Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 16: Vahan Gureghian's For Profit Charter Chain CSMI Ready To 'Do AC'

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 16, 2014:
Vahan Gureghian's For Profit Charter Chain CSMI Ready To 'Do AC'

Basic ed funding commission could tackle charter school issues that special ed commission could not.
Capitolwire Under the Dome July 15, 2014
As the dust of budget season settles around the state capitol, education advocates regroup and prepare for a bigger — and arguably more complex — discussion centered on reforming how the government funds public education. It's a debate rife with many of the same pitfalls lawmakers and advocates alike stumbled into during last year's Special Education Funding Commission hearings — an effort that many charter school advocates have said should have come after, not before, the Legislature reformed the basic education funding formula. Charter schools, incidentally, led the opposition against the new special education funding formula passed earlier this month — a formula that lawmakers ultimately exempted charters as a way to sidestep certain inequities found within the legislation. This time around, charter schools anticipate a seat front and center at the Basic Education Funding Commission's hearings. For more about the Basic Education Funding Commission, CLICK HERE (paywall) to read a report by Capitolwire Staff Writer Christen Smith.

CSMI, the firm that runs the Chester and Camden schools, is a for-profit company founded by Vahan Gureghian, a politically connected Gladwyne lawyer who donated more than $300,000 to Gov. Corbett's gubernatorial campaign and served on the education committee of his transition team.  CSMI has fought to prevent public disclosure of its finances - including how much taxpayer money ultimately goes to company officials. The company has argued that, unlike public schools or some other charter schools, its finances are a "trade secret" or "confidential information," because CSMI is a private company managing a school, and not a school itself.
Vahan Gureghian's For Profit Charter Chain CSMI Ready To 'Do AC'
Mother Crusader Blog Wednesday, July 16, 2014
It sure has been a busy week in education news in New Jersey. The education blogosphere has been burning up with posts about Governor Christie's executive order regarding PARCC and Common Core, hereherehere, and here. It's been covered in all the major news outlets too, and there was even a press release to explain how the DOE will implement the Executive Order.
With all this chatter it's pretty likely that yesterday's press release about the five charters awarded their final charters, giving them the green light to open in September, will go all but unnoticed. TheStar Ledger's Peggy McGlone covered it, but pretty much just regurgitated a few clips from the press release. 

Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 
This posting continues to be one of the most frequently visited on the Keystone State Education Coalition blog site

Column: School funding, pension crises ignored in budget
Delco Times Opinion By JOSEPH BATORY, Guest columnist POSTED: 07/14/14, 10:10 PM EDT
Joseph Batory is a former superintendent of schools in the Upper Darby School District. He is the author of three books and hundreds of articles on the politics of education.
Pennsylvania finally has a budget. However, this most recent budget process and its outcome leave much to be desired. The Commonwealth’s Governor and legislature have provided a spectacle of financial incompetence with poor leadership, a lack of vision, and self-serving agendas.  Pennsylvania clearly needs more revenue in order to adequately fund its statewide needs and to fulfill its own Constitutional obligations especially with regard to properly funding public education. Pennsylvania also needs to implement pension reform. Yet these realities have been ignored in favor of this latest State budget which is devoid of fiscal and civic responsibility.

Editorial: Corbett was right to take on the Legislature
Delco Times POSTED: 07/14/14, 10:07 PM EDT
The Republican family feud in Harrisburg sure is getting interesting. It’s so tense, this week the unofficial father of that GOP family -- Gov. Tom Corbett -- cut off part of the kids’ allowance in the General Assembly.  And rightly so, because they’ve been acting like greedy brats.
For years, government watchdogs have been howling about the General Assembly’s slush fund. Currently, that reserve account has about $150 million -- surplus money that’s not need to fund the Legislature’s ludicrously expensive operations.  Why are lawmakers holding a surplus at a time when the state faces a huge deficit?

State funding dismays Parkland, but district had backup plan
By Andrew Brown, Of The Morning Call July 16, 2014
It was a time of assessment for the Parkland School Board.
On Tuesday evening, board members got to hear how the 2014-15 Pennsylvania state budget will affect the school district's funding.  The bottom line: Parkland will be getting several hundred thousand dollars less than it was counting on from the state, but it has the shortfall covered.
Board members passed the district's budget June 24 and had been anxiously awaiting the results of the state budget debate to see if funding levels would match their expectations.  "We had no clue what they were going to do," said John Vignone, the board's director of business administration.  In the district's budget, board members allotted $10.4 million for basic education, special education and Ready to Learn block grant funding from the state.  But after the state budget was passed, the district ended up receiving $277,696 less than what they had planned for.

