Friday, November 14, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 14: $50 million per year of your taxpayers' cyber charter tuition…..

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 14, 2014:
$50 million per year of your taxpayers' cyber charter tuition…..

PA Cyber is the state's largest cyber charter.  BTW, PA Cyber's SPP score for 2014 was 55.5; for 2013 it was 59.4.  PDE considers a score of 70 as passing.

"Two years later, Trombetta had PA Cyber convey its own Lincoln Interactive online curriculum to NNDS, which, in turn, has leased it back to PA Cyber under a contract that initially paid NNDS a 12 percent fee based on PA Cyber revenue.
As PA Cyber’s revenues have mushroomed over the last decade, the deal has netted NNDS hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the latest available Form 990 filed by NNDS for 2012, it received nearly $51 million from PA Cyber for curriculum and management services, nearly 88 percent of NNDS’s total reported support of $58 million that year.  For 2011, NNDS collected $52.2 million from PA Cyber, which has annual revenue exceeding $100 million. Last school year, PA Cyber paid NNDS $53 million, Conti said.  Conti said the 2013-14 payment for curriculum accounted for about $38.2 million with managed services coming in at $14.8 million, which included a handful of NNDS employees working in PA Cyber’s business office."
PA Cyber reviewing its relationship with NNDS
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 6:30 pm
MIDLAND -- The Rochester-based nonprofit National Network of Digital Schools relies almost entirely on the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School for its revenue, but that lucrative 10-year relationship is now under review against a messy backdrop.  In September, PA Cyber’s board of trustees approved an agreement to have the consulting company Clarus Group, based in Massachusetts, “review and evaluate” the Midland-based charter school’s management agreement with NNDS, which has received more than $50 million annually from PA Cyber in recent years.  Michael Conti, PA Cyber’s chief executive officer, said in a recent email that he expects a report in December or January. He said Clarus’ task is “to review service levels provided by NNDS in relation to the fees being paid.”
PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta, who now faces 11 federal criminal charges, created NNDS -- one of several spin-offs from the cyber school -- in 2005 to provide management services and curriculum to PA Cyber and other online schools.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf names his transition team
By Steve Esack,Call Harrisburg Bureau November 13, 2014
Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf announced Thursday who will help his Chief of Staff Katie McGinty transition into the governor's mansion.  Some of the new members of Wolf's transition team may look familiar. They served under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. But it's routine for incoming governors to tap people who served prior administrations. Just ask outgoing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett who had people form Gov. Tom Ridge's administration on his transition team.  
Here's the line up of Team Wolf straight news release:

York mayor, college president among those named to Wolf's transition team
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on November 13, 2014 at 4:51 PM, updated November 13, 2014 at 4:53 PM
A mayor, college president, community leader and political insider are among those chosen by Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to serve in the top spots on his transition team.  Wolf announced the leadership of his transition team as well as the leadership for the Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force on Thursday, less than two weeks after defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett for the state's highest office.

Our View: Wolf right to make education top priority
In his victory speech on Nov. 4 at Utz Arena in York, Tom Wolf said that education will be his top priority when he becomes Pennsylvania's governor in January. "Our ancestors realized that education was key to a strong citizenship," Wolf said. Strong citizenship, in turn, builds a strong democracy, strong families and a strong economy, he said.
Wolf also talked about Pennsylvania founder William Penn, who created a commonwealth that was "inclusive and open and free," and he pointed out that Pennsylvania is the place where our nation was founded. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written in Philadelphia and the Articles of Confederation were drafted in York. "This is a place that deserves to have a great future," Wolf said.
Few would disagree with the statement that a sound education is key to a great future. The challenge for Wolf, a Democrat, will be to persuade the Republican-majority Pennsylvania House and Senate that it's time to increase the share of state spending for education, and to support an extraction tax on gas and oil wells to raise additional revenue to pay for it.

Pa. facing $1.85 billion deficit next year
Pennsylvania's nonpartisan agency for budget analysis is pinning a number on the anticipated budget deficit next year: $1.85 billion.  The Independent Fiscal Office's figure comes in a report that clearly outlines what has been referred to in generalities since the passage of this year's roughly $29 billion state budget in July.  "This pretty much substantiates what the Democrats were saying, both Senate and House Democrats were saying back in June – that this was a paper budget, it was full of a lot of assumptions," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The IFO points to a few short-term causes for the hole. Its report finds that the current budget uses $572 million in one-time revenues and $619 million in one-off cost savings. Another $332 million was siphoned from other special funds outside the main budget.

