Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 10: When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 10, 2014:
When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing Today
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; McCaskey East H.S.
1051 Leigh Avenue, Lancaster, PA

* meeting times and locations subject to change

Basic Education Commission to visit McCaskey to talk about funding
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 3:57 pm | Updated: 5:52 pm, Tue Dec 9, 2014.
The Basic Education Funding Commission will meet at McCaskey East High School Wednesday morning to discuss new ways to distribute money to Pennsylvania's schools. 
Lancaster County's Sen. Lloyd Smucker and Rep. Mike Sturla are among the 12 lawmakers on the commission.   The commission is expected to make recommendations for a new funding system next year. In the meantime, they're traveling to different parts of the state to gather input from school administrators and others connected to public education.

"Pennsylvania made about 52 percent of its actuarially recommended pension payment in Moody’s latest ranking, eclipsing only New Jersey and Virginia. Thirty-four states made at least 90 percent of the recommended contribution."
No Escape From Pension Math in Pennsylvania
Bloomberg News By Romy Varghese  Dec 9, 2014 12:15 PM ET  
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf earned a historic victory in ousting the state’s incumbent chief executive last month. Now budget woes and mounting retirement expenses threaten to undermine his campaign pledges.  The 66-year-old Democrat will assume control of a government that has trailed all U.S. states in job growth since 2011. He has to balance promises, including more money for schools, with a $2 billion revenue shortfall for the year that begins July 1. OnlyNew Jersey and Virginia are struggling more than Pennsylvania to fully fund retirement costs, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Pa. business group urges action on pension problem
WITF Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Dec 9, 2014 3:13 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- Despite holding control of the state Senate, House and Governor's office, Republicans couldn't agree on how to deal with pension costs in the last four years.
But a business group says Governor-elect Tom Wolf should find a solution.  Gene Barr leads the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, which highlighted the pension issue throughout the gubernatorial campaign.  He contends the issue is driving the state's budget deficit, and wants Wolf to develop a new structure.  "For new employees, we need to come up with a sustainable model, as most other states have done. Pennsylvania ranks almost at the bottom for what we've done with our pension system. We need to come up with a sustainable model for new employees, and granted that does only address one side of the equation. The rest is how we address those legacy costs, because they need to be addressed," says Barr.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to privately fund transition costs
By Christian Alexandersen | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 09, 2014 at 12:21 PM, updated December 09, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf announced Tuesday afternoon that he will not accept state taxpayer money to cover the cost of his transition into the state's highest office but instead privately fund the process.  "I do not want taxpayers to shoulder the cost of the transition, and I believe transparency and openness are important in order to restore the public's trust in their government," Wolf said in a prepared release.

State appeal board upholds decision to close Truebright Academy charter
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 9, 2014 06:25 PM
The state Charter Appeal Board has upheld the decision of the School Reform Commission to close Truebright Science Academy Charter School.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision of the seven-member board was unanimous. Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, confirmed the action.  Gallard said that Truebright has 30 days to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court. The school will close at the end of this year, unless Truebright persuades the court to issue a stay.  "They will have to ask for a stay and be granted a stay for them to remain open," Gallard said.  Truebright, which is part of a network run by followers of Turkish imam M. Fetullah Gulen, enrolls just over 300 students in grades 7-12. It is located on Roosevelt Boulevard in Olney.

School district wants answers from ASPIRA Charter
THE DISTRICT'S Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation to determine why a North Philadelphia charter school operator paid thousands of dollars to a contractor to paint a school, where maintenance workers claim they did the work.  The probe follows a Daily News article published Friday in which current and former employees at Olney Charter High questioned $163,365 in payments that ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania made to Lyon Contracting to paint the school in 2011.

