Tuesday, May 13, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 13, 2014: "Wild, Wild West": Statewide Coverage of PA Auditor General's Charter School Report

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 13, 2014:
"Wild, Wild West": Statewide Coverage of PA Auditor General's Charter School Report

Is pension reform for Pa. stalled or percolating? Depends who you ask
By Jeff Frantz | jfrantz@pennlive.com  on May 12, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, chair the appropriations committees that must produce Pennsylvania's budget next month.  Staring at what could be a $1 billion budget deficit, they'll have their work cut out for them when the legislature returns June 2. Both men had hoped pension reform -- the issue Gov. Tom Corbett and GOP leaders in both chambers say must be a part of any budget -- would have been dealt with by now. Or at least been well along the tracks.  But the plan favored by Corbett and Republican House leadership, crafted by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Berks, has yet to be introduced. That plan, as outlined by Tobash, would create a hybrid pension system for all new hires, whose traditional pension would be capped, so they would receive any benefits beyond that in a 401(k) style plan.

Pennsylvania needs to double-down on early childhood education: Celinda Lake and Christine Matthews
PennLive Op-Ed  By Celinda Lake and Christine Matthews on May 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM
National pollsters Celinda Lake and Christine Matthews write on behalf of Pre-K for PA.
This month, in most parts of Pennsylvania turning on the television will tell you what season it is: election season. In the onslaught of commercials that will make you pine for that Progressive Insurance woman, you’re likely to hear candidates talk a lot about jobs and education.   Those are issues the candidates (particularly the ones running for governor) know are important to a majority of Pennsylvanians. Our survey research confirms this. But what happens when we scratch the surface on an issue as broad as “education?”  What we are seeing around the country in the campaigns of many candidates this election season is broad support for access to high-quality pre-k.

Auditor General DePasquale Releases Charter School Report, Recommends Creation of Independent Oversight Board
Makes recommendations to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
PA Department of The Auditor General Press Release May 12, 2014
HARRISBURG (May 12, 2014) – Following up on a series of public meetings held earlier this year, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued his report with recommendations to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools, including creating an independent statewide charter school oversight board.
“Charter schools are here to stay and clearly thousands of parents welcome having a choice when it comes to sending their children to public schools,” DePasquale said in releasing the report, Pennsylvania Charter School Accountability and Transparency: Time for a Tune-Up.
“Many outstanding charter schools in the state are doing amazing things for children and offering new ways to learn. However, based on our audits and feedback at meetings across the state, it’s clear that the original intention of the charter school law has not been fulfilled. We owe it to students, parents and taxpayers to re-group and make some fundamental changes to improve oversight and accountability of charter schools in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Charter School Accountability and Transparency report from auditor general
By Express-Times staff  on May 12, 2014 at 6:30 PM, updated May 12, 2014 at 6:35 PM
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued a blueprint for reforming the charter school system in Pennsylvania.  Find the report below. Read more about it's creation here. 

State auditor general suggests statewide oversight board for charter schools
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 12, 2014 11:50 PM
Officials from traditional public schools and charter schools commended state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's special report on charter schools that recommends a statewide charter school oversight board, the reinstatement of tuition reimbursements to districts and a simpler appeals process.  "I think it's a very fair and reasonable report. They are recommendations that make sense after everything that he has heard," said Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.  Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said the report contains "workable solutions."  "I think the auditor general did a very good job listening to the testimony provided and it fairly reflects what educators across the state were saying," Mr. Fayfich said.