Independent Fiscal Office projects multi-billion dollar structural shortfall by 2020
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Thursday, November 13, 2014
The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its Economic and Budget Outlook for fiscal years 2014-15 to 2019-20 with an accompanying presentation to explain the data by IFO Director Matthew Knittel, IFO Deputy Director Mark Ryan, and Dan White, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.  One of the figures highlighted in the presentation was a $1.75 billion state budget deficit projected for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, as revenues fail to rise as quickly as expenditures.
The continuing effects of the recession and the aging baby boomer generation both contribute heavily to this increasing disparity, according to IFO’s report.

Pa. faces $2 billion budget deficit, and credit is tight
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Friday, November 14, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2014, 6:05 PM
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania got a double whammy of bad news Thursday in separate reports, one projecting a nearly $2 billion budget deficit, and another saying the state had maxed out its borrowing.  The Independent Fiscal Office, in its long-term economic and budget outlook report, estimates a $1.85 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2015-16, based in large part on reliance on onetime revenue sources.  "The non-recurring revenues and one-time costs savings employed in the FY 2014-15 budget contribute significantly to this deficit," said Matthew Kittel, the fiscal office's director, adding that rising pension costs also are a factor in the poor fiscal outlook.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Rob McCord said the state will soon max out a $1.5 billion line of credit that precipitated credit downgrades with rating agencies.

Abraham, Williams to join Philly mayor's race next week
CLAUDIA VARGAS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, November 14, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2014, 8:22 PM
The Philadelphia mayor's race will likely kick up a notch Wednesday.
That's when State Sen. Anthony H. Williams and former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham say they will announce, separately, that they are running.  Assuming that they announce as promised, Williams and Abraham will become the third and fourth candidates in the field for the May 19 Democratic primary. Terry Gillen, a former aide to Mayor Nutter, and Ken Trujillo, a former city solicitor, launched campaigns this fall.

Together we must ensure that we have schools that work for all
Post Gazette Opinion by State Rep. Jake Wheatley November 14, 2014 12:00 AM
The writer, a Democrat, represents the 19th Legislative District.
On Oct. 28, A+ Schools, PennCAN, the Urban League of Pittsburgh, the Black Political Empowerment Project, my office and many parents, teachers and other community stakeholders came together to engage in a conversation around what we can do to ensure our schools are working for all our children.   I am thankful the Post-Gazette covered our gathering (“Panel Discusses Race Issues, Equitable Education”), but I just wanted to clarify what we are attempting to do. Having the presence of Howard Fuller, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane and City Charter High School co-founder Richard Wertheimer was more about how to demand quality schools that work for all children, irrespective of whether the schools are private, traditional public or nontraditional public charter.

Downingtown teachers, board agree to new contract
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 11/13/14, 6:04 PM EST
EAST CALN >> The Downingtown Area School Board reached a contract extension Wednesday with the Downingtown Area Education Association.  “This is a great thing for our district,” said school board member Colleen Cranney, chairwoman of personnel committee. “The students win.”
The school board members voted 8-1 on the two-year contract, with school board member Suzanne Simonelli dissenting.  Before the vote, Craig Krusen, president of the teachers’ union, thanked the board members for their efforts to reach the contract that extends from Sept. 1, 2015 through August 31, 2017.  “It wasn’t an easy ride the whole way,” Krusen said. “But, I think we both have our sights on tonight as our goal. We all are very, very happy and relieved that we have this task behind us. We’re looking forward to a couple more years of time when we can concentrate strictly on what goes on in the classroom.”  The tentative agreement was ratified by the union on Tuesday, Nov. 11, the day before school board members accepted it. Krusen informed school board President Jane Bertone that they approved a tentative contract. Bertone called the deal a “great evening for our community.”

