Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 14: Temple prof: Pa. cyber charters turning huge profits, sending tax dollars out of state

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 14, 2015:
Temple prof: Pa. cyber charters turning huge profits, sending tax dollars out of state

Program on PA school funding; Chambersburg Jan 15th 6:30 pm

"All about the kids?"; big kids, apparently…
Is this the best use of our school tax dollars?
School Choices: K12 Inc execs taking $2K per student in salary. 8 execs, 75K students, $21M in salaries. 20% of revenue in 8 pockets.
Morningstar Executive Compensation

If a regular-education student from Lower Merion school district attended a cyber-charter in 2011-2012, Lower Merion (which then had a per-pupil expenditure of $22,140.70) sent the cyber charter about $17,000.  If a regular-education student from the Philadelphia school district attended the same cyber-charter, Philadelphia (which then had a per-pupil expenditure of $12,351.74) sent the cyber charter about $8,500.  Same cyber school. Same cyber-education. Outrageously different price tag.
Temple prof: Pa. cyber charters turning huge profits, sending tax dollars out of state
Fewer teachers. No school building. No heating bill. Same cost.
You'd think Pennsylvania's 16 cyber-charter schools, which teach home-based students via the Web, would spend a lot less per student than bricks and mortar schools.  Not so.
They collect as much money per student as the state's brick-and-mortar charter schools. Despite a call from Governor Tom Corbett to do otherwise, the state still doesn't ask how much it actually costs to educate students in cyber-charters to proficiency standards (nor does it, actually, for any of its schools).  Instead — as it does for brick-and-mortar charters — the state simply demands that school districts turn 70 percent to 80 percent of their normal per-pupil costs over to the cybers. (School districts are allowed to deduct certain expenses such as debt-service   and transportation costs from their payments to charter schools.)  Those costs, of course, differ greatly from one school district to another. And since the state's cyber charters can take students from any of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts, they receive wildly different funding rates depending on a student's home base.

Blogger's note: Prior to his service in the Corbett administration, Secretary Zogby was a senior executive for K12, Inc., which manages the Agora Cyber Charter School.
In the final days of Corbett, budget chief Zogby reflects on his quest for school reforms
It's a cold December day in Harrisburg, where both the streets and the echoing halls of the state capitol lie dormant between legislative sessions.  In a handsome executive-wing office of mahogany and leather, a copy of the Wall Street Journal sprawled across his desk, state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby has already begun boxing up his belongings.
"Don't make me out to be the villain," he says, half joking, referring to his supposed image among traditional public school advocates.  As the Corbett administration draws near its final days, it's Zogby's departure that perhaps best marks the radical shift about to occur in executive-level education philosophy.  To his ideological opposites, Zogby's a union buster, a privatizer, a profiteer.   But the way Zogby sees it – through three governors and an eight-year foray in the private sector – it's always been all about the children.  "Anything that I've done, it's really been trying to help those most in need get a better shot at a better education," he says.  In Pennsylvania, if you had to craft a short list of the players who best advanced the conservative public school agenda over the past two decades, Zogby's name would be on it.

"Perhaps he would have considered the fact that Pennsylvania's cyber charter schools are among the lowest performing schools in the state.  And perhaps he would have considered that the intent of Pennsylvania's charter school law is to create additional choices to our school district schools, not to eliminate choices. Eliminating district schools and replacing them with a single, private operator actually reduces school choices for parents and students.  The failure to consider these issues should set off alarm bells for public officials because the laws are clear."
OP-ED: Speaking up for parents and vulnerable students in York City
York Dispatch Letter By MAURA MCINERNEY Education Law Center POSTED:   01/13/2015 04:02:51 PM
In two years since being appointed Chief Recovery Officer for the York City School District, David Meckley has produced nothing more than an ill-conceived privatization scheme to convert the 7,500-student school district into charter schools run by the for-profit company, Charter Schools USA.  This massive overhaul of an entire public school district is unprecedented in Pennsylvania, and there is little data anywhere to support its promised success. Perhaps most alarming is the failure to consider how the schools will serve students with serious educational needs, particularly those with disabilities.  When asked what would occur if a parent of a student with a disability exercised his or her right to choose an option other than a charter school out-sourced to Charter Schools USA, Mr. Meckley reportedly testified, "The plan calls for sending those children to cyber charter schools, in which the child works on a laptop computer from home." And when asked what would happen if a student could not read and was unable to participate in a cyber program, Mr. Meckley had no answer. The recovery plan contains no mention of how students with disabilities will be served and protected.  It's disheartening to realize that, after two years of work, this fundamental issue has not been given any thought.

