Monday, December 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 8: Charter opponents join fight against York City receivership

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 8, 2014:
Charter opponents join fight against York City receivership

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
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

SCHOOL FUNDING: BEFC Listening tour on school funding gets earful on 'hold harmless'
By Chris Reber Pocono Record Writer  Posted Dec. 4, 2014 @ 10:42 pm
A committee of legislators tasked with reforming the way Pennsylvania funds education visited Monroe County on Thursday as part of a listening tour around the Commonwealth.
The Basic Education Funding Commission is trying to come up with an alternative to the state's current method of distributing education dollars. In June, the commission will make recommendations to the state Legislature.  The majority of Tuesday's hearing was devoted to testimony from two organizations — the lobbying group representing the state's school boards and a Harrisburg think tank. Local school officials were each given eight minutes to speak. They brought prepared remarks, but in may cases were unable to finish them within the time limit.

Receiver request scuttles some York City school meetings
Some meetings have been canceled because of the state's receivership request
York Daily record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter  12/06/2014 09:44:45 AM
For months, debate over the future of the York City School District has waged at school board meetings and community rallies. But now, it will play out inside a courtroom, as litigation over who should control the school district moves forward.  The ongoing case has scuttled two public meetings, including one the school board had tried to schedule to get answers to questions on the proposed all-charter system, according to court documents.  Last week, the state filed a request in York County court for the appointment of a receiver to run the district.
The school district, in a memo supporting its request to delay the case, says that the York City School Board attempted to set a meeting for Dec. 10 to get more answers on the proposed charter system.
On Dec. 1 — the same day the state asked for David Meckley to be named receiver — Marc Tarlow, an attorney for the district, sent a list of 10 questions, some with multiple parts, to Meckley. Tarlow said the district would like him, a representative of the charter school or of Charter Schools USA to be ready to address them at the meeting. The letter also requested that other documents the board asked for, such as the proposed charter school bylaws, be provided by Dec. 5.  But, the memo filed in court says, Meckley, now the state-appointed recovery officer, indicated he would not attend.  "He alerted us to fact he would not be attending, would not have any representatives there from Charter Schools USA or the Community Foundation Charter School board," Margie Orr said Friday. "So on our solicitor's advice, there was no need to follow through with that meeting."  Meckley cited the ongoing court case as the reason, according to the documents.

Charter opponents join fight against York City receivership
ERIN JAMES / The York Dispatch 505-5439 / @ydcity 12/04/2014 07:58:31 PM EST
Attorneys representing teachers, cafeteria workers, parents, state-level education officials - and probably more to come - have filed petitions to join the York City School District in opposing the state's attempt at seizing control from the locally elected school board.  Several of those attorneys addressed York County President Judge Stephen Linebaugh at a hearing Thursday on the state's petition for receivership.  None of the matters pertaining to the case was settled Thursday. Rather, Linebaugh scheduled a series of additional hearings to gather information from the various groups of concerned parties.  Linebaugh, a graduate of William Penn Senior High School, also acknowledged his affiliation with the district.  The judge said he took an oath of office to uphold the law, and that's what he plans to do.  "I realize this is a very emotional issue for all parties involved," he said. "I want to emphasize that this is not an emotional decision."

NEWS RELEASE: PSBA files petition to intervene in York City School District case
PSBA website December 5, 2014
This week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association filed a petition to intervene in York County Court in support of the York City School Board. The school board recently voted to delay action on a recommendation made by the state-appointed recovery officer to convert the district to the first all-charter school district in Pennsylvania. PSBA believes this is an extremely dangerous precedent that if left unchecked could threaten all districts’ autonomy and ability to make local decisions.
Here are the facts:

PSBA 60 Second Update - York City SD Charter Case
PSBAvideo Published on Dec 5, 2014 (runtime 2:08)
This week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association filed a petition to intervene in York County Court in support of the York City School Board. The school board recently voted to delay action on a recommendation made by the state-appointed recovery officer to convert the district to the first all-charter school district in Pennsylvania.

