Monday, February 10, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 10, 2014: “He is the eighth Philadelphia charter school official to plead guilty to federal fraud charges.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3100 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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SB1085: “A review of relevant, rigorous research finds no evidence that higher education authorizers, in particular, correlate with student achievement gains. A comprehensive study of charter school performance in 16 states found lower student achievement in states with multiple authorizers, including non-profit organizations and higher education authorizers.” Research for Action



Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for February 10, 2014:
“He is the eighth Philadelphia charter school official to plead guilty to federal fraud charges.”

“He is the eighth Philadelphia charter school official to plead guilty to federal fraud charges.”
Thief who continued to steal from charter school to be sentenced
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Monday, February 10, 2014, 1:07 AM
PHILADELPHIA One question will take center stage Monday when Masai Skief is sentenced for embezzling from the charter school he ran: Did he forfeit a chance at a lower sentence by continuing to steal money from the school - even after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud?
Skief, 32, son of the late founder of the Harambee Institute of Science Technology Charter School, pleaded guilty in federal court in August to embezzling $88,000 from the charter and from the Harambee Institute, a related nonprofit. He is the eighth Philadelphia charter school official to plead guilty to federal fraud charges.

Editorial: Corbett must show leadership on education
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 02/08/14, 11:38 PM EST
“It’s not fair right now, OK? So we need to address that.”
— Gov. Tom Corbett, on the state’s school funding system.
That quote is going to haunt the governor on the campaign trail this year.
He said it a couple of weeks before unveiling his state budget proposal Tuesday.
The statement gave many people hope that Gov. Corbett was finally ready to show some leadership on this front — after three years of ignoring the school funding issue.
But apparently not. It seems the statement — made in reference to state House passage of a bill that would create a commission to rework Pennsylvania’s woefully outdated school subsidy formula — was just campaign trail blather.

Did you miss our weekend posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 8, 2014: NV, TX, OH, UT, NM, AZ, PA, OR, FL, and AR should be Ashamed of Charter School Achievement!
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, February 8, 2014

“An "overwhelming majority" of the state's school boards are dealing with the uncertainty of that funding stream as they prepare spending plans for the next school year, said John Callahan, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's government affairs director.  "Budget-wise, it's getting to the point that it's overwhelming," Callahan said.”
State owes schools millions in Medicaid dollars
Districts forced to cover special-education costs that haven't been reimbursed.
By Patrick Lester, Of The Morning Call 11:53 p.m. EST, February 9, 2014
School districts that rely on Medicaid dollars to help pay for a range of costly but vital health-related services for special education students say the flow of that money has ground practically to a halt.  If that trend continues, officials say, they'll have no choice but to turn to local taxpayers to cover those government-mandated services, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"This is a big deal," said East Penn schools Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger, adding that he and his colleagues across the state have been "screaming" about it for months.
They're fed up with what they call an increasingly frustrating process of getting the state and its contracted vendor to deliver a large chunk of the roughly $100 million school districts collectively receive each year through the School-Based ACCESS program.
And that's just reimbursements for the 2012-13 school year. They haven't begun to try settling up for the current school year.
“Madonna said Corbett does have at least one thing going for him: Legislative leaders themselves say pension reform is a priority, which means they can be blamed if it all falls apart.”
Pa., N.J. edge toward pension overhauls
WHYY Newsworks BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN FEBRUARY 10, 2014
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie both want pension system changes, and they both may be disappointed.  Christie hasn't introduced any specific measure, but he emphasized the need for a pension overhaul in his State of the State speech.
"If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension and debt service costs," he said, "we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few."
Corbett, meanwhile, wants to change retirement benefits for future employees. In his recent budget address, he urged lawmakers, "Help your state. Help your school district. Help your taxpayers. Enact public pension reform before the end of this session."

“Democrats emerged from their conclave at the Hotel Hershey sans white smoke, butavec heat, and a guarantee of at least three months of drama leading to the May 20 primary election.”
In Hershey, the Democratic endorsement for governor remains as nettlesome as ever: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on February 08, 2014 at 4:23 PM
The easiest vote that Pennsylvania Democrats took during their daylong winter meeting in Hershey on Saturday had nothing to do with the 2014 race for governor.
After a bit of sloganeering and plenty of cheering and applause, the more than 300 party activists who gathered in a banquet room at the Hotel Hershey unanimously voted to oppose something that most of them opposed anyway: a Republican-authored bill that would bar the state from deducting union dues and political money from public employees’ paychecks.
“Nobody’s opposed,” state Democratic Chairman Jim Burn bellowed after members of the Democratic State Committee took their vote.
If only the rest of the day went so smoothly.