"On Monday the judge ordered the school district is entitled to appeal "as the aggrieved party."  Linebaugh may be constrained, but clearly he will not be rushed by appointees of an outgoing administration.  The district will have its fair hearing, no matter how long it takes.  And it's looking more likely Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, a Yorker who opposes Meckley's plan to convert all York City schools to charters, will have a say in the matter."
EDITORIAL: 'No appealsies' argument shot down in York schools case
York Dispatch POSTED:   01/13/2015 09:27:10 AM EST
York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh Monday put to rest one of the dumber arguments in the York City School District receivership case.  The judge late last month granted the state's request for receivership of the troubled district, a move that transferred virtually all control from the school board to state-appointed chief recovery officer David Meckley.
Linebaugh noted he ruled based on the narrow constraints of the 2012 state law that created the program for financially struggling districts.  "The Court does not have the authority to consider whether the Petition is in the best interest of the District and the citizens of York County," he wrote.  Marc Tarlow, an attorney representing the district, immediately appealed.  But hold on.

Pension reform by consensus?
PLS Reporter  Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, January 13, 2015/Categories:
Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) believes the best way to tackle pension reform is to bring all stakeholders together to develop a solution.  On Tuesday, she announced she is introducing legislation to form a Public Pensions Review Commission (PPRC) to examine the pension reform issue, offer a bipartisan solution, and present its plan six months after the law forming the commission is enacted.  Senate Republicans have said a pension reform bill likely containing a defined contribution plan will be Senate Bill 1.  Both chambers’ leadership has indicated to The PLS Reporter pension reform will be one of the first topics the General Assembly will address when session resumes next Tuesday.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf chooses Senate aide to be budget secretary
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 14, 2015 12:00 AM
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has chosen the top Senate Democratic budget aide to be his budget secretary.  Randy Albright will head Mr. Wolf’s Office of the Budget, the incoming governor’s transition team said Tuesday. Mr. Albright has been the Democrats’ executive director of the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2009 and was a budget analyst from 1986 to 2008.

Keep your promises on school funding, Gov. Wolf (letter)
York Daily Record Letter by Steven Singer UPDATED:   01/13/2015 02:49:24 PM EST
Steven Singer is an education blogger, administrator at the Badass Teachers Association and a middle school teacher. He lives in White Oak, Pa.
Dear Gov. Tom Wolf:
As one of millions who voted for you, campaigned for you and posted a yard sign for you — welcome to office.  Your forerunner treated education like his private piggy bank. He gleefully slashed school budgets, blaming it on federal stimulus dollars, Gov. Rendell or anyone but himself. He trashed a funding formula designed to ensure needy districts received adequate support. He stopped partially reimbursing poverty-stricken districts for the extra costs of charter schools draining their coffers. And he dramatically expanded the state's role in education.
It was disastrous. As a public school teacher, those were the four longest years of my life. I hope we can expect better from you. In fact, you owe your job to your stance against these policies and expectations that you'll reverse course.
Let me help. This is what I'd like to see you do as governor. It won't be easy. You'll probably need to compromise with a Republican Legislature that enabled all these disasters to take place.
But you have an important role — setting the agenda. And I expect you to do that for Pennsylvania's children.  This is how you help Pennsylvania's schools:

Embattled Chester Upland receiver gets adviser
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015,   2:39 PM POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 2:00 PM
Francis Barnes, picked by state education officials to replace embattled Chester Upland School District receiver Joe Watkins, now has been hired to work with him, state officials announced Tuesday.  Barnes is serving as an adviser to Watkins while "creating communications channels to the Department of Education to keep that office well informed about what we're doing," he was quoted as saying in a news release.  Barnes is being paid $144,000 annually -- the same as Watkins, the state said.  Last month the state Department of Education went to court in an effort to replace Watkins with Barnes. It said Watkins had failed to implement a recovery plan aimed at digging the struggling district out of debt and improving its academic performance, and did not communicate with state officials.