Corporate Profile: CHARTER SCHOOLS USA
Cashing  In on Kids website
Introduction:   Charter Schools USA is a for-profit management organization headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A related company, Red Apple Development, develops and manages facilities used by many of the Charter Schools USA schools.   Although most of the schools operated by Charter Schools USA are located in Florida, the company also manages schools in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina. The company is led by Jonathan Hage, a previous research director for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. Hage also served on Governor Rick Scott’s education transition team. Tina Bennett, wife of former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, also works for the company.
Political Connections:   According to the Tampa Bay Times, Charter Schools USA paid out over $200,000 in political contributions during the 2012 election cycle. The company also contributed $50,000 to a Georgia PAC to expand charter schools in the state.
Emails obtained through a public records request reveal that Charter Schools USA is one of the many sponsors of  Chiefs for Change, a project of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.   Charter Schools USA joined with other charter school management organizations to lobby for a change to the Tennessee education law to allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools in the state. 

Court should OK David Meckley as receiver for York schools (YDR opinion)
York Daily Record editorial UPDATED:   12/05/2014 08:23:05 AM EST
And so the state Department of Education has petitioned the court to have David Meckley installed as receiver for the York city school district.  This is not what we were hoping for.
This is not what anyone was hoping for — not even Mr. Meckley, who told the YDR editorial board a few weeks ago that he really was hoping the internal reform plan proposed by city teachers would work.  It's not working — mainly because the teachers are dragging their feet and undermining their own plan. It seems the plan was never really to reform but to resist — delaying and stalling, bobbing and weaving, hoping the recovery process would just go away.

Inky Editorial: Bad grade for Chester
INQUIRER EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: Friday, December 5, 2014, 1:08 AM
Many in public education have long argued they are fighting a war against conservative interests that want traditional urban schools abandoned rather than improved so that charters and private academies can replace them.  The argument gains credibility when you consider how badly the Pennsylvania Department of Education has messed up the Chester Upland School District. Now it is trying to remove Joe Watkins, the district's chief recovery officer, from the position he was appointed to by former state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis in August 2012.

In Philly city schools, students 'die in'
Inquirer by Kristen Graham POSTED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2014, 12:40 PM
At three city schools, students staged "die-ins" on Friday to protest police brutality and racism.
The Masterman die-in happened in a first-floor hallway, when roughly 100 students sat or laid down silently at mid-morning. Some held "Black Lives Matter" signs. Others closed their eyes or stared straight ahead.  The die-in lasted four minutes - symbolizing the four and a half hours Michael Brown lay dead on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., students said. They said they were deeply affected by the deaths of Brown and of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Both died at the hands of police who controversially faced no criminal penalty for the deaths.

Circuit Riders: Effort under way to develop new formula for how state money is sent to school districts statewide
Main Line Times By Richard Ilgenfritz @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Published: Friday, December 05, 2014
There is an effort in the state to figure out a new way of doling out state tax dollars for education but those who are pushing for the change say they don’t know yet what that change will look like.
For the past few months a group made up of retired school superintendents and a couple of school board members have been canvasing Pennsylvania to discuss state funding for public schools. They are going by the name, The Circuit Riders.
Lawrence Feinberg, one of the Circuit Riders and a member of the Haverford School Board, recently gave a brief presentation at a Lower Merion School Board Legislative Committee meeting on the efforts to develop what is being labeled a new funding formula for how state funds are sent out to local school districts.

Want to fix public schools? First, start with the unions: Jerry Shenk
PennLive Op-Ed  By Jerry Shenk on December 05, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Despite facing a $1.9 billion budget deficit , Pennsylvania's union-supported incoming governor has promised more money for public education. Predictably, his priorities are misplaced.
There are many good teachers in Pennsylvania's public schools. But good teachers were not created by teachers unions. Capable, conscientious teachers are good in spite of their unions.
Three years ago, Pennsylvania's state legislature considered The Opportunity Scholarship and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act
Intended to create education vouchers for kids trapped in failing schools, the bill was opposed by teachers unions whose political influence -- and politicians whose campaign funds – stood to be diminished by its passage. Union campaign contributions won. The bill died.