Activists Say Phila. Charter Schools Are Rife With Fraud And Regulators Aren’t Watching
CBS Philadelphia By Steve Tawa December 8, 2014 1:55 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A coalition of community and parents’ groups charges that no one is adequately monitoring the charter schools in Philadelphia.  Now, they have brought their complaints to the doorsteps of the Pennsylvania attorney general and the School Reform Commission.  The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (“PCAPS”) and Action United say the state’s oversight of charters is neither effective at detecting fraud nor at preventing it.  The protesters pointed to a 20-page report released in September alleging that charter school officials have defrauded at least $30 million intended for Pennsylvania school children since 1997.

City Hall: Parents and Advocates Demand State Provide Adequate Education Funds
Philadelphia Neighborhoods Added on December 8, 2014 
Philadelphia education advocates, parents and students braved the numbing cold on Nov. 18 to gather in room 400 of City Hall for a hearing organized by the local nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY).  “Public education is not a privilege but a right,” said Jamira Burley (right), executive director of the Philadelphia Youth Commission. “The single greatest investment that a community, city, state and nation can make is the education of the citizen.”  Three members of the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission were present to listen to the testimonies presented by former school district students, youth advocates and parents like Julie Krug, whose daughter Maisie attends first grade at Greenfield Elementary.

Hour of Code shows that anyone can handle computer language
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 10, 2014 12:00 AM
Writing computer code didn’t appeal much to Oakland Catholic High School junior Chryssa Newman.  “It kinda scared me,” said Chryssa, of Stanton Heights. “I pictured myself in a little cubicle.”  But Tuesday, she reconsidered. “Now, even if I was in a cubicle, it’s kinda fun.”  The event that changed her mind is Hour of Code. This week, millions of students of all ages and others around the globe are spending an hour learning computer code — some simple and some advanced — as a way, as the organizers put it, to “demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.”  In the first year of Hour of Code last year, about 70 Oakland Catholic students participated. This year, the school rolled out a “Mission Forward” initiative providing a laptop for each student, making it possible for all 555 girls to participate.

Schneider: The Walton Plan to “Fix” American Education
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 9, 2014 //
Mercedes. Schneider read an article in Forbes about Carrie Walton Penner, the family member now in charge of education strategy for the Walton Family Foundation. Schneider blew a fuse. Maybe more than one. Carrie wants lots and lots of charters so that the free market will force the public schools to compete. Just like Walmart forces mom-and-pop stores to compete by cutting prices and forcing them out of business.  Schneider writes about the Walmart business model. While family members are billionaires, Walmart workers work for low wages, and some apply for food stamps. Walmart, she says, has even used prison labor to cut costs.

"In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a "sweeps" contract because nearly all of a school's public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is "swept" into a charter-management company.  The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it's also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits."
When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only
Some charters pass along nearly all their money to for-profit companies hired to manage the schools. It’s an arrangement that’s raising eyebrows.
by Marian Wang ProPublica, Dec. 9, 2014, 10:49 a.m.
A couple of years ago, auditors looked at the books of a charter school in Buffalo, New York, and were taken aback by what they found. Like all charter schools, Buffalo United Charter School is funded with taxpayer dollars. The school is also a nonprofit. But as the New York State auditors wrote, Buffalo United was sending " virtually all of the School's revenues" directly to a for-profit company hired to handle its day-to-day operations.  Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.  In the case of Buffalo United, the auditors found that the school board had little idea about exactly how the company – a large management firm called National Heritage Academies – was spending the school's money. The school's board still had to approve overall budgets, but it appeared to accept the company's numbers with few questions. The signoff was "essentially meaningless," the auditors wrote.

A Great Chart Explaining the Flipped Classroom Concept
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning December 3, 2014
Flipped classroom or flipped learning is a methodology, an approach to learning in which technology is employed to reverse the traditional role of classroom time. If in the past, classroom time is spent at lecturing to students , now in a flipped model, this time is utilized to encourage individualized learning and provide one-on-one help to students, and also to improve student-teacher interaction. While the instructional or teachable content is still available in class, however this content is mainly designed in such a way to be accessed outside class which is a great way for struggling students to learn at their own pace.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

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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