Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 16: Take the money and run: after years of spending Pennsylvania taxpayers' dollars on thousands of TV commercials and windfall corporate compensation with dismal academic performance, K12 Inc. is getting the boot. Can we get our money back?

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, business 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 September 16, 2014:
Take the money and run: after years of spending Pennsylvania taxpayers' dollars on thousands of TV commercials and windfall corporate compensation with dismal academic performance, K12 Inc. is getting the boot.  Can we get our money back?

Concerned with adequate, equitable, predictable, sustainable #paedfunding?  Follow new @PACircuitRider and @CircuitRiderSE accounts on twitter

EDITORIAL: Education funding in Pa. is inherently unfair
Pottstown Mercury POSTED: 09/12/14, 6:52 PM EDT
Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf are breaking out the big guns.
The embattled Republican governor and his Democratic challenger are waging a war of numbers — to say nothing of big-money television ads — over education funding.
Wolf, the York businessman, continues to hammer away at what has been a constant criticism of the governor, that he slashed $1 billion from education funding via the austere budgets of his first term.  Corbett is now countering with an ad of his own, pointing a finger at former Gov. Ed Rendell for papering over serious budget concerns with millions in federal stimulus dollars. When those one-time funds expired, Corbett says he was left holding the bag. He points out, correctly, that he actually has increased the basic education subsidy, and notes that this year’s subsidy of $10.05 billion is the highest in state history.  It’s easy to see why Corbett is fighting back. Education funding has hung around his neck like a millstone during his first term.

Take the money and run: after years of spending Pennsylvania taxpayers' dollars on thousands of TV commercials and windfall corporate compensation with dismal academic performance, K12 Inc. is getting the boot.  Can we get our money back?
K12 Inc. Loses Ground in Contract With Major Cyber Charter School
Education Week Marketplace K12 Blog By Michele Molnar on September 12, 2014 5:40 PM
The board of Agora Cyber Charter School, the second largest virtual school in Pennsylvania, has dealt several blows to K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school and provides key technologies and services to run it and educate its students.
The board voted unanimously in meetings over the past few weeks to transition Agora into a self-managed entity, hiring executives to lead the 10,800-student virtual school, and contracting with new vendors for its student information system, learning management system, and computers, beginning July 1, 2015.  Now, it appears Agora is working on developing its own curriculum for grades 6 to 8 over the next year, a step that might suggest the K12 Inc.curriculum Agora currently uses could also be in jeopardy of being dumped as well.   "It's sort of the worst possible scenario for K12," said Trace Urdan, a senior analyst for Wells Fargo Securities in San Francisco. K12 gets about 13 percent of its revenues from Agora, and about 10 percent from the Ohio Virtual Academy, according to the company. 

Tobacco group spent large in second quarter on lobbying.
Capitolwire.com — Under The Dome™ Monday, September 15, 2014
 With the announcement the Philadelphia cigarette tax bill could get a House vote this week, there’s likely to be one group –besides the Philly school district – very interested in the outcome (and likely to affect – or have already affected - that outcome): tobacco manufacturing companies. One of the largest such companies spent more money lobbying state lawmakers in the run-up to the budget deadline this year than all of 2013. Altria, the parent company for Phillip Morris and other tobacco manufacturing companies, spent $405,961 between April and June this year. In 2013, the company spent $395,698 on lobbying expenses. Altria spent only $88,503 in the first quarter of 2014, according to the state lobbyist database. During the time Altria ramped up its lobbying efforts, there was a significant push to give the City of Philadelphia the option to increase a citywide tax on cigarettes to add money to its school district's coffers. The company opposed the proposal, which would have increased the per-pack tax by $2 and generate $83 million for the city's schools. The increased cost could have depressed tobacco sales within the city or sent smokers outside city borders or to “underground markets” to buy cigarettes, a lawmaker said. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in July that Altria lobbyists – employed at two of Harrisburg's largest firms, Gmerek Government Relations and Greenlee Partners – pushed for an amendment to sunset the taxing authority after five years. The amendment sapped the bill's momentum. Republican leaders said they would take up the bill during this fall's session, but issues with other parts of the overall legislation remain.