4 Delco school districts wrangle over teacher contracts
Delco Times By Courtney Elko, Susan L. Serbin, Barbara Ormsby and Leslie Krowchenko, Times correspondents POSTED: 12/06/14, 11:50 PM EST
Teachers in four Delaware County school districts are going to work every day without a contract as negotiations continue between the school boards and teachers’ unions.  In Interboro, Garnet Valley, Ridley and Rose Tree Media school districts, expired contracts have brought about different demands from the unions representing hundreds of teachers and different responses from the school boards elected to represent thousands of students and taxpayers.

Gov.-elect Wolf has some choices when it comes to the balancing the budget: Charlie Gerow
PennLive Op-Ed  DONKEYS & ELEPHANTS By Charlie Gerow on December 07, 2014 at 10:30 AM, updated December 07, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Last week, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf jumped into a very public back-and-forth with the state's budget secretary over his discovery that when the  state spends more than it collects, it ends up with a deficit.  This pattern is, of course, institutional. Despite largely stable population and resulting tax base that hasn't grown appreciably, Pennsylvania's annual spending has increased dramatically. 
The flat income plain is bounded by the twin mountains of rising entitlement costs and spiraling pension debt -- things that demand more money with no added services.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's $1 billion drilling tax prediction might be high
Penn Live By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press on December 07, 2014 at 1:56 PM, updated December 07, 2014 at 3:19 PM
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf might have been off the mark by hundreds of millions of dollars when he said during his campaign that a new severance tax on natural gas drillers would raise more than $1 billion, potentially complicating his bid to secure new funding for Pennsylvania schools and alleviate a severe budget shortfall.
The Democrat is pushing a 5 percent tax on gas pulled from the Marcellus Shale, saying drillers are failing to pay their fair share while state government and school districts grapple with persistent fiscal crises. He made the tax a centerpiece of his successful gubernatorial campaign, saying it would generate more than $1 billion each year for education and other priorities.
But his estimate assumes a wholesale price of gas that drillers in the Marcellus right now can only dream about. At current prices and production, a 5 percent severance tax would produce about $675 million a year.

Transitioning to Tom Wolf
Trib Live By Eric Heyl Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jeff Sheridan is the press secretary for Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf. He spoke to the Trib regarding the ongoing transition to the incoming governor's administration.
Q: What do you consider the most significant highlights of the transition so far?
A: It's an ongoing process, but we've made a number of important announcements: the naming of (Wolf's) chief of staff (former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty); the establishment of a Transition Steering Committee to review state agencies and departments; a Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force to examine and address the budget shortfall; the gift ban on members of the transition team that also will apply to executive branch employees; and the appointment of (former state Department of Public Welfare secretary) Estelle Richman as Medicaid adviser.
The Tom Wolf era begins: Make way for 'Gov. Revenue'
Trib Live Opinion By Paul Kengor Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.”
Not long after Pennsylvania voters bucked the national trend and exchanged a Republican governor for a Democrat — a very left-leaning one — the Cato Institute's annual “Fiscal Report Card on America's Governors” arrived in my mailbox. I eagerly looked to see where Cato ranked the best and worst tax-and-spenders, with an eye toward Gov. Tom Corbett, a fiscally responsible governor who sadly did not excite the Pennsylvania electorate.
Will committee assignments come early this year?
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, December 5, 2014
Though the 2013-2014 legislative session came to a close in just the last few days, the process of forming next session’s legislative committees has already begun in both chambers.
Speaking to sources in both chambers, The PLS Reporter gives you an insider’s view of how committees are formed in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

Senate Republican Leaders Say Cost Drivers Must Be Addressed
Senator Scarnati's website On December 4, 2014
(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Senate Majority Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-16) and Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27) offered the following statement regarding the Commonwealth’s fiscal condition:  “The Governor’s Mid-Year Budget Briefing shows that mandated spending cost drivers, such as pensions and Medicaid, must be addressed in order to repair the Commonwealth’s fiscal balance.  To date, this responsibility has been met by Senate Democrats with roadblocks and barriers to these needed reforms.