"In fact," he said, "several participants in the public meetings compared the current situation to the wild, wild west."  An independent statewide charter oversight board would provide needed clarity and direction, DePasquale said.  The board could be funded, in part, from the money the Education Department now spends on its charter office.  "With more than $1 billion being spent on charter schools every year," according to the report, "improved oversight is imperative."
State auditor rips charter school oversight
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, May 12, 2014, 8:41 PM
Oversight of charter schools in Pennsylvania is "a mess," state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has concluded, based on a series of public meetings across the commonwealth.
To help clean it up, DePasquale called Monday for creating an independent charter oversight board, restoring charter reimbursements for school districts, and requiring the state to pick up the tab for cyber charter schools.  DePasquale, a Democrat, said taxpayer-funded charter schools, which enroll 120,000 students across the state, are here to stay. Many are effective, he said, but an overhaul of the 1997 state law that authorized them is long overdue.  DePasquale's recommendations were contained in a report he released Monday that drew on remarks from five recent public meetings across the state on the accountability and effectiveness of charters.

Auditor General calls for overhauling Pennsylvania's charter school regulations
By Jeff Frantz | jfrantz@pennlive.com  on May 12, 2014 at 3:01 PM
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to overhaul the state's charter school law to provide better oversight and accountability.  In a report released Monday, DePasquale recommended creating an independent board to oversee charter schools, requiring charter schools to present their annual reports to the host school board in a public meeting and creating more options for boards to monitor and renew charters.  After performing audits on a number of charters and holding public hearings on the subject across the state, DePasquale said the current system is "a mess, and you have sympathy for the charter schools and the traditional public schools."

Auditor general: Fix charter school law now
Independent oversight board is needed to enforce a law that now has no teeth, he says.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 11:23 p.m. EDT, May 12, 2014
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Monday released a special report calling the state's lack of charter school oversight an "enormous problem" that requires legislative action to fix.
The 22-page report recommends that the state form an independent charter school oversight board to enforce charter school law, which school districts feel has "no teeth," DePasquale said.
The report also suggests restoring the state's partial reimbursement to school districts for charter school tuition costs, requiring charters to verbally present annual reports to school boards and shifting funding of cybercharter schools from the school districts to the state, among other recommendations.  The goal of the report is to improve the accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools and cybercharter schools, DePasquale said. His recommendations are based on audit reports and input gathered during a series of hearings he held to hear suggestions from both school district and charter school officials.
Auditor general's report calls for charter school law overhaul
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times May 12, 2014 at 6:34 PM
Calling Pennsylvania's existing charter school law a mess, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued a blueprint for reforming the system.  The report comes after DePasquale hosted five public hearings across the state, including in Easton. While it's not binding, DePasquale has sent the report far and wide in hopes of spurring an overhaul of the 1997 law, which he says is not serving anyone well.    "Taxpayers have had enough," he said.
Pennsylvania has more than 84,000 students enrolled in more than 160 bricks-and-mortar charter schools and 35,000 students enrolled in 16 cyber charter schools.  The report calls for improved accountability, effectiveness and transparency by creating an independent statewide charter school oversight board to eliminate the confusion charter schools and school districts now routinely grapple with. The board would eliminate the existing appeals board and Charter School Office under the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Roebuck welcomes independent report on Pa. charter schools; Auditor general confirms many of problems, solutions identified by Dem education chairman
House Education Minority Committee Chairman James Roebuck press release May 12, 2014
PHILADELPHIA, May 12 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, welcomed today's independent report on charter schools from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  "I support the findings and recommendations in this report from the state's auditor general. It's valuable to have independent confirmation of many of the problems and solutions I have identified with respect to the funding and accountability needed for tax-funded charter schools," Roebuck said.  Roebuck issued a report in April that focused on what other schools can learn from the one in six Pennsylvania charter schools that are high-performing, how to address charter schools' lease overpayments and other hot topics related to those schools.  The auditor general's report today identifies as a key problem the 2011 elimination of the $224 million state reimbursement to school districts for charter schools. Roebuck said that was the largest categorical cut among the roughly $1 billion in K-12 funding cuts Gov. Tom Corbett and Republican legislators made in 2011.

