Wednesday, November 12, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 12: Palmer school officials cited Fifth Amendment in charter revocation hearing - 77 times

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 12, 2014:
Palmer school officials cited Fifth Amendment in charter revocation hearing - 77 times

"Billing the district for students who were no longer enrolled is one of the reasons the School Reform Commission cited in April when it voted to begin revoking the charter of the school, officially known as the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School."
Palmer school officials cited Fifth Amendment in charter revocation hearing - 77 times
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 10:57 PM
Even in a school district with more than its share of charter-school controversies, the answers stood out. Questioned about billing practices, two officials of an embattled Philadelphia charter school cited their Fifth Amendment right to silence - 77 times.
At hearings on whether to revoke the Walter D. Palmer school's charter, the questions ranged from hard-nosed ("Isn't it true that you lied . . . about accurately submitting invoices?") to humdrum ("Do you have a master's degree?").
Daira Hinson, the Palmer school's director of administration, invoked the Fifth Amendment 22 times in the hearings, which ended last week. Richard Troutman, its controller, did so 55 times.
"It is the first time in anybody's knowledge that a witness has pleaded the Fifth in a charter hearing," said district spokesman Fernando Gallard. "It's very surprising that two high-level administrators decided to plead the Fifth when we are asking questions on issues of overpayment. We're talking about $1.5 million over one single fiscal year."
The Inquirer obtained a transcript of the hearings via a Right To Know Law request.

Taking the Fifth POSTED: Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 3:01 AM
Some of the questions to which top officials at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

With days until deadline, 46 new charter applications
The District is asking universities for volunteers to help evaluate them.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 11, 2014 05:04 PM
The deadline for filing is not until Nov. 15, but the School District of Philadelphia already has 46 letters of intent from groups wanting to open new charter schools.  It is seeking help to evaluate them all.  A letter sent to universities says that "budgetary constraints require the District to seek application reviewers who are willing to give of their expertise on a volunteer basis." 
With only six people, the District's Charter School Office is severely understaffed.
The School Reform Commission hasn't considered new charter applications since 2007. But legislation approved in September, which authorized a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help close the District's budget gap, attached a condition: that it reopen the charter application process.
The law also specified that the state Charter Appeals Board will be able to review denials. Under the law that created the SRC, its word has been final on charter rejections, unlike in the rest of the state.

School choice advocates rally for greater charter expansion in Philadelphia
Philadelphia charter school parents, students, leaders and advocates rallied Tuesday outside of school district headquarters, calling on the School Reform Commission to approve more charters.
A few hundred people listened to impassioned testimony from parents of students at Mastery, KIPP, Freire, and Boys Latin, and a student from Esperanza Academy.  "Your address should not determine whether you can get a great education," said Elaine Wells, parent of two students at Boys Latin. "That is insanity."  Freire Charter parent Anthony Harris lamented that the traditional public schools in his West Philly neighborhood were "failing."   He says Freire, which hopes to open a second high school campus for 580 students in Center City, gave his daughter "tools to learn with."

Details of York City charter proposal coming Wednesday
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   11/11/2014 07:35:09 PM EST | UPDATED:   ABOUT 5 HOURS AGO
The York City School District's financial recovery officer said he will provide more details at a public meeting Wednesday about a proposed contract with a for-profit charter company.
David Meckley said his presentation at the Community Education Council meeting will include details about the scope of services, performance measurements, goals, term length and fees.
However, he declined again Tuesday to release to the public a copy of the draft agreement with Charter Schools USA.  Meckley directed the board at a meeting Monday to approve the contract at the board's meeting next week, which would trigger the full conversion of district buildings to charter schools July 1, 2015.

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 11: "Thorough and Efficient" Coverage of PA School Funding Lawsuit

Going to court.
Education Voters PA website November 10, 2014
Pennsylvania’s system is neither adequate, nor equitable; thorough, nor efficient Today, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and Education Law Center- PA filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals, school districts and organizations, making the complaint that the funding system in Pennsylvania is not only wrong, it violates the Constitution.
Monday, November 10th, 2014
Today, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and Education Law Center- PA filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals, school districts and organizations, making the complaint that the funding system in Pennsylvania is not only wrong, it violates the Constitution. Around the state, our schools have not received adequate and equitable funding to meet our children’s educational needs.  But our Constitution says “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”  The state government is breaking its own law and our kids are suffering.
So, a lawsuit is being filed to try to force the state to fix the way it funds schools. 
Specifically, the complaint is asking the court to:
“(1) Declare that the current system of funding our schools does not comply with the state constitution; and
(2) Order the defendants to cease using a funding system that does not provide adequate funding where students can meet state standards and which discriminates against low wealth districts.
(3) Order the defendants to create and maintain a constitutional school funding system that will enable all students to meet state academic standards and does not discriminate against low-wealth school districts.” (From an FAQ by the law centers).

