Monday, July 28, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 28: Cyber school's huge surplus exemplifies problem

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 28, 2014:
Cyber school's huge surplus exemplifies problem

Cyber school's huge surplus exemplifies problem
Beaver County Times Online By Mitch Yanyanin and John Ludwig Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:00 am
Mitch Yanyanin is president of the New Brighton Area School Board, and John Ludwig is vice president.
We are writing in response to the article regarding PA Cyber building a brick-and-mortar facility in the tune of $5.7 million to house instructors. While this building may be important to PA Cyber, it exemplifies the travesty that is occurring in public education.  PA Cyber boasts a fund balance of $40.7 million, far in excess of the 8 percent recommended by the commonwealth, which would be approximately $9.6 million for the business. This fund balance, created over 14 years, shows that there is far more revenue collected than is necessary for a cyber education.  Additionally, the fund balance was grown while, according to Times articles, questionable business practices were occurring.  This excessive fund balance was grown at the expense of local school districts.
Please take into account the following;
1. Cyber school’s calculations are based on local school district’s cost per pupil, so even those items that they do not provide — because they are a cyber school and not a brick-and-mortar school — are paid to them.
2. Charter schools receive a pension reimbursement in the per-pupil allocation and also as a reimbursement from the state. It is a double dip for pension reimbursement.
3. The state eliminated the charter school reimbursement approximately two years ago so districts cover 100 percent of the cost.
4. Local school districts are responsible for truancy filings. Charter schools report truancy to the local school district, so although the student is enrolled at the charter school, it remains the responsibility of the local district to ensure they are attending.
5. A student enrolled in a cyber/charter school that is enrolled as a special-education student costs approximately 50 percent more to the local district. If the charter school enrolls a student into special education, but the student was previously enrolled as regular education when they left a specific district, the contributing district is not invited to attend the IEP meetings, or have a voice in the analysis of the data.
6. The state Department of Education data show that most cyber/charter schools have never made Adequate Yearly Progress and have the lowest School Performance Profile scores in the state
The above are only a handful of injustices facing our local taxpayers. While there are worthy charter schools, examples such as PA Cyber magnify what is wrong with the system. Their excess is sickening when we consider that our administration has been forced to produce a budget that requires them to cut staff and programs.  The above arguments are stated without specific numbers, but those exist in every surrounding community.
The average attendance at PA Cyber by New Brighton students is 23 individuals. The total payment by New Brighton for 2013-14 school year was $223,716.
The cost per pupil for regular education is $9,561.55, and the cost per pupil for special education is $17,567.47. This is a huge financial burden to a distressed local tax base.
Our administration and board of directors have to make serious decisions regarding staff and programs to meet a balanced budget, a budget that is being distressed by the financial burden placed on us by cyber schools that have a $40 million surplus.

Related prior postings…..
Do your taxpayers know how much your district is spending on cyber charter tuition and how your district's SPP scores compare with Pennsylvania's cyber charter schools?

PA Cyber Charter PSSA AYP 2005 - 2012 from PDE

Did you catch our weekend postings?
An out-of-the-box solution to Pennsylvania’s $50 billion retirement system debt
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 26, 2014:


Legislature to examine school funding — again
By Laura Olson and Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call 9:35 p.m. EDT, July 26, 2014
The state Legislature is set to take another crack at fixing its public school funding formula via the newly created Basic Education Funding Commission.  But if recent history is a guide, whatever the commission comes up with will be virtually worthless because various special interests will fight its recommendations.  The commission was set up Thursday and will be co-chaired by Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, and Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery.  It was established under a bill sponsored by Rep. Bernie O'Neill, R-Bucks, that Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law. O'Neill based the legislation, known as Act 51 of 2014, on the Special Education Funding Commission that he and Browne created last year.
State panel to explore school funding formula
PhillyTrib Written by Wilford Shamlin III July 26, 2014
A panel has been commissioned to study the idea of implementing a new formula for distributing state funding more fairly between Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts.  Republican state Sen. Pat Browne and Republican state Rep. Mike Vereb were elected co-chairs of the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission at its inaugural meeting on Thursday.
The commission will hear testimony for the first time at its next meeting, scheduled Aug. 20 in the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
The new formula will take into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors, Vereb said in a news release.  “In a single word, this commission is about fairness,” the state representative stated. “I want to work to establish fairness so that students in every area of Pennsylvania have access to a quality education.”  Browne added, “We are looking to develop realistic parameters that will ensure that every school district receives the funding required to properly provide a high-quality education to its students.”

Pa. panel begins 'historic' work on education funding
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON JULY 26, 2014
A recently established panel to devise a new way of distributing state funding to Pennsylvania public schools is about ready to get to work.  At a brief organizational meeting, members hastened to call the commission historical.  In a way, it is.
Advocates have been calling for more education money since 2011, when schools saw cuts to overall spending.  That was also the same year lawmakers scrapped a 3-year-old formula of divvying up money among schools.  For those reasons, the commission comes at a critical point for public schools,said Rep. James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia.  "What perhaps suggests historical importance is that it seems to me that we're at crisis point in education in Pennsylvania and we've got to make some fairly basic, fundamental decisions on where we go," he said. "So that, perhaps, gives this commission potentially a more important role going forward."

Wolf: Wealthy should pay more to cut school taxes
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf says he'd look to increase income taxes on Pennsylvania's higher earners to expand the state's share of public education funding.
In an interview with a panel of Associated Press reporters and editors Friday afternoon, Wolf says he'd tie the increase to a dollar-for-dollar reduction in local property taxes levied by school boards.  Wolf's goal would be to raise the state's share of public school costs to 50 percent. That's a shift of several billion dollars a year. It currently pays about one-third, while property taxes shoulder more than 40 percent.