Charter school reform has as many backers, with different definitions of "reform"
By Jeff Frantz | jfrantz@pennlive.com  on May 12, 2014 at 6:33 PM
Everyone, it seems, wants some part of Pennsylvania's charter school law overhauled.
Charter school advocates were quick to say they agreed with at least some of the proposals in a report issued Monday by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale calling for a sweeping overhaul in the state's charter school law. And they applauded the scope of the report.  Among the things DePasquale wants to see are an an independent board to oversee charter schools, requiring charter schools to present their annual reports to the host school board in a public meeting and creating more options for boards to monitor and renew charters.

Pittsburgh schools ready new evaluations
Board to vote on proposals May 28
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 12, 2014 11:39 PM
While teacher evaluations have attracted the most attention, Pittsburgh Public Schools is gearing up for new systems to evaluate principals, central office administrators, and counselors and other nonteaching professionals.  Statewide, school districts are required to put into effect a new evaluation system for teachers this school year. In the upcoming 2014-15 school year, school districts throughout the state are required to have new evaluation systems for principals and nonteaching professionals.  Although not required, Pittsburgh also is adding a new evaluation system for central office administrators in 2014-15.

Bethlehem schools headed toward 4.9 percent tax increase
Bethlehem Area plan digs into reserves, cuts staff.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 11:20 p.m. EDT, May 12, 2014
Bethlehem Area School Board may be "on the wrong side of history," according to one resident, but it's still moving forward with a proposed final budget carrying a 4.9 percent tax increase.
The $242.5 million budget, approved in a 6-3 vote Monday, now moves to a final vote next month. If the spending plan is approved, the property tax rate would jump to 50.99 mills in Northampton County and 15.77 mills in Lehigh County.  Concerned that senior citizen homeowners can't afford another tax increase, Bethlehem resident William McNally suggested history won't be kind to the six school directors who approved the budget.
Allentown School District investigates charter school's enrollment methods
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times on May 06, 2014 at 1:28 PM
The Allentown School District is investigating a prospective Allentown charter school's hiring of a political lobbying firm to drive up its student enrollment numbers.  The Arts Academy Elementary Charter School hired consultants to pre-enroll students, according to the school district solicitor and charter school officials.

US Congress: House Steams Ahead on Charter School Expansion
School choice has been a divisive issue, but both chambers are moving toward an agreement.
US News and World Report By Allie Bidwell May 9, 20142
A bipartisan bill that would free up more federal money to fund the growth of high-quality charter schools sailed through the House on Friday, just hours after the chamber also passed a bill to expand education research programs – a sign the logjam facing major education legislation could be subsiding.  The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act – a bill introduced by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Comittee – passed on a 360-45 vote. It would streamline two existing charter school programs, combine grants to open new schools and renovate facilities, and ask for $50 million more in annual charter school funding, bringing the total to $300 million.

“Our results suggest that employers might realize greater gains by increasing the specialization of their employees’ tasks rather than attempting to replace them with hypothetically better employees,” the authors concluded.  Of course, some districts and states already have policies in place that require them to use value-added models to help make high-stakes decisions about firing, tenure, and pay."
Studies Highlight Complexities of Using Value-Added Measures
Education Week By Holly Yettick Published Online: May 13, 2014
As a number of states begin evaluating teachers’ effectiveness based on changes in their students’ test scores, academic research is raising more questions about such “value-added” models.  In a study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Morgan Polikoff, an assistant education professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and Andrew Porter, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found no association between value-added results and other widely accepted measures of teaching quality, such as the degree to which instruction is aligned with state standards or the contents of assessments. Nor did the study find associations between “multiple measure” ratings (which combine value-added measures with observations and other factors) and the amount and type of content covered in classrooms. That finding is potentially important because many states have responded to the Race to the Top grant competitions and other federal initiatives by adopting such multiple-measure evaluation systems for teachers.

Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.
The New Yorker BY DALE RUSSAKOFF MAY 19, 2014
Late one night in December, 2009, a black Chevy Tahoe in a caravan of cops and residents moved slowly through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Newark. In the back sat the Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, and the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, Chris Christie. They had become friendly almost a decade earlier, during Christie’s years as United States Attorney in Newark, and Booker had invited him to join one of his periodic patrols of the city’s busiest drug corridors.  The ostensible purpose of the tour was to show Christie one of Booker’s methods of combatting crime. But Booker had another agenda that night. Christie, during his campaign, had made an issue of urban schools. “We’re paying caviar prices for failure,” he’d said, referring to the billion-dollar annual budget of the Newark public schools, three-quarters of which came from the state. “We have to grab this system by the roots and yank it out and start over. It’s outrageous.”

New York Times Room for Debate UPDATED MAY 13, 2014 6:30 AM
Computing in the Classroom
Despite the rapid spread of coding instructionin grade schools, there is some concern that creative thinking and other important social and creative skills could be compromised by a growing focus on technology, particularly among younger students. Should coding be part of the elementary school curriculum?

Pennsylvania Education Summit Wednesday, June 11, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (EDT) Camp Hill, PA
PA Business-Education Partnership
Welcome By Governor Tom Corbett (invited)
Remarks Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq (confirmed)
Perceptions & comments of business leaders, educators, college presidents, and advocacy groups

“How Public School Funding Works in Pennsylvania—Or Doesn’t: What You Need to Know” When: Friday, May 30, 2014, 9 am to 12 pm Where: Marriott Hotel in Conshohocken, PA
Session I:  "Funding Schools: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States"

Key Pennsylvania legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Professor Robert C. Knoeppel of Clemson University, an expert on emerging trends and ideas in public school finance.
Introduction: Representative Steve Santarsiero
Moderator: Rob Wonderling, President and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Charles Zogby, Secretary of the Budget, Commonwealth of PA, Senator Patrick Browne, Senator Anthony Williams, Representative Bernie O'Neill, Representative James Roebuck
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
A discussion with a panel of CEOs who are major employers in the region.
Introduction: Rob Loughery, Chair, Bucks County Commissioners
Panel (confirmed to date):
Michael Pearson, President and CEO, Union Packaging, Philip Rinaldi, CEO, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Bryan Hancock, Principal, McKinsey & Company, and author: "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools"
You can register for this free event here:

PILCOP Know Your Child’s Rights Seminars
Join us on May 15th for one of three training sessions on Assistive Technology and Settlements.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
This training series on special education law teaches parents, attorneys and advocates how to secure education rights and services for students with special needs. These seminars aim to bring together a diverse community of advocates including parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and community members. Each session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability. Many sessions are co-led with guest speakers.
Next Trainings: Thursday May 15, 2014: Assistive Technology and Other Related Services; Settlements; Settlements (Abbreviated Session)

PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties
PSBA Buxmont Region 11 and Penns Grant Region 15 Combined Region/Legislative Meeting -- Thursday, May 15, at William Tennent High School
- Buffet dinner/registration, 6 p.m. ($8 charge for dinner) - Program, 7:30 p.m. -- Minority Senate Education Committee Chair Hon. Andy Dinniman will introduce guest speaker Diane Ravitch, author and education historian, and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  Retiring House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer will also be honored for his long time (1981) public service.

Saturday, May 31, 2014 - 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM (8:30 Registration)
Keynote Speaker: Dan Hardy – Retired Reporter -Philadelphia Inquirer
Distressed Schools: How Did it Come to This?
  • The State of Education in Pennsylvania 60 Years after Brown
  • Keystones and Graduation: Cut the Connection
  • How Harrisburg Cut District Funding, Poured on the Keystones, and Connected them to Graduation
  • Financing Our Schools: What Does it Cost to Educate a Child in 2014 and How Should We Fund It?
  • Effective Advocacy – How to be Heard in Harrisburg - And - What We Need to be Saying
For more info and registration: http://www.naacpmediabranch.org/#

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.

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