Saturday, January 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 11, 2014: If Pennsylvania was still following the school funding formula enacted in 2008, an additional $2 billion would be available to help all of Pennsylvania’s students learn.

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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 11, 2014:
If Pennsylvania was still following the school funding formula enacted in 2008, an additional $2 billion would be available to help all of Pennsylvania’s students learn.

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085–
Reason #1
The policies in SB 1085 will not strengthen the public education system in PA, improve the performance of public schools (charter or traditional),or create efficiencies for taxpayers. SB 1085 will, however, open the door for the unfettered expansion of charter schools (even poorly performing ones) into communities throughout Pennsylvania, whether taxpayers can afford to pay for them or not.
It is difficult to see why SB 1085 has such strong support in the PA Senate.
Many legislators who support SB 1085 point to adjustments in charter school finances as their main reason for supporting this bill. SB 1085 will provide the PA legislature with a windfall of cash to spend as it pleases by eliminating part of the state’s share of mandated pension payments. Charter school tuition rates for school districts will also be slightly reduced.
Many senators who support this bill, especially those who live in districts that currently have few or no brick-and-mortar charter schools, appear to think that the damaging policies in SB 1085 will not have any negative impact on the traditional schools or taxpayers in their home districts.
Their thinking could not be more misguided.
When more than 100 private entities can authorize charter schools without the approval of local taxpayers, charter school operators will have the ability to expand into markets that had previous been off limits to them.

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.

House Appropriations committee wants your budget questions for Pennsylvania cabinet
By Jeff Frantz | 
on January 09, 2014 at 3:45 PM
As they prepare for budget hearings, the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee is asking for help on in grilling cabinet members.
In releasing the schedule for the hearings Thursday, Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, asked members of the public to submit questions that committee members could then pose to the department heads that will appear before them next month.
Residents can submit questions through the "Public Budget Hearing Participation" link of the website.

PA Senate prez: Do away with ‘obsolete, unsustainable’ pensions or face difficult budget cuts
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent January 9, 2014
After two years of talk and little action, pension reform might finally rise to the top of the General Assembly’s to-do list in 2014.  If so, it will be for good reason. Escalating pension costs will consume an estimated $2 billion in next year’s budget, which must be approved by the end of June, up from $1.4 billion this year. School districts, which pay for roughly half of retirement costs for teachers and other school employees, are facing similar increases that threaten to swamp their budgets with red ink next year and for years to come.  The situation requires the General Assembly attack the state pension crisis, Senate President Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said Tuesday, just moments after being re-elected by his peers to head the chamber for an eighth consecutive year.

“A quick glance at Sen. Alloway's campaign finance reports has shed some light on his strong support for Senate Bill 1085. In 2012, Sen. Alloway accepted a $10,000 check from the Students First PAC and an in-kind contribution of $7,832 from the Education Freedom PAC. These special interest groups have set up camp in Harrisburg and are unrelenting lobbyists for state policies that funnel taxpayer dollars intended for public education into private pockets.”
SB1085: Evidence explaining Alloway charter school support? (Letter)
Chambersburg Public Opinion Letter by Petra Rueter, Shippensburg January 10, 2014
I have been puzzled by Sen. Rich Alloway's unwavering support for Senate Bill 1085, a bill that would strip control from local school boards and taxpayers by allowing private entities to authorize brick-and-mortar charter schools in our communities and send us the bill.  Franklin County residents are struggling under the weight of their property tax bills and already pay more than $5.3 million per year in cyber charter school tuition -- in addition to paying to support all of our traditional public schools.  It is unlikely that most taxpayers would welcome new brick-and-mortar charter schools in Franklin County that would cost them millions more in taxes each year, but Sen. Alloway supports allowing an outside entity to open charter schools here without our approval.

Letters: Pennsylvania Senate bill is a poison pill for online based learning
Delco Times By ERIK TELFORD, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 01/10/14, 11:13 PM EST |
Cyber schools are a valuable facet in the push to improve our education system, creating more options for parents and strengthening brick-and-mortar public schools by providing additional resources for students with unique learning needs.  But the Pennsylvania Senate is considering a bill that would make a host of reforms — several of which are helpful — to cyber and charter schools, but would also arbitrarily cut 5 percent of funding for online public education.

