and then proceed, in this order, to four other hearings: the proposed closing of Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 on the Bloomfield-Lawrenceville border and three charter school applications, Homewood Children's Village Collegiate Charter School, Robert L. Vann Charter School and Provident Charter School for Children with Dyslexia.
Those who want to speak must sign up in advance by calling 412-622-3868. Requests will be received beginning Monday (Dec. 9) and until noon the day of the hearing. Registrants need to specify the particular hearing.

Bethlehem Area School Board holding Air Force charter school hearing
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 08, 2013 at 5:34 AM,
TheBethlehem Area School Board on Monday night will consider an applicationto create an Air Force charter high school in Fountain Hill.  If approved, the Advanced Military Aerospace Science Academy Charter School would open in the fall of 2014 with 160 ninth- and 10th-graders and add subsequent grades each year, school co-founder Brian Smith said.
Charter schools are taxpayer-funded public schools meant to provide an alternative to the offerings of traditional public schools. Since the academy would be inside the bounds of the Bethlehem Area School District, the school board is tasked with signing off on the charter.

Revisions to Pa. teacher furlough system under review
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON DECEMBER 8, 2013
Spurred by a down economy and a regard for teacher seniority as "arbitrary," state lawmakers are sizing up another attempt at removing some of the constraints on furloughing teachers in Pennsylvania.  Right now, school districts can furlough employees for any one of four reasons. Economic difficulty isn't one of them, and some state House lawmakers think it should be.
The secretary of education supports such a change, and says it will give school districts another tool to deal with tight budgets.

Education ‘Day of Action’ set Monday in 60-plus cities
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 6 at 2:28 pm
A coalition of education, labor, civic and civil rights organizations, led by the American Federation of Teachers, is staging a “National Day of Action” on Monday with dozens of coordinated events in cities across the country that are aimed at building a national movement to fight corporate-influenced school reform and offer alternative ways to improve public education. The AFT is buying $1.2 million in radio, print and online ads to get out the message.

“And this brings us to the crux of the matter. After failing miserably to convince suburban and middle-class voters that reforms designed for dysfunctional urban systems and at-risk kids are good for their children and their schools, Common Core advocates now evince an eerie confidence that they can scare these voters into embracing the "reform" agenda.”
The Common Core Kool-Aid
Education Week By Rick Hess on November 30, 2012 9:23 AM
In a number of conversations this week over at Jeb Bush's annual edu-fest, at AEI, and around DC, I was struck by the degree to which the Common Core seems to have become Dr. Pendergast's miracle cure for everything that ails you (seemingly including heat blisters). The exchanges were eerily reminiscent of the run-up to Waiting for Superman, when smart, enthusiastic people kept telling me how everything was about to change--how suburban voters would wake up and leap on the reform bandwagon. And it reminds me more than a little of conversations I've had earlier this decade or back in the '90s about how NCLB, school choice, or site-based management were going to change everything as well.
As best I can tell, none of those previous predictions came true. Now, I don't mean to come across as a tedious, "nothing works" naysayer. The Common Core is a different exercise from those earlier cure-alls, and it might play out differently. I honestly don't know where the truth lies. For one thing, as I've noted previously: I personally don't feel qualified to judge the quality of the Common Core standards; I don't think standards themselves matter all that much--all the action is in the stuff that follows; and I've seen a remarkable dearth of attention to how the Common Core will complement or clash with other key elements of the "reform" agenda (like charter schooling, new teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability).

“NSBA is represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in bi-monthly meetings with top Department of Education officials and leading education organizations, which include AASA, the School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The meetings serve as a platform for the groups’ executive leadership to convene to discuss various issues, share new policy and update the entire group on happenings within each organization.”
U.S. Department of Education official discusses federal education priorities with NSBA
NSBA School Board News Today by Joetta Sack-Min December 6th, 2013
A top federal official outlined the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities and upcoming initiatives at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2013-14 Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 6, 2013.  Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), oversees more than 100 prek-12 programs, including early learning, accountability, mental health, literacy, civic education, and school safety; as well as programs for disadvantaged students, including Title I, and programs for homeless and migrant students.

What a PISA garbage! Sorry, Michelle Rhee, but our obsession with testing kids is all about money
Rhee, Nicholas Kristof and Arne Duncan exaggerate test results again to advance an ugly anti-public school agenda
Salon.doc by JEFF BRYANT FRIDAY, DEC 6, 2013 07:44 AM EST
When President George W. Bush asked the American people, back in 2000, “Is our children learning?” left-leaning people everywhere got a big hoot out of it. Little did they know that the joke was on them.  The question not only revealed the inability of our national leaders to manage something as basic as English grammar. It reflected the incoherent means to which American education policy, with the support of Democrats and Republicans alike, would ultimately go about attempting to assess the impact of the country’s entire schooling enterprise.
Beginning with No Child Left Behind in 2001, an elaborate scheme to answer the question, “Is our children learning,” rolled out wave after wave of various assessments across every state in the country.
Results from national diagnostic tests, such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which had previously never made much of a splash outside of academic circles, suddenly became throat-clutching events anticipated with days of media buildup.
Results from obscure international assessments – Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) – suddenly became crucially important “data” for determining the nation’s potential prosperity.