Pa. schools would get funding bump under Corbett's budget
Bucks County Courier Times By Natasha Lindstrom Staff Writer Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 4:15 pm
HARRISBURG – As the Legislature ponders a complete overhaul of the way Pennsylvania funds schools, Gov. Tom Corbett is pitching a budget plan that would pump $387 million more into education in 2014-15.  The proposed 3.3 percent increase in spending over last year isn’t enough to satisfy most Democrats and education advocates, who say schools are still reeling from more than $1 billion in cuts in recent years. They also criticize the way Corbett wants to dispense the new money.  Under Corbett’s $29.4 billion spending plan, basic education funding — the primary way school districts get funding from the state — would remain flat. All 500 of Pennsylvania’s school districts, though, would receive a bump in funding through what Corbett calls the Ready to Learn Block Grant.

Local Bucks County school districts react to gov's funding proposals
Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 5:46 pm, Sat Feb 8, 2014.
Staff reports
Gov. Tom Corbett last week proposed that school districts throughout Pennsylvania could receive additional funding in next year's fiscal budget.  The increases could come through "Ready to Learn" grants and for special education expenses.
Here's how local district officials responded to the proposal.

Blogger’s note: Unlike charter and cyber schools, which simply receive tax dollars thru a formula, or private and religious schools that receive diverted tax revenue through the EITC/OSTC programs, school districts are required to discuss and vote upon their proposed, preliminary and final budgets in advertised public meetings.
Upper Darby school board to discuss budget
LAST UPDATED: Monday, February 10, 2014, 1:08 AM
DELAWARE COUNTY
School board to discuss budget
UPPER DARBY School board members in the Upper Darby School District, one of the state's largest, will meet Tuesday to take up the preliminary budget for the next academic year that calls for a 5.5 percent tax increase.  The $174.4 million proposed budget would represent an $8.8 million increase over spending in the current school year. The bulk of the increase would be in the instructional category. Almost three-quarters of the total budget would be devoted to wages and benefits.

Allentown students benefit from international music program
The international music program El Sistema gives Allentown kids the instruments for a better future.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:31 p.m. EST, February 8, 2014
Roosevelt Elementary School doesn't have a dedicated music room.
The east Allentown school doesn't have its own music teacher, either.
And because of budget cuts, students at Roosevelt, as in all Allentown School District elementary schools, get no more than 10 or 12 class periods of singing and instrument playing each year.
But after school, the sounds of a symphony fill Roosevelt's gymnasium/cafeteria and spill into the halls, luring music lovers like Caitlyn Herrold, who has been playing her viola at the school every day for the past 21/2 years.
In the shadow of a basketball hoop, an arm's reach from a folded-up cafeteria table, Caitlyn, 13, sits up straight in a folding chair, using her left shoulder to support the instrument. As her right hand slides the bow along the strings to create vibrations, the fingers on her left confidently dance along the viola's neck. Her songs now spring from memory as well as sheet music.
Caitlyn is among 85 Allentown students and about 10,000 across the country given an opportunity to participate in a free after-school program called El Sistema, which provides instruments and lessons to youth in poorer neighborhoods. Paid for by grants and fundraising by the Allentown Symphony Association, the program is part of a global movement that gives students musical instruction, academic tutoring, and an opportunity to change their lives.
“The unexpected growth in charter enrollment -- which is partially attributable to schools exceeding their caps -- is projected to put the District about $25 million over its $675 million budget for charter payments this year, not counting transportation costs. “
City's charter enrollment surpasses 67,000; many charters exceed enrollment caps
Notebook by Paul Socolar on Feb 04 2014 Posted in Latest news
New data released by the School District on Tuesday show that charter enrollment in Philadelphia has swelled to 67,315 students, which is more than one-third of all K-12 students in public schools.  More than 1,500 of those students are enrolled in excess of enrollment caps for individual schools. Twenty charters are 10 or more students over their enrollment caps.
Four charters have more than 100 students in excess of their caps, led by Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter, where the District reports an enrollment of 1,302 despite an enrollment cap of 675.  The District has attempted to make those caps enforceable by writing them into its charter agreements. But this has not prevented the state from paying some charters directly for students enrolled in excess of the caps.