"Touring Delaware County, he pointed to the Rose Tree Media School District, where he had just met with Superintendent James M. Wigo, where pension obligations will rise from $2.1 million in 2011 to $13.1 million in 2019.  “That increase translates into property taxes,” Corbett said."
Pa. pension crisis: Gov. Corbett open to task force approach
West Chester Daily Local By EVAN BRANDT, POSTED: 07/26/14, 7:58 PM EDT | UPDATED: 3 HRS AGO
Gov. Tom Corbett said he is open to using a task force to find the best way out of the ever-deepening public pension hole in which Pennsylvania finds itself.  His comment, which came during a Thursday conference call with Digital First Media journalists, comes just three days after Moody’s Investor Service downgraded the Commonwealth’s bond rating citing, in part, Pennsylvania’s “growing pension liabilities.”
Corbett attempted without success to force the Legislature to return to Harrisburg and address the growing pension crisis by delaying signing of the $29.1 billion budget and using a line-item veto to cut 20 percent of the Legislature’s operating budget.  Since signing the budget, he has been touring the state campaign-style, linking the pension issue to rising school property taxes. On Thursday, he was in southeastern Pennsylvania.  “Each school district in Pennsylvania is facing a significant issue with pension costs,” Corbett said.

While Pa. dallies, other states embrace pension reform: The Sunday Brunch
By John L. Micek | on July 27, 2014 at 8:54 AM, updated July 27, 2014 at 9:19 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If you've been paying attention to the headlines this summer, you might have noticed Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has been Energizer Bunny-ing his way across the state -- both to win re-election and to employ what's left of his bully pulpit to get state lawmakers to do something about the state's $50 billion or so pension mess.  Lawmakers, you also might have noticed, have not exactly been in a rush to return to Harrisburg.  This, we assume, has something to do with their pressing interest in making sure they tan evenly on both sides and can make it all the way through that new ScarJo movie about the lady who uses more of her brain than they do on an avarage day.  But, other states, facing similarly ginormous pension bubbles, other states have actually,y'knowpassed legislation and stuff to address rising pension costs. And, to the amazement of all concerned, they've actually worked.

Pew Charitable Trusts pension project has advice for Pa. pension debate
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 07/25/14, 4:46 PM EDT | UPDATED: 12 SECS AGO
Pennsylvania is not alone in its public pension problems.  Other states have struggled as well.
According to the Public Sector Retirement Systems project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, nationwide, total debt facing state pension plans is $915 billion.
“Only 15 states have consistently made at least 95 percent of the full actuarially required contributions for their pension plans from 2010 through 2012; the remaining 35 states (including Pennsylvania) fell short in at least one year,” according to the project website.
And since last fall, the director of that project, Greg Mennis, has been trying to help Pennsylvania solve its pension problems.

"The records produced included a work calendar showing weeks with little or no activity (explore it below or click here), phone logs averaging barely over a phone call a day over 12 months and a total of five emails produced by Mr. Tomalis. The state was not able to provide any reimbursement records suggesting Mr. Tomalis traveled the state in support of his work."
Role remains ambiguous for Tom Corbett's higher education adviser, Ron Tomalis
By Bill Schackner and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 27, 2014 12:00 AM
When Ron Tomalis stepped aside as state education secretary 14 months ago, he landed what seemed like a full-time assignment in a state struggling to boost college access and curb ever-rising tuition prices.  As special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett for higher education, Mr. Tomalis was tasked with "overseeing, implementing and reviewing" the recommendations made by the Governor's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education.
Despite the state's fiscal crisis, the former secretary was allowed to keep his Cabinet-level salary of $139,542 plus benefits and -- initially, at least -- work from home. At the time, state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller explained that the newly created job did not require an office, and Mr. Tomalis "is a professional and doesn't need to 'check in' each day."
Now, more than a year later, records obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through requests under the state Right-to-Know Law raise questions about how much time the governor's office required Mr. Tomalis to spend on those duties.

Easton Area School Board to vote again on previously rejected charter school
By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times on July 27, 2014 at 12:30 PM, updated July 27, 2014 at 5:18 PM
The Strong Foundations Charter School will ask the Easton Area School Board for a second chance on Tuesday.  The school board rejected the school's charter application in March. The group submitted a revised application in June and the board will vote on it Tuesday, according to Easton Area School Board President Frank Pintabone.  Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. The organizers have said the proposed school would follow a STEAM curriculum -- science, technology, engineering, arts and math -- using programs created by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that says it serves more than 5,000 schools nationwide.

Inquirer Editorial: Teachers drop out, too
POSTED: Sunday, July 27, 2014, 1:09 AM
Teaching is hard. No wonder 13 percent of the nation's 3.4 million public school teachers either change schools or quit the profession every year. Understanding the difficulties urban teachers face, many believe those educators in particular aren't paid enough for all they do. That sympathy has helped dampen criticism of Philadelphia teachers' refusal to agree to contract concessions.
The estimated teacher attrition rate in U.S. schools has doubled in 15 years. In some urban districts, teacher and student dropout rates are almost identical. Both new and veteran teachers are leaving - among them Maria Ciancetta, who quit in June after seven years as a Philadelphia teacher.

Reading program hopes to help Philly kids give 'summer slide' the slip
Education experts have long advocated for parents to keep their kids engaged in learning over the summer – when skills picked up during the school year can get rusty.
That "summer slide" can be especially tough on students from families who can't afford quality summer programs. To combat this loss, state Sen. Vincent Hughes has organized the Save Our Skills summer reading program – a free, four week summer literacy program where students receive a free breakfast and lunch while sharpening their reading skills with certified teachers.
Program sponsors include the Philadelphia Eagles, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Children's Literacy Group, Treehouse Books, and the Philadelphia School District.

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. 

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.

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.

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