Saturday, December 13, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 13, 2014: Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 13, 2014:
Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, December 14 at 3:00 p.m. 
Guest 1: Michael Churchill, Of Counsel with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, who will discuss the new school funding lawsuit against Pennsylvania state government
Guest 2: James M. Vaughan, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Historical and Museums Commission, who will discuss the work of the PHMC
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.
Visit the EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Funding Project web sites for various resources related to school funding and arts education issues.

Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists
Is it 40,000? Advocates often cite that number, which is from four years ago and did not account for students on multiple lists.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 12, 2014 04:58 PM
The head of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools said Friday that there is no way of knowing whether the claim is accurate that 40,000 students in Philadelphia now are on charter school waiting lists.    Is the number larger? is it smaller? Is it close? What is the relationship between the number of names on lists and the actual number of students waiting to get into charters?  Can't say, according to Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.   As the School District wraps up its first set of hearings on applications for 40 new charter schools in the city, Fayfich explained in an interview the origin of the figure that is often cited by prominent charter proponents, including PennCAN and the Philadelphia School Partnership.   He acknowledged that the estimate is based on figures from 2010-11 and does not account for duplication of students who are on more than one waiting list, or for students who may already be in a school that they want to attend.

Republicans could secure Wolf cabinet appointments
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
NEW YORK — Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf said Friday he is considering hiring some Republicans in his cabinet, a move that could bolster his standing with stronger Republican majorities in the House and Senate.  “It's in the back, and front, of my mind,” Wolf told the Tribune-Review in an interview.  One person he won't rule out is Bev Mackereth, the Human Services secretary from his hometown of York. A former Republican House member, Mackereth is on good terms with many lawmakers. GOP Gov. Tom Corbett tapped her to head the agency once called the Department of Public Welfare.
Union officials prominent in Wolf transition
Scranton Times Tribune BY RODERICK RANDOM Published: December 13, 2014
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has publicly named 68 people as staff of his upcoming administration or members of transition committees, and fewer than half donated to his campaign.  The 28 who did donate directly to his campaign gave a total of $303,180 in either cash or in-kind contributions, according to his campaign finance reports. He raised more than $32.7 million, so less than 1 percent (0.93 percent) came from people already involved in the transition.  Only one of the donors lives in Northeast Pennsylvania. Ida Castro, a former Clinton administration official who’s now a Scranton resident, serves as president of the board at the Employment Opportunity & Training Center in Scranton. She gave $1,500. She’s on the budget deficit and fiscal stabilization task force, a key panel for Mr. Wolf, who faces a $1.85 billion deficit when he takes over.

Dahlkemper to help Gov.-elect Wolf with transition
GoErie by KEVIN FLOWERS, Erie Times-News DECEMBER 13, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper has been tabbed to help fellow Democrat and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf with his transition.  Dahlkemper's office said she accepted a position on Wolf's Transition Review Team, which is reviewing state agencies and commissions. Dahlkemper will co-chair a team examining transportation with Eric Menzer, a former director of economic development for the city of York.  "I am extremely honored to have been asked to serve on this team to help the Governor-elect as he prepares to lead Pennsylvania," Dahlkemper said.

"As of the 2012-13 school year (the most recent data available), there were 260 reported student opt-outs. The explosive growth of the movement in  New York provides reason to believe that opt-outs could climb dramatically even over the course of a single year. In our neighbor to the north, as many as 43,000 students opted out of state testing in 2013-14 alone. Although precise numbers for previous years are not available, news reports suggest that this number is several times larger than in the previous year and that the phenomenon is directly tied to the introduction of more rigorous Common Core-aligned tests."
The effect of student 'opt-outs' on schools
the notebook By Jessica K. Beaver and Lucas Westmaas on Dec 12, 2014 12:19 PM
Jessica Beaver is a research associate at Research for Action. Lucas Westmaas is a research analyst at Research for Action.
The uproar against standardized testing has been getting louder in Philadelphia over the last few years. Recently, activists have been wielding a relatively new term in their vocabulary: “opting out.”  The term can be confusing, as it can mean two things. In one sense, it can refer to parents who use a provision in state regulation to exempt their children from taking state tests, including the PSSAs and the Keystones. In another sense, it can refer to entire schools or districts that decide not to distribute the tests in the first place.
City Council recently heard testimony from educators and activists who argued that high-stakes testing and budget cuts have upended any premise of a fair accountability system. Council yesterday passed a resolution in support of scaling back standardized testing in the School District of Philadelphia and asking the state for a waiver from the Keystone exams.
Only one district nationwide has opted out of large-scale state testing requirements altogether – and that Florida district later rescinded the decision.
Individual opt-outs are far more likely to occur. In Pennsylvania, this process requires a parent to inspect state assessment materials and submit a written request for a religious exemption; the request is automatically granted, with no consequences for the student or parents.