Wilkes-Barre Area SD, mother challenge state funding
Luzerne County Citizen's Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: November 11, 2014
HARRISBURG — A Wilkes-Barre mother joined school districts and advocacy groups Monday in a lawsuit calling for an end to sharp inequities in funding for public education throughout Pennsylvania.  Tracey Hughes is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of her minor son described by the initials P.M.H., an eighth-grader at E.L. Meyers Junior-Senior High School in Wilkes-Barre Area School District. The lawsuit documents how her son’s academic performance dropped after fourth grade as class sizes increased to over 30 students and funding cuts necessitated the sharing of school text books among students. Tutoring options were unavailable due to lack of resources.  Read the lawsuit
Because the state doesn’t provide sufficient academic resources to Wilkes-Barre Area School District, Hughes’ son has been unable to achieve academic proficiency standards, the lawsuit contends.  Wilkes-Barre Area School District, Shenandoah Valley School District in Schuylkill County and Panther Valley School District in Carbon County are plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking court action to erase disparities in per pupil spending between richer and poorer school districts across Pennsylvania. Often reflecting variations in property values, education spending ranges from a low of $9,800 per pupil to a peak of $28,400 per pupil, advocates said.

Cutler among local lawmakers seeking leadership positions
Rep. Bryan Cutler is seeking a leadership post in the House GOP caucus. 
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 10:55 am | Updated: 3:23 pm, Tue Nov 11, 2014.
A third Lancaster County lawmaker is seeking a leadership post.
Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler has thrown his hat into the ring for the Majority Whip position, according to House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin. Reports indicate that as many as three other legislators also are eyeing the job.  Cutler could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker and Rep. Mike Sturla also are campaigning for leadership positions within their respective caucuses.  Smucker, a Republican who represents a large portion of the county, said Monday that he will try to unseat Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati. Meanwhile, in the House, Sturla is running for House Democratic leader, a post currently held by Rep. Frank Dermody.  PennLive has reported that other possible candidates for Whip include Reps. Jim Cox of Berks County, John Maher of Allegheny County and Mike Vereb of Montgomery County.  The post is currently held by Rep. Stan Saylor of Red Lion. As Whip, he is responsible for tracking votes in the House and keeping his Republican colleagues informed on upcoming issues and legislation.  Saylor is trying to move up.

State association honors Centennial's Mark Miller
Doylestown Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 1:28 am, Wed Nov 12, 2014.
Mark Miller can get quite passionate when the topic is public education. Tuesday night was one such example.  “It’s fitting that this is Veterans Day,” Miller said during Tuesday’s meeting of the Centennial school board, where he is vice president. “Public education is under attack. There’s a war on public education.”  He specifically took aim at privatization, standardized tests and publicly funded cyber charter schools, saying they are “wrong.”  “The new governor,” he added of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, “he made some promises. We’re going to hold him to cash them.”
It’s that type of fire and enthusiastic effort in support of public education that earned Miller the Timothy A. Allwein Advocacy Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students.  The award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in memory of Allwein, the association’s former assistant executive director for governmental and member relations.
In the audience at Centennial’s meeting Tuesday were PSBA executive director Nathan Mains, who called Miller a “tremendous advocate and champion” of public schools, and the award’s three previous winners, all school board members: Lawrence A. Feinberg, of Haverford, Roberta Marcus, of Parkland, and Tina Viletto, of Cheltenham.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, Upper Moreland, handed Miller a congratulatory citation from the Senate for Miller’s legislative advocacy on behalf of public education.
“Mark looks like a calm, gentle guy,” Greenleaf said. “Take off that coat and put on a Superman costume and he’s a strong advocate for public education. He definitely deserves the award.”

The 10 Best Public School Districts In The US
Business Insider by PETER JACOBS NOV. 5, 2014, 3:02 PM
The Edgemont School District in Westchester County, New York has the best schools in the country, according to a new ranking from education review website Niche.  Interestingly, all of the top 10 school districts on Niche's list are in New York or Pennsylvania. Four of the 10 districts serve towns in Westchester County, a suburb right outside of New York City.

Philadelphia City Council Hearings on High-stakes Testing and the Opt-Out Movement, Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM
Education Committee of Philadelphia City Council
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM, Room 400 City Hall
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Councilman Mark Squilla and The Opt-Out Committee of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools urge all who care about the future of education to attend:  Parents, students and educators will testify on the effects of over-testing on students and teaching, including the crisis of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement.
Information:  Alison McDowell or Lisa Haver at:

DelCo Rising: Winning for Education Nov 18 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Delaware County students and taxpayers have sacrificed enough. The state is not paying its fair share.  Rising property taxes and school budget cuts are not acceptable–help us change that.
Join your neighbors for a community workshop: Delco Rising:  Winning for Education
·         Learn about Pre-K for PA and the Statewide Campaign for Fair Education Funding and how they can  help your community
·         Practice winning strategies to advocate for your community
·         Create an advocacy plan that works for you—whether you have 5 minutes or 5 days per month
This non-partisan event is free and open to the public.
Click here to download a PDF flyer to share.

Children with Autism - Who’s Eligible? How to get ABA services?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join us on November 19th, 2014 to discuss eligibility services for children with Autism. This session will teach parents, teachers, social workers and attorneys how to obtain Applied Behavioral Analysis services for children on the autism spectrum. Presenters include Sonja Kerr (Law Center), Rachel Mann (Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lisa Blaskey (The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania), and David Gates (PA Health Law Project).

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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