Wrong lessons from PISA tests
By Kay McSpadden Special to the Observer Friday, Dec. 06, 2013
This past Tuesday the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) test results were released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). As expected, students in Shanghai outscored the rest of the world, with children in Finland near the top of the heap. Students in the U.S. scored in the middle of the pack.
Given every three years to 15 year olds in about 70 countries and municipalities, the PISA results always evoke either celebrations or hand-wringing around the world. Careful examination suggests that neither response might be warranted.

Strong Start for Children - Building America's Future
National Women’s Law Center Strong Start for Children Campaign
In his State of the Union address in February, President Obama announced an ambitious agenda for early care and education. This early care and education initiative would greatly increase access to high-quality pre-K for four-year-olds with a new investment of $75 billion to support state-federal partnerships, expand the availability of high-quality options for infants and toddlers through partnerships between Early Head Start and child care, and expand voluntary home visiting programs with a new investment of $15 billion.  High-quality early care and education helps give children the boost they need to succeed in school, provides parents with the support and peace of mind they need to be productive at work, and strengthens our economy in the short- and long-term. These benefits have garnered support for early care and education investments from across the political spectrum.
Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 1697, H.R. 3461) 


From Pennsylvania, 28 state reps and state senators signed this letter to the Congressional Budget Committee askin them to prioritize and expand federal dollars for early childhood education…
Letter: 500+ State Legislators Urge Congressional Budget Committee to Invest in Early Learning
First Five Years Fund DEC 05, 2013
Over 500 state legislators from “red” and “blue” states alike have signed the following letter addressed to members of the Budget Conference Committee urging that federal investments in early childhood education become a priority in upcoming budget decisions. 
Dear Chairman Murray, Chairman Ryan, Ranking Member Sessions, and Ranking Member Van Hollen:
As Democratic and Republican state legislators from across the country, we understand the challenges of balancing budgets while making critical investments that drive economic success for our constituents and states. We believe that maintaining and expanding high quality early childhood education is an effective and efficient expenditure even when budgets are tight. We urge you to make these investments in young children a priority in your deliberations.

For New York City’s Charter Schools, a Lesson on Paying Rent
By WINNIE HU Published: December 1, 2013
The angled walls of Bronx Community Charter reflect the school’s unconventional approach.
Instead of classes squeezed into every corner, there is a large common area filled with benches for sitting and sharing. An open central staircase connects its two floors. The overhead plumbing and light fixtures are exposed, providing a teachable moment: Students study the building.
Instead of classes squeezed into every corner, there is a large common area filled with benches for sitting and sharing. An open central staircase connects its two floors. The overhead plumbing and light fixtures are exposed, providing a teachable moment: Students study the building.
As a rent-paying school, Bronx Community Charter may also offer a lesson to many New York City charter schools if the mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio, follows through on his campaign proposal that “well-resourced” charter schools pay rent.
Charter schools, which receive public funds but are independently operated, have thrived in New York in the last dozen years — in no small measure because the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has provided them with space and other resources. Currently, 114 of the city’s 183 charter schools are housed rent-free in public school buildings, according to the Education Department.

Contenders for governor court region
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Melissa Daniels  Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The Democrats have come to town.
At least six of the party's gubernatorial candidates were in the Pittsburgh region this weekend to attend a forum by the Southwest Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democrats in Delmont, where they could introduce their campaigns to local political players.
Eight Democrats are vying to challenge Gov. Tom Corbett in November. But none of the declared candidates has strong ties to the Pittsburgh area, making the region an early stop as the hopefuls try to woo voters, donors and Western Pennsylvania politicians.
2014 Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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)

DELAWARE COUNTY INTERMEDIATE UNIT - GOOGLE SYMPOSIUM 2014
FEBRUARY 1ST, 2014
The DCIU Google Symposium is an opportunity for teachers, administrators, technology directors, and other school stakeholders to come together and explore the power of Google Apps for Education.  The Symposium will be held at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.  The Delaware County Intermediate Unit is one of Pennsylvania’s 29 regional educational agencies.  The day will consist of an opening keynote conducted by Rich Kiker followed by 4 concurrent sessions. 

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.

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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