All charter schools in public system not the answer, some experts say
Philly Trib by Wilford Shamlin III Tribune Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 2:00 am
Philadelphia is not likely to go the way of York in having a majority of privately-run charter schools in a public school system, some local insiders said.  “The goal of public education has always been a public school system that considers traditional public schools and charter schools,” Fernando Gallard, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia’s public schools, said Monday. “So, I couldn’t imagine a time that would change. The question really has been how can we get all of the schools to be a high performing school for students.”  Just under 40 percent of Philadelphia’s 303 public schools are privately-managed charters.  Philadelphia is one of three public school districts in eastern Pennsylvania that are controlled by state overseers. The school district of York recently decided to have a majority of public schools in the district run by private companies. That decision is also being contested in court.  Chester Upland School District’s receiver Joe Watkins said charter schools are a growing segment but privatizing all schools is an unlikely scenario. He said the district has been working on ways to encourage more families to enroll their children in public schools. The focus has been on working to make schools safer and more conducive to learning and improving academic performance.

Anti-Corbett ‘dark money’ group faces IRS fine
Union-backed Pennsylvanians for Accountability failed to file mandatory tax return. by MICHAEL BECKEL, THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:00 AM
Union-backed Pennsylvanians for Accountability, which spent more than $1 million on political advertisements targeting Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and a handful of state lawmakers, failed to file a mandatory tax return, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.  For failing to file returns with the IRS on time, the secretive, Pittsburgh-based Pennsylvanians for Accountability could be fined up to $50,000.  The IRS confirmed the agency had not received the group's tax filing — the kind of document that provides a key window into the inner workings of politically active nonprofit groups like Pennsylvanians for Accountability, which are becoming increasingly influential in state and national elections.

York Academy Regional Charter School gets IB authorization
Seeking International Baccalaureate authorization has been a multi-year process
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   01/13/2015 09:47:49 AM
James Pastore, chief academic officer for York Academy Regional Charter School, has liked to tell people that the school was "living the IB lifestyle" though it was still working on its official recognition from the International Baccalaureate organization.  But now it's official. On Jan. 8, Pastore received word that the school is now authorized as an IB World School, in the Primary Years Programme.  Obtaining authorization has been a multiple-year process, involving a mentor working with the school on implementing the IB model, much training and documentation, and visits from IB officials to see if the school was meeting its standards.
"We came through with flying colors in their report," Pastore said.

Lincoln Charter renewal could be considered next week
York Daily Record UPDATED:   01/13/2015 09:56:53 AM EST
The York City School Board could next week see an agreement to renew Lincoln Charter School.
At a committee meeting Monday, Supt. Eric Holmes said a review of Lincoln Charter School's renewal application had been completed and the terms of a new renewal agreement were being discussed.  Holmes said he hoped to have an agreement for the board's voting meeting on Jan. 21.  Documents attached to the school board agenda say administrators completed a site visit at the school, and staff have spent about two months reviewing the renewal documentation, which included five 4-inch binders, and discussing the items.  Also at the meeting next week, the board is expected to vote on a resolution stating that the district won't raise taxes by more than the Act 1 tax limit set by the state. For York City School District, that limit is 3.4 percent for 2015-16.

"Next year brings a $979,000 increase in the district's employee pension obligation, Bonenberger said. He noted the state typically reimburses the district half of that.  Director Sandra Miller reminded the board those pension payments are one of the reasons the district has been building its savings. The pension costs amount to almost 1 mil."
Saucon Valley gets first glimpse at 2015-16 school budget
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on January 13, 2015 at 8:53 PM, updated January 13, 2015 at 9:03 PM
The Saucon Valley School Board Tuesday night got its first glimpse of thedistrict's 2015-16 financial situation.  At its Jan. 29 meeting, the school board must vote to stay below their state-set 1.9 percent cap on annual property tax increases or have a preliminary budget.
Saucon hasn't raised taxes in six years, holding a tight line on spending. But board members in recent months have hinted tax increases are needed to avoid decimating the district's $15 million savings and heading into deficit spending.

Centennial's Miller honored for school advocacy efforts
Bucks County Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 10:30 pm | Updated: 12:10 am, Wed Jan 14, 2015.
With 4,500 school board members representing Pennsylvania’s 500 districts, differentiating the individuals who work for free to improve education is no easy task.  That’s what the Timothy A. Allwein Advocacy Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students, is for.  For 2014, the honor was bestowed on Mark Miller, vice president of the Centennial School Board. Tuesday night, state Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-29, presented Miller with a citation for capturing the honor during the board’s meeting.
Miller said he was proud to be selected as Allwein was “quite a legend in advocacy,” but gave credit to Centennial’s entire board.  “Our district tries to take a leading role in standing up for public education,” he said. “I’m fortunate they let me carry the torch.”
O’Neill, a former special education teacher in Centennial, said Allwein “mentored me in my early years in the House. To have an award named after him is quite special.”

