Friday, January 10, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 10, 2014: NJ “Failure Factories” higher in poverty AND performance than NOLA “Miracle Charters”

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SB1085 is now listed on the Senate calendar for 3rd consideration.  Have you discussed charter reform with your state legislators?
Debating charter school reform in Pennsylvania
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane - Audio runtime 52:01

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 10, 2014:
NJ “Failure Factories” higher in poverty AND performance than NOLA “Miracle Charters”

If you are concerned about public education now is a great time to start a conversation with your elected officials…..
State lawmakers, governors working in January, but thinking about November: Thursday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on January 09, 2014 at 7:54 AM,
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Reminding us that it's never too early to start planning ahead, our friends take a look at the legislative sessions soon to commence across this great land of ours and reach an inescapable conclusion:  It may only be January, but state lawmakers and governors are already looking ahead to this November's general elections.  With control of general assemblies up for grabs -- including Pennsylvania, this year also marks the largest class of freshman governors in recent memory.

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085–
Reason #2
SB 1085 is fiscally irresponsible and guts local control of our public schools
First, the private authorizer we already discussed will allow charter schools to set up shop and send us the bill, whether our communities can afford to pay for the schools or not.
Adding insult to injury, SB 1085 removes the ability of authorizing school districts to negotiate enrollment caps on charter schools. This extreme policy will prevent school districts from being able control expenses (and property tax increases to pay for these expenses) by planning responsibly for for new charter school tuition payments. SB 1085 will also allow for the unfettered expansion of charter schools in districts that are already struggling to remain solvent and  provide even basic educational opportunities to students in traditional schools.
Finally, a system of direct payment to charter schools from the state included in the bill will eliminate the current check and balance system that helps ensure taxpayers are not making improper tuition payments for students who have moved out of their district or who are no longer enrolled in charter or cyber charter schools.

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085–
Reason #3
The Charter School Funding Advisory Commission considers ONLY charter school needs.
The proposed Charter School Funding Advisory Commission is heavily stacked in favor of charter schools and is prohibited by law from considering the fiscal impact of charter school growth on local communities. (ELC_CharterBillAnalysis_SB1085_10_29_13)
This is an insult to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
Charter schools are not “tuition-free” as ubiquitous Internet ads proclaim. In fact, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend more than $1 billion on charter school tuition payments every year.

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085 Reason #4
Language that charter schools be models of innovation has been inexplicably stripped from SB 1085
SB 1085 eliminates longstanding requirements that charter schools be models of innovation for other public schools.  Removal of this key language from the legislation begs the question, If the purpose of charter schools is not to provide something different and better than the traditional public schools, what is their purpose?  As Pennsylvanians certainly cannot afford to fund a second, parallel, costly, and completely duplicative system of public education, it is essential that any charter school reform legislation retain language that requires charter schools to be models of innovation for our public schools.

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085
Reason #5
Reason #5 to Oppose SB 1085 The Private Authorizer System
The PA Senate is poised to vote on SB 1085, the charter school “reform” bill. Now is the time for Pennsylvanians who care about our public schools to contact our state senators and urge them to oppose this legislation. Over the next 5 days our blog will detail 5 deeply flawed policies in SB 1085. Please take a few minutes, contact your senator each day this week to share your concerns about these flawed policies, urge him/her to oppose SB 1085, and share this information far and wide! If our senators don’t hear from voters, they will likely pass this bill.
SB 1085 creates a private authorizer system for charter schools in PA. More than 100 institutions of higher education, including institutions with no experience, capacity, or faculty in education, would be allowed to authorize an unlimited number of charter schools without input from local communities.  Charter schools will be able to set up shop without community approval, and send us the bill—whether we can afford it or not.

NAACP: Public Discussions Scheduled on PA Charter School Expansion Bill – SB1085. January 18th, 12:30 pm Media PA.
NAACP Press Release January 9, 2014
Open and public discussion of PA Senate Bill 1085, a charter school expansion plan now due third consideration in the PA General Assembly, will be held on January 18, 2014 in the community room of Campbell AME Church, at 3rd  and Olive Streets in Media, PA.  The event is free. The discussion will last from 1:00 – 2:00 PM.  A light lunch will be available between 12:30 and 1:00 PM    “Local control of public education through the elected school board is under threat for each of the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania,” stated Bettie McClarien, a member of the Media Area NAACP Education Committee, and coordinator of this event.  “Senate Bill 1085 is specifically structured to allow charter school authorization by colleges and universities or by the Department of Education and without local school board input. The bill is written so as to eliminate tax payer participation in approval of the opening of charter schools in their school districts,” McClairen said.    “Even voters in successful suburban districts such as Radnor, Garnett Valley, Nether Providence and Rose Tree Media will be subject to an influx of charters run by educational management organizations with no knowledge of or concern for the community.”
A panel of informed education experts has been assembled to enlighten the public concerning the contents and implications of SB 1085. Sue Tiernan, school board member from West Chester Area School District and David Lapp of the Education Law Center will serve on the panel.  Other officials knowledgeable on the bill have been invited to the panel as well.
More info contact:  Bettie McClairen at

Early Allentown school budget focuses on hefty layoffs, tax hike
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times on January 09, 2014 at 9:59 PM
If there was any doubt that the Allentown School District will impose layoffs as it grapples with a $10.6 million shortfall next year, those doubts were all but erased tonight.
The school board considered a preliminary budget that could be described -- officials hope -- as a worst-case scenario: a $6.1 million cut to salaries, and a 9 percent property tax increase.
Those will almost certainly change by the time the final budget is passed in June. A preliminary budget is required this month by state law, and it must be balanced, so the district includes cuts to satisfy that deadline and then changes them later.
But if the $6.1 million salaries cut stays in place, with a district average salary of $65,000, it could mean at least 94 jobs getting eliminated, school union President Debra Tretter said.