Judge denies PSBA petition to intervene in York City School Board case
PSBA Press Release December 12, 2014
York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh on Thursday, Dec. 11, dismissed the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s (PSBA) petition to intervene in the state’s request to appoint a receiver for the York City School District.  The previous week, PSBA had filed a petition to intervene in York County Court in support of the York City School District.
“PSBA is disappointed in the decision of the court yesterday,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “PSBA strongly opposes this usurping of local control and will continue to work with legislators and community leaders to promote and defend public education in Pennsylvania.”
If the court approves the state’s request for the appointment of a receiver, the receiver will seize the authority to govern the York City School District from the locally elected school board and turn operations over to Charter Schools USA, a for-profit education management company. A ruling on school receivership should be issued within 10 days of a hearing that is scheduled for next week.

Judge denies stay in York City Schools receivership case
York Daily Record Staff report UPDATED:   12/11/2014 10:43:13 PM EST
A York County judge will hear arguments next week on whether he should appoint a receiver for the York City School District, after he denied the district's motion to postpone the case.
And the judge said Thursday he'll allow unions representing district employees to participate in the case, but he said several other groups, including some district parents, cannot.
The state education department last week asked the court to name David Meckley, now the school district's recovery officer, as receiver, which would give him the school board's powers except for taxing. He could then take action to turn district schools into charters, without the school board's consent.  The state said the school board isn't following the district's recovery plan, for reasons including the board's approval of a teachers' contract that Meckley said doesn't meet the recovery plan, and the board's decision to table a contract with a charter operator that Meckley directed them to approve. The district has said the board didn't have adequate time to consider the charter proposal.  No delay On Thursday, Judge Stephen Linebaugh denied the school district's request to delay the case until January, after Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office.

York County judge says no to parents, advocacy groups in York City School District case
By Candy Woodall |  on December 11, 2014 at 5:13 PM, updated December 11, 2014 at 5:25 PM
York City School District teachers and support professionals will have their day in court, but a county judge denied that opportunity for parents, taxpayers, the NAACP and Pennsylvania School Board Association.  Those groups asked the court to be heard in the state's effort to grant receivership to David Meckley, who has been the chief recovery officer for the school district since 2012.  President Judge Stephen Linebaugh on Thursday afternoon ruled against the parents, taxpayers, NAACP and PSBA, saying the law is clear and they don't have the right to intervene.  "The statutory right is between the school district and the Department of Education," he said.  Linebaugh said the groups had an interest in the outcome of receivership, not the appointment of receivership itself.

Will York City Public Schools Become Pa.'s First All-Charter District?
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on December 12, 2014 7:45 AM
The financially-strapped York City school system in the south central region of Pennsylvania could become the state's first district where all schools are run by a private, for-profit charter organization.  It's an option being pushed by York City's emergency manager and one that has been slowly gaining some national currency as a strategy for fixing underperforming and financially struggling traditional school districts. A leading candidate for the takeover of the nearly 5,000-student York City district is Charter Schools USA.
But before proponents could push York City to make that change—a move staunchly opposed by some parents and district employees—a local judge will have to decide whether to grantPennsylvania Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq's request to appoint a receiver to take control over the school district. On Thursday, Common Pleas Judge Stephen Linebaugh denied a request by the school district to temporarily halt the case. 

Instead of attacking teachers, maybe Jerry Shenk should think about how to improve our schools: Michael Crossey
PennLive Op-Ed  By Michael Crossey on December 12, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated December 12, 2014 at 2:43 PM
I've rarely read something more out of step with the actual views of Pennsylvanians than Jerry Shenk's Dec. 5 column.  His notion that Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's commitment to reversing nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts is "misplaced" is nothing less than shocking.
When Pennsylvanians' votes were counted on Nov. 4, it was clear that they rejected Gov. Tom Corbett's priorities for Pennsylvania. Leading up to the election, poll after poll showed that public education was the top issue in the minds of voters.  The reason for that is simple.
Pennsylvanians didn't like the impact that nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts had on the schools in their communities. They didn't like exploding class sizes. They didn't like that more than 20,000 trusted educators lost their jobs. And they didn't like the property tax increases they were forced to pay.  Why did all of these things happen?

Wakisha Charter School in N. Phila. to close Dec. 19
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Friday, December 12, 2014, 12:53 PM
The embattled Wakisha Charter School is running out of money so fast that the North Philadelphia middle school now plans to close Dec. 19, instead of Dec. 23.  And the school will operate only half-days next week.  "Currently, we have approximately 100 students, three administrators and 10 classroom teachers and support staff," Michelle Robinson, the school's assistant principal, said in a letter to families Thursday. "We expect that the numbers will continue to decrease. As a result, the last day for students will be Dec. 19."  School officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday morning.  Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district, confirmed that the charter would close four days sooner than expected.

ASPIRA charter provider on thin ice, Philly School District says
Philadelphia School District officials say time is running out for ASPIRA of Pennsylvania to resolve a host of fiscal concerns that could jeopardize its future as one of the city's largest charter providers.   "We've had numerous requests for them to provide information and address those concerns," said Lauren Thumb of the district's charter school office. "And while we received verbal indication that they are working on them, they have not submitted anything officially in writing back to us in response."  Thumb said the district's concerns are significant enough that they could affect ASPIRA's request to renew its charter for one of its five Philadelphia schools, Stetson Elementary – a process that will begin in early 2015.  "If we have serious concerns in the financial space, that gets factored into renewal decisions," she said. Such concerns could affect not only ASPIRA's request to renew the Stetson charter, but its other four other schools as well, she said.

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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