Philly schools consider universal enrollment model
Philly.com by KATHY MATHESON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS February 9, 2014
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - When it's time to enroll in school in Philadelphia, students face a bewildering array of choices: Neighborhood public school? Cyber school? Charter? Private or religious school? What about a specialty district school focused on science? Performing arts? International affairs?  Then, applying for admission can entail reams of red tape. Forms, requirements and due dates vary depending on the number and kinds of schools involved.
District officials are now wondering if universal enrollment can simplify things. The increasingly popular but contentious model would offer families a central online gateway to research their options and submit one application with ranked preferences, regardless of school type.

“At their first regular legislative meeting, the new board reversed two actions taken by the old board at its final meetings, both of them sought by Ms. Lane. The new board rescinded the vote to use Teach for America to fill some hard-to-fill teaching slots. It also rescinded the vote to start the process to close Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5, located on the Bloomfield-Lawrenceville border.”
Pittsburgh schools' Lane looks ahead to new board
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 9, 2014 11:13 PM
While Pittsburgh Public Schools expects to run out of money in 2016, superintendent Linda Lane doesn't think things are so dire that the district has to clean showers less often, as a report suggested as a way to save money.  "I'll admit that wasn't one high on my list," said Ms. Lane, who is proud of the cleanliness of the schools. "I get the incident reports on everything from bedbugs to MRSA. ... At the end of the day, I think we've got to figure out a way to clean those shower stalls."
Ms. Lane likely won't have much trouble getting the school board to agree on clean showers. But she doesn't know how the school board will vote on other bigger and more contentious items such as school closings included in the "Whole Child, Whole Community" report released in December.  In an interview a few weeks after the start of her fourth year as superintendent, Ms. Lane reflected on the past year and the future.

Lehighton School Board member talks nutrition in Washington
Times news By TERRY AHNER tahner@tnonline.com Saturday, February 8, 2014
An area school director with concerns over nutrition in our schools recently expressed his platform on the issue on a national level.  Lehighton Area School Board Director Rocky Ahner participated in the National School Boards Advocacy Institute held this past weekend in Washington, D.C.  Ahner, who was appointed to the National School Boards Association Federal Relations Network, said his main focus was Bill 3663, introduced by Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

Blogger’s note: according to minutes from an Agora Cyber charter board meeting, your PA tax dollars paid for more than 19,000 local TV commercials for the school which is run by K12, Inc.  Agora never made AYP under No Child Left Behind and received a School Performance Profile score of 48.3 for 2012-2013.
Florida charter school's commercial avoids F grade
TAMPAWoodmont Charter School, an F-rated elementary and middle school, is advertising on television for more students.  The 30-second cable spot shows children listening attentively, raising their hands, working on computers and romping through the playground.
But it doesn't mention the school's grade.
"I'm not going to advertise that Woodmont got an F," said Colleen Reynolds, spokeswoman for Charter Schools USA, which manages the school. "But I don't think we overhype it either."
The ad, nevertheless, is just the type of thing that stirs up critics of charter schools, which use tax dollars but are run independently of government districts.  "The state goes out of its way, as it should, to inform parents of the grades and the achievement of schools," said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a federation of teachers unions.  "But it's not quite a level playing field when someone can put an ad on TV, and you know it's not going to say anything about the grade."

Do Parents Care Enough About School?
New York Times Opinion: Room for Debate UPDATED FEBRUARY 9, 2014 7:29 PM
We cannot improve education without ”more demanding parents,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently mused that he “wished our biggest challenge” was “too many parents demanding excellent schools.” The authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeldsay some parents are more focused on building self-esteem than demanding excellence.  But are schools really doing poorly because parents don’t care enough to push their children and their schools to excel? Or are educators shifting responsibility to parents who are ill-equipped to take on such a role?

Don’t go overboard praising China’s schools
Washington Post By Jay Mathews, Published: February 9 E-mail the writer
Explanations for American schools lagging behind the rest of the world are many. One of the most prevalent themes for politicians, business executives and pundits scolding our kids, parents and teachers is fear of Asia — particularly China, Korea, Japan and Singapore — because of their world-leading test scores.
I ignore those who say we will someday be at war with China. I have spent most of my life studying that country. Its culture and history are much less warlike than ours. Happily, like us, the Chinese love making money. Our battle to sell more stuff to each other will inevitably help both economies. Our concern about their educational superiority is another matter. Many American scholars and reformers point out correctly that the Chinese — and those other countries above — do better in part because they value schooling more, train their teachers more carefully and are more likely to believe that any children can learn if they work at it. Anything we can do to adopt those values is good.  But the experts often don’t mention the mindless, rote, competitive streak in Asian education systems that would horrify us if it were imported here. 