Radio Times: Philly public school update - audio runtime 52:01
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane THURSDAY, JANUARY 9
Guests: Kristen Graham, Kevin McCorry, Dale Mezzacappa
The school year has reached the halfway point, students and teachers have returned from winter break and the School District of Philadelphia continues to hobble along with fewer schools, fewer staff, and much less money.  Meanwhile the teacher’s union hasn’t budged, the School Reform Commission is without a leader and school children have limited access to school services, counselors, nurses and librarians.  We’ll get an update on the crisis situation in Philadelphia Public Schools from three reporters who have been closely following the situation.  KRISTEN GRAHAM is the education reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, DALE MEZZACAPPA is a contributing editor at The Public School Notebook, and’s KEVIN McCORRY.

Federal jury acquits Brown on 6 counts, deadlocks on 54
After seven days of deliberations, jurors in the federal fraud trial of charter school founder Dorothy June Brown acquitted the veteran educator on six counts late Thursday and said they were here hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining 54.  U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick accepted the partial verdict, thanked jurors for their service over the last two months, and discharged them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Burnes said the government planned to retry Brown, 76, on the counts on which jurors were deadlocked.  "We accept the jury's verdict, but we look forward to the retrial," she said.

"They are governed primarily by disclosure," she said. "That is, they're operated by volunteer boards of directors, and there's all sorts of entities that get all sorts of paperwork about them."
A Philadelphia charter is required to file a lengthy annual report that's posted on a state website.There are other materials filed with the Philadelphia School District and the federal tax form 990, which is public and contains information about funding sources, salaries and other spending. And the schools are audited every year.
"But the problem is all this paperwork is sitting out there, and there are very few resources devoted to anyone looking at it," DeJarnatt said.
Feds to retry Philly charter school founder after jury deadlocks on most charges
A federal jury in Philadelphia has deadlocked on most of the fraud charges against charter school founder Dorothy June Brown and acquitted her on six criminal counts after seven days of deliberation. Prosecutors say they will retry her.  Brown was charged along with four co-defendants with defrauding four charter schools she founded of $6.7 million and concocting a scheme to cover it up.

Moody’s: No More Cuts
Philly schools can't afford to cut more programs, credit agency warns by Joseph N. DiStefano THURSDAY, JANUARY 9, 2014, 1:40 PM
The Philadelphia School District has cut all the programs it can afford to cut without driving away -- not just more students -- but also the investors the city depends on to finance school spending, warns Moody's Investors Service analyst Michael D'Arcy in a report to clients today.
"Further program cuts resulting in continued or accelerated student movement from district schools" to charter, Catholic, private or suburban schools will push the credit rating agency to reduce the district's bond rating, driving up future borrowing costs and raising questions about the schools' ability to keep paying bonds, according to the report.

Obama designates Mantua neighborhood as federal 'Promise Zone'
Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood is being singled out as one of five economic "Promise Zones" across the country that will receive federal backing for community revitalization.
President Barack Obama introduced the "Promise Zones" program in his State of the Union address last year and named the five winners a day after an important anniversary: The fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's launch of the "War on Poverty."

Profits Over Pupils: Philadelphia's True Priorities
Should public school educators be as optimistic about the coming year as the rising stock prices of our numerous Fortune 500 corporations? Not so fast. As those entities earning record profits continue to shirk their responsibilities, the District is forced to balance its budget on the backs of the only individuals they have some sort of control over - their teachers.
From the Teacher's Desk by George Bezanis January 8, 2014
2013 is gone and, as far as public educators in the City of Philadelphia are concerned, good riddance. The worst budget crisis the School District of Philadelphia has ever faced is now last year's news.  Honestly, however, who can blame the city or state for vastly underfunding the education of our youth? After all, this budget crisis is a result of the greatest recession our city and state have seen in over a generation. A brief look at how Philadelphia's publicly traded Fortune 500 corporations fared in 2013 shows the dire economic situation our city is in, resulting in a School District underfunded to the tune of $304 million.

Attention Candidates: PA Has New Nominating Petitions
PoliticsPA Written by Brittany Foster, Managing Editor
Pennsylvania’s candidate nominating petitions are getting a facelift.
The Department of State is taking the process into the 21st century with new petition forms meant to streamline form submission and review.  Candidates will be able to fill out their information in the preamble before printing them and will be issued a unique barcode. Previously, candidates and campaign staffers had to individually fill out each form or have them photocopied.