Efforts to get cigarette tax passed for schools rampup
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, September 15, 2014, 6:58 PM
With tens of millions of dollars and more than 1,000 Philadelphia School District jobs on the line, all eyes shifted to Harrisburg on Monday as lawmakers returned from their summer break.
District leaders say they need a $2-per-pack cigarette tax passed quickly to help fill an $81 million deficit, and prevent mass layoffs and larger class sizes.  Philadelphia officials said they would keep the pressure on high until the tax is passed. Mayor Nutter, a familiar face in the state Capitol in recent months, plans to travel to Harrisburg again this week.

Court won't hear Bethlehem schools argument against second charter location
By Adam Clark,Of The Morning Call September 14, 2014
The latest on Bethlehem Area School District's fight with the Dual Language Charter School
A Pennsylvania appeals court has refused to hold a second hearing on Bethlehem Area School District's argument against the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School's effort to open a second location.  But the charter school still faces barriers in moving its sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to a different building.  he district may appeal Wednesday's decision by Commonwealth Court to the state Supreme Court, Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy said. Meanwhile, the Bethlehem Area School Board and state Charter School Appeal Board are expected to hold their own hearings on the school's proposal.

Yesterday the House Education Committee held an informational meeting on HB 2373, a bill dealing with Pennsylvania's EITC and OSTC programs.  PA's EITC program lets "scholarship organizations" keep 20% of these diverted tax funds as admininistrative fees. In Florida it's just 3%.  Here's a NY Times piece from 2012 that includes Pennsylvania in it's coverage of tax credit programs.
Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL Published: May 21, 2012
Christian Heritage School in Dalton, Ga., promoted a discount and rebate program in this handout. Parents who contributed to the tax credit program and earmarked their donations for the school could save money on their own child's tuition.  The program would be supported by donations to nonprofit scholarship groups, and Georgians who contributed would receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits, up to $2,500 a couple. The intent was that money otherwise due to the Georgia treasury — about $50 million a year — would be used instead to help needy students escape struggling public schools.  That was the idea, at least. But parents meeting at Gwinnett Christian Academy got a completely different story last year.

Post-Gazette sues state over email retention practice
Requests records be kept for 2 years
Bill Shackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 16, 2014 12:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sued the state Monday in Commonwealth Court, asking a judge to halt a practice across the executive branch of destroying emails after five days and instead order they be preserved for at least two years.  In a complaint seeking an injunction and emergency hearing, lawyers for the newspaper said the state’s practice violates the due process rights of the public seeking release of public records under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.
The complaint noted acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq’s recent statement that she and employees throughout her agency “delete and cleanse” all their emails nightly. Although the department subsequently sought to recant her statement, the lawsuit said “there is clearly daily purging” by the department, a practice the lawsuit contends does not comply with the state’s email retention policy.

DN Editorial: Separate realities
Harrisburg's neglect of our schools must come to an end
Daily News Editorial POSTED: Monday, September 15, 2014, 3:01 AM
AS THE Pennsylvania General Assembly returns to session today, we like to imagine their reaction if they returned to the statehouse finding the place hadn't been cleaned over the summer, that there were no security guards at the doors, and half their staff had been cut so they had to answer their own phones.
How long do you think that situation would last? A day? An hour?
Yet those are largely the circumstances awaiting schoolchildren in Philadelphia when they began their school year last week: cuts to staff including cleaning and security, made by Superintendent William Hite to assure the schools would open on time.

Trial of charter school founder costs taxpayers a bundle
As Dorothy June Brown undergoes a mental exam to determine whether she is competent for retrial on charges that she defrauded the schools she founded of $6.3 million, the charters' legal bills from the first trial have been tallied.  Records that The Inquirer obtained under the state Right-to-Know Law show Brown's three Philadelphia charters spent more than $925,000 in taxpayer money on the case.