“If Pennsylvania was still following the school funding formula enacted in 2008, an additional $2 billion would be available to help all of Pennsylvania’s students learn.”
Testimony Presented to the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee January 7, 2014
Donna Cooper, Public Citizens for Children and Youth 

Come to Harrisburg February 4th for the Governor's Budget Address
Show your School Spirit with PCCY!
In 25 days the Governor will introduce his budget plan for 2014-2015.  Based on past performance, the next budget may do little to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s public school students.  School districts in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery remain underfunded by the state by a combined $161 million.  That is why we need YOU to stand up for your school in Harrisburg on February 4th to demand equitable funding for our schools.  To really make our point, please wear local school colors, jackets or sweatshirts to show your school spirit!  
Click here to sign-up and get details.  For more information please email Shanee Garner-Nelson at

It's time to renew our War on Poverty: Sharon Ward
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Sharon Ward on January 10, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Sharon Ward is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center in Harrisburg.
The early 1960s was the height of the American Century. Our nation had survived a depression, fought and won a world war, and become an economic powerhouse. Before the end of the decade we would put a man on the moon.
America’s technological innovation and rising educational success fueled growing productivity, yielding higher wages and benefits for working families. Life was getting better.
Michael Harrington’s book, "The Other America," awoke the nation to the heart-wrenching reality of severe poverty in America’s rural hollers and inner cities, and asked whether these extremes were tolerable in the world’s richest nation.

Feds: Guilty of embezzlement, Harambee charter-school CEO resumes embezzling
The U.S. Attorney's Office has asked a federal judge to revoke West Philadelphia charter school chief executive Masai Skief's bail on grounds that he is continuing to steal money from the charter - even as he awaits sentencing for embezzlement.  In August, Skief, 32, the son of the late founder of the Harambee Institute of Science Technology Charter School, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in connection with embezzling $88,000 from the charter and the related nonprofit, Harambee Institute. He used the money on personal expenses, including a down payment on a house.  Since then, however, Skief has used Harambee's debit card 40 times, racking up charges of $11,000 in cash and purchases, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

Key Public Charter School founder outlines proposal before Reading School Board
Reading Eagle By David Mekeel  Thursday January 9, 2014 12:01 AM
The Reading School Board held a public hearing Wednesday night to consider the last of three separate charter school proposals it is currently facing.  Founder Andrea E. Coleman-Hill presented the application for the Key Public Charter School, a kindergarten through 12th-grade school she hopes to open in August.  Starting off with just over 600 students in grades kindergarten through ninth, the school would be at the former Reading Central Catholic School near City Park.  Coleman-Hill said she has submitted an offer to the Diocese of Allentown to buy the property for $1.2 million.

A universal plan, but not universal support: Monday SRC meeting on enrollment process
thenotebook by Bill Hangley Jr.on Jan 10 2014
When the School Reform Commission meets Monday for its monthly public strategy session, its goal will be to discuss the pros and cons of an unprecedented proposal: unifying the enrollment process for Philadelphia’s public, charter, and parochial schools.  But behind the scenes, a lengthy working group process involving multiple stakeholders appears to have created little consensus over how this “universal enrollment” system might work, who should be in it, and even whether one should exist at all.
“There’s consensus that there’s a problem,” said David Lapp of the Education Law Center, a working group member. “We should improve on having over 80 different systems for how kids enroll in school.”  However, Lapp said, there has been no consensus on “the big [questions], who would run it and who would participate in it.”
First proposed by the increasingly influential Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) in a briefing at City Council last fall, a universal enrollment system would provide a single application process for all District schools, some (possibly all) charter schools, and, potentially, tuition-based Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

No Philly school closings this year, says Superintendent Hite
Notebook by David Limm on Jan 10 2014 Posted in Latest news
After losing two dozen schools last year, the School District of Philadelphia won't be seeing any closings in 2014.  Superintendent William Hite announced Friday afternoon that the District would not be proposing any school closures this year.  
Emphasizing the need to "bolster" neighborhood schools, Hite said that, this year, the decision was not driven mostly by financial reasons. The District's coping with a $304 million funding shortfall was the prime factor in making school closing decisions before. 
"Everything we do is financial," said Hite.  But "this decision is more making sure that whenever we move students, we're providing a better option for those students, especially academics."
Unable to guarantee that students of closed schools would move to schools with better academic performance, the District could not justify more closings this year, said Hite.

PSEA recommends 20 ways to improve public education
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 9, 2014 12:43 PM
The Pennsylvania State Education Association today released a report highlighting 20 ways to improve public education, such as focusing on districts with high levels of poverty, investing in early childhood education and providing tutoring.  PSEA president Michael Crossey urged lawmakers to use the 104-page report, called "Solutions That Work," to design initiatives to help students.

Obama names impoverished Mantua among first five Promise Zones
MANTUA President Obama pointed to one of Philadelphia's most depressing statistics - nearly four in 10 children live below the poverty line - as one of the main reasons the city's Mantua section was chosen as one of the nation's first five Promise Zones.  The president officially announced Thursday that West Philadelphia, in particular the Mantua neighborhood, would receive federal help from the new Promise Zones program, aimed at cutting unemployment, poverty, and crime, enhancing education, and attracting private-sector investment and jobs.  But unlike some previous federal programs, the zones are not promised a check from Washington any time soon.