Have you considered signing this petition yet?
PENNSYLVANIA PROPERTY TAX PAYERS: OPPOSE PROPOSED SB1085 CHARTER SCHOOL LAW REFORM
Petition by Denise Kurnas
To be delivered to The Pennsylvania State House, The Pennsylvania State Senate, and Governor Tom Corbett
This petition is designed to keep charter school oversight in local district control instead of allowing other entities or the Pennsylvania Department of Education to spend our property tax dollars without input from our locally elected school board officials. 

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center 2014 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Harrisburg Hilton Thu, Feb 20, 2014 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will host its Annual Budget Summit on Thursday, February 20th to provide an in-depth look at the Governor's spending plan and an update on the federal budget — and what it all means for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
As in previous years, the Budget Summit will be at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Harrisburg
Additional information, agendas, and workshops will be posted in the new year.

Register Now! EPLC’s Education Policy Forums on Governor Corbett’s 2014-2015 State Budget Proposal for Education
The next EPLC education policy forums will be held on the following days and in the following locations.  These forums will take place shortly after Governor Corbett’s February 4th presentation of his proposed 2014-15 state budget and will focus on his plans for education.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 – Pittsburgh, PA
Monday, February 24, 2014 – Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 – State College, PA
Thursday, February 27, 2014Harrisburg, PA
Space is limited for each event and an RSVP is required. Anyone wishing to receive an invitation should inquire by contacting The Education Policy and Leadership Center at staff@eplc.org or 717-260-9900.

PSBA White Paper: The costs of charter and cyber charter schools
Updated January 2014
Research and policy implications for Pennsylvania school districts
White Paper by PSBA’s Education research & Policy Center
This week PSBA’s Education Research and Policy Center issued an update to its charter school funding white paper this week, originally published in October 2010. The net cost to districts for students attending charter schools increased from $434 million in 2006-07 to $1.145 billion in 2011-12. The financial analysis indicates the need for several changes to the current charter law related to funding.

Register Now! EPLC’s 2014 Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters
EPLC’s Education Issue Workshops Register Now! – Space is Limited!
A Non-Partisan One-Day Program for Pennsylvania Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff and Interested Voters
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 in Harrisburg, PA
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Monroeville, PA
Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Philadelphia,PA

RESCHEDULED: PDE chief Dumaresq LIVE budget presentation, PSBA Conference Center; new date Feb. 13
PSBA website Feb 4, 2014
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will be at the PSBA Conference Center on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m. to present a special state budget overview. The program has been rescheduled in advance of anticipated severe weather conditions.  Find out how the proposals of the fiscal year 2014-15 Pennsylvania budget impact your school district the day after the governor delivers his address to the General Assembly. Secretary Dumaresq will review the governor's plan and answer your questions. In addition to the live presentation, members across the state also can participate through streaming media on their computers.
To register for the LIVE event, Thu., Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m., at the PSBA Conference Center, Mechanicsburg: https://www.psba.org/workshops/register/?workshop=150

Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
The public meetings will be held:
  • Allegheny County: 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25, Commissioners Hearing Room, Ross Township Municipal Center, 1000 Ross Municipal Rd., Pittsburgh
  • Northampton County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 27, City Council Chambers, 6th Floor, City Hall, One South Third St., Easton
  • Cambria County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, March 6, Commissioners Meeting Room, Cambria County Court House, 200 South Center St., Ebensburg
  • Bucks County: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 7, Township of Falls Administrative Building, Suite 100, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills
  • NEW: Philadelphia: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 14, City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
Time is limited to two hours for each meeting. Comments can be submitted in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 19, via email to Susan Woods at: swoods@auditorgen.state.pa.us.

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.

Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia February Seminars
Dear Parents and Advocates:
This month we are offering TWO great special education seminars. 
Learn about special education provisions in charter schools, 
including how one's rights differ from school to school. 
Tuesday, February 11, 2013 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Audience members will learn about the legal needs of children with dyslexia, and other learning disabilities, and hear from expert presenters on the latest research and trends. 
Tuesday, February 25, 2013 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. - Full Session 
6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Abbreviated Session 

NPE National Conference 2014

The Network for Public Education
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.

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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