Spring-Ford eyes eliminating per capita tax
By Frank Otto, The Mercury POSTED: 09/14/14, 10:17 AM EDT |
LIMERICK – The Spring-Ford Area School Board continues to mull becoming the latest school district to eliminate the per capita tax for district revenue.  The board finance committee last week met with Ryan Wall, Julie Mullin and Sharon Romer, the tax collectors of Limerick, Upper Providence and Royersford, respectively, to gain more information about the costs and benefits of the tax, a $10 levy on each qualified district resident.  “We had a lengthy conversation regarding the costs/effort compared to the revenue generated,” said Tom DiBello, chairman of the finance committee and vice president of the school board. “We also discussed the impacts that would be experienced if we rolled the per capita revenue into the real estate tax.”

Chesco solar plan pits green against green
TRICIA L. NADOLNY, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 1:08 AM
A wooded swath between subdivisions and a school in western Chester County could soon claim a renewable-energy first.  Thousands of solar panels planned for the property will churn enough power to run Coatesville Area High School. The developer says it will likely be the only school in the country to run entirely on solar power, albeit with a little help on cloudy days.
But the project has drawn fire from unlikely foes: environmentalists.

Kennett High is honored for academic standards
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News September 125, 2014
KENNETT SQUARE >> Kennett High School has earned accolades for academic achievement, ranking it as one of the best in the nation.  Performance of standardized testing earned the school a profile score of 94.4 from the state Department of Education, said Barry Tomasetti, superintendent of Kennett Consolidated School District.  “This puts Kennett as the top 7 percent in the state,” Tomasetti said.  The score measures graduation rates and PSSA testing, among other factors.  “Teachers are doing a great job with a diverse population,” Tomasetti said. “The numbers show we are one of the best high schools in the country, where we are preparing kids for higher education.”  Another recent honor came from rankings of the best high schools in the nation from The Daily Beast, which also owns Newsweek Magazine.
Kennett High School ranked number 671 in the nation in the Daily Beast’s rankings. It has a graduation rate of 90.5, with 78.8 percent college-bound. Just over 16 percent of Kennett students enroll in AP classes with a pass rate of 81.5 percent. And 29 percent of students take part in the free and reduced lunch program.

Legislators Back to – This?
Yinzercation Blog September 15, 2014
Welcome back, legislators. I know today is your first day back in session after two months off for your summer break. A lot has happened since the beginning of July. But it’s hard to leave the sunshine and put away your flip-flops. I get it. So maybe you just need to ease into things.
Maybe that’s why the very first thing the Senate Education Committee will consider when it meets tomorrow morning is a bill that would allow teachers and other school staff to carry concealed guns. Because you can’t actually be serious. You’re planning to sip your coffee, shake the sand out of your briefcase, and then vote a quick “no” on this ridiculous legislation, right?

Classical music crisis: Author says schools today aren't building audiences
Trib Live By Mark Kanny Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Just as everyone who plays college sports doesn't go on to a professional career, the same is true for students in university classical-music programs.  But college music schools aren't preparing students for a life that doesn't include a job with symphony orchestras, which are struggling with their own financial problems, according to veteran educator Robert Freeman.
In his new book “The Crisis of Classical Music in America, Lessons From a Life in the Education of Musicians” (Rowman and Littlefield), Freeman says schools are giving intense instruction to classical-music students but are not building an audience for the music.
The wild rumpus is ending as Philly's Rosenbach prepares to return bulk of Sendak collection
For fans and researchers, one place has become synonymous with Maurice Sendak's body of work -- the prestigious Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia.
But the will of the prolific artist and writer may deprive the city of most of this literary treasure.
When artist and writer Maurice Sendak died in 2012, he left behind hundreds of illustrations, sketches, books and essays. His best-known works are two childen's books -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and  "In the Night Kitchen" -- that tackle serious, disturbing issues and gave him international recognition.  But starting next month,  "where the wild things are" will no longer be Philadelphia. Max and his monster friends are moving on as a long and fruitful collaboration that started in the late 1980s between the artist and the Rosenbach reaches an end.