Coalition asks court to block sale of William Penn High
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, July 14, 2014, 4:53 PM
Angered by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision to sell the shuttered William Penn High School to Temple University, a neighborhood group has made good on its threat to take legal action.  The William Penn Development Coalition asked the state Supreme Court on Friday for an injunction to block the sale and to rule that the SRC's expedited process violated state law.

Special-ed cuts won't hurt students, Philly school officials say
The Philadelphia School District laid off 157 special-education classroom assistants and one-to-one aides last week in a move that officials say won't negatively affect children.  School advocates in the legal community, though, remain highly dubious.  Chief financial officer Matt Stanski explained the district's rationale to the School Reform Commission at a June 30 meeting.  "We believe we can maintain existing services for our special-education students and, in fact, enhance them through management efficiencies and still see this expenditure reduction," said Stanski.

Charters need closer watching | Philadelphia Tribune
Philly Trib Written by Wilford Shamlin III July 15, 2014
The School District of Philadelphia has made progress in its oversight of charter schools but room for improvement remains, according to a new report released by the city controller’s office.
The city’s watchdog agency provides an independent review of the Charter Schools Office which is charged with monitoring nearly 70 of the privately run schools on behalf of the School District of Philadelphia. In a move aimed at improving transparency, the charter school office and its executive director began reporting directly to the School Reform Commission (SRC) as of July 1, instead of the school Superintendent’s Office.  “In most cases, charter schools are operating under the guidelines set forth under the Commonwealth’s Charter School Law,” City Controller Alan Butkovitz said in the report. “Some practices such as certain leasing arrangements might be questionable, but they are not violating the current law.”  The city controller’s office report, released late last week, stated the charter school office at the district headquarters, located at 440 N. Broad St., has improved its recordkeeping of necessary files.

Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing
The companies that create the most important state and national exams also publish textbooks that contain many of the answers. Unfortunately, low-income school districts can’t afford to buy them.
The Atlantic by Meredith Broussard JULY 15, 2014
You hear a lot nowadays about the magic of big data. Getting hold of the right numbers can increase revenue, improve decision-making, or help you find a mate—or so the thinking goes. In 2009, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a crowd of education researchers: “I am a deep believer in the power of data to drive our decisions. Data gives us the roadmap to reform. It tells us where we are, where we need to go, and who is most at risk.”
This is a story about what happened when I tried to use big data to help repair my local public schools. I failed. And the reasons why I failed have everything to do with why the American system of standardized testing will never succeed.

Frontline July 15th: Separate and Unequal
Runtime 27:14 Frontline examines what's behind the growing racial divide in American schools

Report Urges High-Quality Teaching and Sustainable Funding for Early Education
Education Week Early Years Blog By Christina Samuels on July 15, 2014 6:40 AM
Fixing the birth-through-grade 3 care and education system requires streamlining disparate programs and funding sources, and a renewed focus on high-quality interactions between young children and the adults around them, says a report issued Tuesday by the Washington-based New America Foundation.   The policy brief, "Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education," includes eight overarching recommendations, and within each are steps that can be taken by federal and state lawmakers, school districts, teachers, and principals. 

NSBA to Congress: Hands off E-rate
NSBA School Board News Today by Kathleen Vail July 15, 2014
NSBA is urging Congress not to jeopardize Internet, broadband, and Wi-Fi access for millions of students or block improvements to E-rate, the federal program that provides connectivity resources for schools and libraries.   Student access to high-speed Internet connections is critical, and 80 percent of schools currently have slow or an inadequate number of Internet connections. An amendment to limit options for schools and libraries under E-rate would halt progress in providing urgently needed access to students and schools. Such an amendment to the appropriations bill also would hamper the FCC’s efforts to modern the 20-year-old program.
NSBA has written a letter to Congress asking for a “No” vote on any amendments to the E-rate program in HR 5016. As a member of Education and Libraries Network Coalitions (EdLiNC), NSBA is adding its voice to the coalition’s letter to Congress urging the same.

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 16, 5-7pm
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

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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