Education Isn't the Problem—Inequality Is
The American school system today is an offshoot of an increasingly class-driven society.
The Atlantic by MATT PHILLIPS DEC 3 2014, 1:00 PM ET
Since its birth, the United States has always defined itself as an egalitarian meritocracy, fundamentally distinct from the class-ridden societies of Europe.
And at times, this has been true. On the eve of the country's Revolution, the income distribution of American colonists was far more equal than it was of those of Great Britain. “Indeed, New England and the Middle Colonies appear to have been more egalitarian than anywhere else in the measurable world,” wrote economic historians in a 2012 paper. (To be clear, it’s difficult to consider a slave-holding society egalitarian at all. It was brutally unequal. But from an income-distribution perspective, American colonists—meaning white men—were better off than their counterparts in Europe.)
Plenty has changed since then. The U.S. became increasingly unequal during the decades ahead of the Civil War in the 1860s. But at the dawn of the the 20th century, it was still more egalitarian than European nations like Britain and France. Inequality rose sharply during the Jazz Age and collapsed when the Great Depression hit, staying fairly stable until the early 1980s. Since then American inequality has climbed sharply—so much so that the U.S. is now more unequal than Europe was at the end of its aristocracy era and just before World War I, wrote French economist Thomas Piketty in his massive study on the topic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Schools, Race And Integration: Complaint Says Charter Schools Are Resegregating Public Education
International Business Times By David on December 05 2014 5:24 PM
Charter schools are often promoted as a tool to address educational inequities, but a potential precedent-setting legal case launched this week says the opposite. In filings with the U.S. Department of Education, two Delaware nonprofit groups allege that some of the state's publicly funded, privately managed schools are actively resegregating the education system -- and in a way that violates federal civil rights law.
The complaint, by the Delaware branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society, cites data showing that more than three-quarters of Delaware's charter schools are "racially identifiable" -- a term that describes schools whose demographics are substantially different from the surrounding community. According to the complaint, "High-performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as white" while "low-income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African-American or Hispanic." 
Elizabeth Lockman, an ACLU board member, told Delaware public radio that when her daughter enrolled in Wilmington public schools, she noticed a troubling change in the years since the civil rights movement first began its push for integration. 
“I made the choice to put her in a neighborhood school in Wilmington, but I was just continually astounded by the amount of resegregation that had happened in the short period of time since I had been a high school student,” she told radio station WDDE. 

If teachers are judged by student test scores, how about state education leaders?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 8 at 5:00 AM  
School reformers are big believers in measurement, which can be a problem when the data they use to create policy is wrong. A recent post by award-winning Principal Carol Burris (you can read it here) revealed that New York state education officials were using flawed data while declaring a crisis in college readiness. Here is a follow-up to that post. Burris, of South Side High School in New York,  was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010, tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. Shes has been exposing the botched school reform program in New York for years on this blog. You can see some of her other work here and here and here.

Panel: Philly Charter Schools: Who’s Minding The Store?
How Can We Achieve Effective Academic, Financial and Governance Accountability?
Tues. Dec 9, 7:00PM - 9:00PM 1501 ARCH STREET PHILADELPHIA, 19103
·         Commissioner Farah Jimenez, School Reform Commission, Chair of the SRC’s Charter Committee
·         Jurate Krokys, Regional Council Co-Chair of Schools That Can Philadelphia, founding Principal of Independence Charter School
·         Kyle Serette, Center for Popular Democracy & author of “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in PA’s Charter Schools”
·         Barbara Dowdall, retired English Department Head at A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical School and former ADA board member
Moderated by: Solomon Leach, Philadelphia Daily News, Education Reporter
Sponsored by: Americans for Democratic Action
Co-sponsors: ACTION United, Education Voters PA, PCCY

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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