Q. and A.: Yong Zhao on Education and Authoritarianism in China
New York Times By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW  SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 6:00 PM
Yong Zhao, a professor of education at the University of Oregon, has come far. Born in what he calls “one of the most ordinary villages in China,” he is now an authority on Chinese and American education and the author of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World,” being published this week.
There, Mr. Zhao examines how China’s contemporary examination-driven system emerged from an authoritarian, imperial culture, and how it has become an object of admiration among some policy makers in the West after Shanghai students ranked at the top in the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, test twice in a row. That throws up a puzzle that he unpicks: Chinese educators, parents and students believe their system is broken and have been trying to change it for decades. At best it produces a narrow kind of intelligence. At worst it replicates a rigid culture in which everyone competes for a few elite jobs that are dispensed, and controlled, by the state. So why is the West trying to “catch up” with China?

A warning to U.S. about ‘educational authoritarianism’ — from a Chinese scholar
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 15 at 2:01 PM  
Yong Zhao is a respected education scholar who has been a fierce critic of high-stakes standardized testing, both in China and the United States. Zhao, the presidential chair and director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the University of Oregon’s College of Education,  has written a new book entited “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World” that my colleague, Post education writer (and former China correspondent) Jay Mathews, said in a columnwas “the best I have ever read on Chinese schools.   The book, released Sept. 15, analyzes the success of Chinese schools and finds that U.S. education reformers are drawing the wrong lessons. He issues a warning to U.S. education reformers about operating under what he calls “the spell of authoritarianism.” Yong Zhao gave me permission to publish the introduction to his book. Here it is:

PUBLIC Education Nation October 11
The Network for Public Education will hold a historic event in one month's time
PUBLIC Education Nation will deliver the conversation the country has been waiting for. Rather than featuring billionaires and pop singers, this event will be built around intense conversations featuring leading educators, parents, students and community activists. We have waited too long for that seat at someone else's table. This time, the tables are turned, and we are the ones setting the agenda.   This event will be livestreamed on the web on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, from the auditorium of Brooklyn New School, a public school. There will be four panels focusing on the most critical issues we face in our schools. The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.  

Please join us for a symposium on:
“Funding Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A Look Ahead”
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Temple University Center on Regional Politics.
When: Friday, October 3, 2014, 8:30 am to 12 pm
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
Session I:  "Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public Schools"
A panel of legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Penn State Professor William Hartman and Tim Shrom projecting the fiscal trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts over the next five years and by University of Pittsburgh Professor Maureen McClure discussing the implications for school finance of an aging tax base.
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
Following an address by Eva Tansky Blum, Chairwoman and President of the PNC Foundation, a panel of business and labor leaders will discuss the importance of public school funding reform to the competitiveness of regional and state economies. 
We look forward to your participation!

Back to School Special Education Boot Camp Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:30 A.M.- 3:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join presenters from: Temple University · McAndrews Law Offices · ARC
PA Education for All Coalition · Delaware Valley Friends School
PA Dyslexia and Literacy Coalition
Attend workshops on: Early Intervention · Dyslexia · Discipline · Charter Schools
Inclusion · Transition Services
Details and Registration: http://bit.ly/1nSstB7

Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

Register Now – 2014 PAESSP State Conference – October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen.  This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference (Oct. 21-24) registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Voting for PSBA officers and at-large representatives opens Sept. 9
PSBA Website 9/8/2014
The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for candidates. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will open Sept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes received an email on Aug. 13 and a test ballot was sent to them on Aug. 28. In addition, a memo from PSBA President Richard Frerichs will be mailed in the coming days to all board secretaries and copied to school board presidents and chief school administrators.

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