Avon Grove teachers rally for contract settlement
By Chris Barber, Daily Local News POSTED: 11/13/14, 10:15 PM EST |
Teachers from the Avon Grove School District show their feelings with signs at a rally at the Avon Grove Intermediate School along Route 796 on Thursday.CHRIS BARBER – AVON GROVE SUN
PENN >> Avon Grove School District teachers braved sleet and chill on Thursday as they rallied for a new contract along Route 796 in front of the elementary school complex and district office.
Their previous two-year contract ended in June, and they have been working under the terms of the old one since then.  About 50 of the teachers of the Avon Grove Education Association showed up with umbrellas and placards as a show of unity at about 4 p.m., but as the afternoon went on many more appeared to give their support.

How Philadelphia's District schools fared on the PSSA exams
the notebook By David Limm on Nov 13, 2014 03:08 PM
In late September, addressing last spring's results on the state's annual standardized tests, Superintendent William Hite said that, districtwide, students performed at a level similar to the previous year.  That was after a year of a thousand cuts, and in the early months of 2013-14, District schools were running short on staff after the loss of teachers, nurses, counselors, aides, and other support professionals. Students were learning in spartan conditions.  
Hite took a rosy view of the scores, saying he was "surprised we didn't see a more significant decline, considering how we started the year."
"No one is satisfied, but I also want to acknowledge the fact that if someone were to look at our District and predict scores based on how we started and what resources we started without, [they] would predict significant declines across the board," he said.

Wakisha Charter School votes to close next month
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, November 14, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2014, 8:05 PM
Less than three weeks after the Walter Palmer charter school abruptly closed its high school, another Philadelphia charter said it was shuttering because it was on the brink of financial collapse.  At a meeting that drew dozens of angry and sobbing parents, staff, and students, the board of Wakisha Charter School in North Philadelphia voted Thursday night to close Dec 23.
The move affects 261 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who attend the charter at 800 W. Jefferson St.  "Unfortunately, because we don't have enough students, we cannot meet our financial obligations," board chairman Miguel Pulido said before the board voted to close the school right before the holidays. He did not elaborate on the scope of the financial problems.

Analysis Finds Racial Bias in Pa. Funding System
Education Week By Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook Published Online: November 13, 2014
During the gubernatorial campaign, advocates emphasized that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has no education funding formula. In other words, it has no rational, predictable, enrollment-based system for distributing state school aid.  The process now in place is based on an accumulation of old formulas and ad hoc decisions made over decades.
And a new analysis shows in dramatic fashion that this system, now under review by a special legislative commission, has a discriminatory impact based on race.

S.C. Supreme Court Rules For Poor, Rural Districts in Lawsuit
Education Week By Jackie Mader on November 13, 2014 4:55 PM
Cross posted from District Dossier
A 21-year-old legal battle waged by more than two dozen school districts that accused the state of South Carolina of failing to provide a "minimally adequate" education for poor and rural students came to an end Wednesday, after the state Supreme Court ruled in the districts' favor. 
In a 3-2 ruling, the state high court upheld an earlier Circuit Court decision that said South Carolina officials failed to live up to their constitutional obligation to adequately fund poor and rural schools. The state's failure to address the "effects of pervasive poverty on students within the plaintiffs' school districts prevented those students from receiving the required opportunity," the ruling said.  But Chief Justice Jean Toal, who wrote the majority opinion, did not absolve the plaintiff districts for their role in exacerbating funding inequities, arguing that local spending priorities--for athletic facilities and other auxiliary services while students languished in "crumbling schools and toxic academic environments"--were also part of the problem.  
However, the brunt of the responsibility was put on the defendants, among them the state of South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley, and the top two leaders in the state legislature. 

Public Issues Forums of Centre County | What should be the goal of public schools?
BY DAVID HUTCHINSON State College - Centre Daily Times November 8, 2014 
What: “What is the 21st-century Mission for our Public Schools?”
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Fairmount Building, 411 S. Fraser St., State College
The articles linked on this page offer several perspectives on one of the most important issues we have to wrestle with as residents: What is the goal of a public education?
To prepare students for the workforce?
To prepare them as residents, as Ben Franklin initially proposed? Or to help students discover and develop their individual talents?
What is the experience of our students? What do they think we should do differently? This is your invitation to join that conversation.

Join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA as it follows the Basic Ed Funding Commission to each location this fall
The next tour stop will be on Thursday, Nov 20, 2014 from 6-8 p.m., at Hambright Elementary School in Lancaster. Click here to register for the FREE event. Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year. Members also are encouraged to complete a form online allowing you to "Tell your story" if you are not able to attend one of the BEF Listening Tours.

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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