Failure is in the Eye of the Political Hack: Thoughts & Data on NJ Failure Factories & NOLA Miracles
School Finance 101 Blog by Bruce Baker Posted on November 5, 2013
We all know… by the persistent blather emanating from reformy-land that some common truths exist in education policy.  Among those truths are that New Jersey’s urban public school districts are absolute, undeniable Failure Factories, while New Orleans’ Post-Katrina charter invasion is the future of greatness in public (well, not really public) education – the ultimate example of how reformyness taken to its logical extreme saves children from failure factories.
Thus, we must take New Jersey down that New Orleans path toward greatness. It’s really that simple. Dump this union-protectionist favor-my-failure-factory mindset… throw all caution (and public tax dollars) to the wind – jump on that sector agnostic train and relinquish all adult self interest.  But like most reformy truths, this one is a bit fact challenged, even when mining reformy preferred data sources.

The federal government today invests just $1 in children for every $7 invested in seniors
Graphic from First Focus 2014

“The best example of how government antipoverty programs can succeed involves the elderly. In 1960, about 35 percent of older Americans were poor. In 2012, 9 percent were. That’s because senior citizens vote, so politicians listened to them and buttressed programs like Social Security and Medicare.  In contrast, children are voiceless, so they are the age group most likely to be poor today. That’s a practical and moral failure.  I don’t want anybody to be poor, but, if I have to choose, I’d say it’s more of a priority to help kids than seniors. In part, that’s because when kids are deprived of opportunities, the consequences can include a lifetime of educational failure, crime and underemployment.”
Progress in the War on Poverty
New York Times OP-ED by Nicholas Kristof JAN. 8, 2014
America’s war on poverty turned 50 years old this week, and plenty of people have concluded that, as President Reagan put it: “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”
That perception shapes the right’s suspicion of food stamps, minimum-wage raises and extensions of unemployment benefits. A reader named Frank posted on my Facebook page: “All the government aid/handouts in the world will not make people better parents. This is why the ideas from the left, although always made with the best of intentions, never work. ... All of this aid is wasted.”  Yet a careful look at the evidence suggests that such a view is flat wrong. In fact, the first lesson of the war on poverty is that we can make progress against poverty, but that it’s an uphill slog.

New York City Study Tracks Transfers by Charter School Students
New York Times By AL BAKER JAN. 9, 2014
Addressing a common criticism of New York City charter schoolsa studyreleased on Thursday said that in general their students were not, in fact, more likely to transfer out than their counterparts in traditional public schools.
But the study, conducted by the city’s Independent Budget Office, concluded that special education students left charter schools far more often.
The findings shed light on a sector that mushroomed in the 12 years of the Bloomberg administration, with 150 charters now operating in the city. Though they serve just 5 percent of pupils, charter schools garner an outsize portion of debate because they are financed by taxpayers but privately managed, they often take space in public schools, and their teachers are usually not unionized.

NSBA: School board involvement critical to addressing discipline issues
NSBA School Board News Today by Joetta Sack-Min  January 9, 2014
The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice have issued a four-part guide designed to address disparities in discipline practices and improve school climate. The guide, which includes data showing that minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harsher punishments, is the first time the federal government has dealt with these issues through guidance.
Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), responded to the guidance and noted that  local school board and community involvement is essential in addressing concerns of discipline and race.

Equity in Achievement, Funding a Hurdle for States Amid Progress
Quality Counts rates states and the nation on key student-performance and finance indicators
Edycation Week By Sterling C. Lloyd and Christopher B. Swanson January 3, 2014
In 1997, Education Week first published Quality Counts as a report card assessing state progress in adopting policy measures in several key areas. The annual report offered a way for policymakers to track central tenets of standards-based reform, a movement continuing to come into its own as a major force in K-12 education.  Since that time, states—spurred in part by the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act—have enacted many of that movement's building blocks related to standards, testing, and accountability. In effect, much of what Quality Counts was originally designed to monitor has become the educational law-of-the-land across much of the country.

As reading scores stagnate, Iowa State Board considers holding students back
Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier January 05, 2014 12:00 pm  •  By MacKenzie Elmer
CEDAR FALLS | Third-graders who fail to meet state literacy standards may be held back under new rules being considered by the Iowa State Board of Education. But some experts say that's not the route to go.  Under the proposed rules, parents of a struggling reader in third grade would have the choice of enrolling the pupil in an intensive summer reading program. If the parents refuse summer school, the child would be held back. The board plans to cast a final vote to accept these rules early this year.  "We really aren’t looking at it as being punitive,” said Dave Tilly, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education, "but we really want to get parents to take their child’s literacy development very, very seriously.”

Sociological Images Blog by Lisa Wade, PhD, January 8, 2014
If you’re looking for just one image that says a thousand words about what’s wrong with America, here’s a contender.  It is a screenshot of the website for the Silver State Schools Credit Union:

2014 PA 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.

Representatives from winning schools and partner organizations are invited to join us for the grants award ceremony on Monday, January 27, 2014 at the World Cafe Live3025 Walnut Street from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.  RSVP to or call 215-563-5848 x11.

January 24th – 26th, 2014 at The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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.

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

Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

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