NY State awards $15M for ‘community schools’
Capital New York By Jessica Bakeman 2:48 p.m. Jan. 9, 2014
ALBANY—Thirty schools in New York will be transformed into hubs of community services for low-income neighborhoods, offering students and their families mental health counseling, dental care, medical referrals and enrichment activities.  The state Education Department last month awarded $15 million in three-year grants for “community schools,” an initiative championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2013 State of the State. A recommendation of Cuomo's Education Reform Commission, the “community schools” model aims to address social problems that exist outside of school but affect student performance, like access to housing and health care.  High-need schools in New York City and rural parts of the state, particularly in western New York and the Southern Tier, won most of the funding.

Thirty states are raising pre-kindergarten funding
Washington Post BY NIRAJ CHOKSHI January 10 at 12:17 pm
Among states that fund early childhood education, three in four increased those appropriations for this fiscal year, according to a new analysis.  Nationally, states raised pre-kindergarten funding by 6.9 percent for the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year. That amounts to about $364 million more, bringing the national total for pre-K funding to $5.6 billion, the state-formed Education Commission of the States reported on Friday. And while some states are still making up for ground lost during the recession, overall funding is actually $400 million more than it was before it even hit.

No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog By Liana Heitin on January 10, 2014 9:07 AM
A new analysis of test-taking data finds that in Mississippi and Montana, no female, African American, or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science
In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech.   The College Board, which oversees AP, notes on its website that in 2013 about 30,000 students total took the AP exam for computer science, a course in which students learn to design and use computer programs. Less than 20 percent of those students were female, about 3 percent were African American, and 8 percent were Hispanic (combined totals of Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic).

A Battle Over School Reform: Michelle Rhee vs. Diane Ravitch
As the No Child Left Behind era ends and Common Core begins, two education heavyweights face-off over what we’ve learned and where we’ve gone wrong.
When President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in early 2002, he described the sweeping education overhaul as a landmark piece of civil rights legislation. Closing the achievement gap between white students and non-Asian minority students was, the former president liked to say, “the civil rights struggle of our time.”
Many still see it that way. Every year, thousands of the nation’s most idealistic college graduates sign up for two years of service with Teach For America (TFA). Successful charter schools such as KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) make extreme demands on teachers and staff to prepare disadvantaged students for college. Their rallying cry is that inspired, dedicated teachers can improve educational achievement—no matter the obstacles of poverty or racial disparity.

K12 founder Ron Packard steps down to start new online education venture
Washington Post By Catherine Ho, Published: January 8, 2014
Ron Packard, the founder and chief executive of Herndon-based online education provider K12 Inc., has resigned and plans to form a new company focused on technology-based learning programs.  Packard will continue to serve on K12’s board of directors. K12 executive chairman Nate Davis has been appointed chief executive.
K12, founded in 1999, is the nation’s largest full-time virtual school, providing online curricula and other educational services for students in pre-kindergarten through high school in 29 states and the District. It wasconceived as an alternative to traditional education, offering high achievers, dropouts and other students more flexible schooling options. The model is not without its critics, some of whom have pointed to a 2012 study indicating that students enrolled at K12 lag behind their counterparts at traditional schools in math and reading proficiency.
The majority stake of Packard’s new venture, which has yet to be named, will be owned by an investor group led by Safanad Limited, a New York and Dubai investment house. K12 will own an initial minority stake of more than 25 percent, according to an announcement this week from Safanad.

From 2009-2013, Packard made over $19 million in compensation, and compensation to his top executives skyrocketed 96 percent in 2013. Thank you taxpayers!
K12, Inc. Executive Compensation - Morningstar

The truth about charter schools: Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results
Charter schools are sold as an answer. With awful discipline and shocking scandals, many really cause new problems by JEFF BRYANT FRIDAY, JAN 10, 2014 07:44 AM EST
Imagine your 5-year-old boy went to a school where he was occasionally thrown in a padded cell and detained alone for stretches as long as 20 minutes.
Or you sent your kid to an elementary school where the children are made to sit on a bare floor in the classroom for days before they can “earn” their desks.
Or your kid went to a school where she spent hours parked in a cubicle in front of a computer with a poorly trained teacher who has to monitor more than 100 other students.
Maybe you don’t have children or send them to private school? So how do you feel when you find out the local school that you pay for with your taxes is operating a scam thatdiverted millions of dollars through fake Medicaid billing?
Or the school used your tax dollars as “grants” to start up other profit-making enterprises … or pay lavish salaries – $300,000, $400,000 or more – to its administrators … or support a movement linked to a reclusive Turkish cleric being investigated for bribery and corruption.
Welcome to the world of charter schools.

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

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

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