West Chester: Volunteers wanted for Chesco schools committee by Justine McDaniel LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER The West Chester Area School District is forming a legislative action committee to provide input on education mandates.  The committee is open to volunteers. The district is looking for parents, non-parents, board members, teachers, administrators and citizens on fixed income, according to a letter from Superintendent Jim Scanlon.  The district aims to give feedback about unfunded mandates, which are policies created for schools by state and federal agencies that do not include funding, the letter said.  State-mandated retirement contributions added $2 million to the school district's budget this year, Scanlon said.  The first meeting will be Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in West Chester. More information is available from the superintendent's office and at

Easton Area School Board president wants to pray at meetings
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call January 14, 2015
The Easton Area School Board could start its meetings with more than the Pledge of Allegiance.
A prayer.  At a meeting Tuesday night, President Frank Pintabone told the board he wants to open each meeting thanking a higher power — whether that's God, Allah or any other deity, he said.  "We can use all the help we can get," he said.  His proposal received mixed reaction. Some board members said that's a personal matter, and it could offend others.  "It becomes a very controversial issue," Director Bob Fehnel said. "That's the last thing we need. More controversy."  Solicitor John Freund also disliked the idea of invoking prayer, saying it could lead to legal issues.

One cool chart about literacy that explains why kids start reading on their own: The Chart That Explains It All
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 13, 2015 at 11:50 AM
So here's a pretty cool piece of data to chew over -- along with lunch -- on this bright and sunny Tuesday:  According to a new survey by venerable kids-book publishers Scholastic, when left to their own devices and allowed to read books of their own choosing during the school day, middle and high school students are also more likely to read for fun outside the classroom too.
In fact, 78 percent of students who seriously read for fun (at least five days out of seven), said they had time to read a book of their own choosing during the school day,The Washington Post reports.  That's compared to 24 percent of infrequent readers (less than one day a week) said they had "time to read a book of their choice during the school day," The Post reported.

"He released a draft bill proposal that offered two options: one that would retain the mandate of annual testing and one that would give states the freedom to choose between annual testing or testing once every three years. Mr. Alexander said the committee would try to come up with a bipartisan version to send to the full Senate."
Reviewing Federal Education Law, Senator Seeks More Local Control
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH JAN. 13, 2015
Ahead of hearings to discuss an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, the signature education law from the George W. Bush administration, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said Tuesday that he wanted to reverse the “trend towards a national school board” in federal education policy.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Mr. Alexander said he wanted to “put the responsibility back with states and local school districts” to oversee public schools with as few mandates as possible from Washington.  Mr. Alexander said that each state should decide its school standards without being required to seek federal approval.

Education Voters Statewide Call to Action for Public Education Day, Wed. Jan 21st
Education Voters of PA Facebook page
We want to kick off this legislative session right and make sure the phones in the Capitol are ringing off the hook all day with calls from voters throughout the Commonwealth!  Join thousands of Pennsylvanians as we take 5-10 minutes on January 21st to call our new governor and our legislators to send a message that Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be implementing a fair and adequate education funding formula for our public schools that provides all children with an opportunity to learn.

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County; January 15, 6:30 pm Chambersburg
Confirmed Guests of Honor: Senator Richard Alloway Senator John Eichelberger Representative-Elect Paul Schemel
Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County on Thursday, January 15 at 6:30 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 West Washington Street, Chambersburg, PA Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s educational opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities and area legislators will be in attendance to learn about voters' concerns. Ask questions. Share your stories, your concerns, and your suggestions. Learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for our area schools
Dr. Joe Bard, Executive Director, PA Association of Rural and Small Schools
Dr. Joe Padasak, Superintendent, Chambersburg Area School District
Mr. Jim Duffey, Superintendent, Fannett-Metal School District
Dr. Gregory Hoover, Superintendent, Greencastle-Antrim School District
Mrs. Beth Bender, Superintendent, Shippensburg Area School District
Dr. Charles Prijatelj, Superintendent, Tuscarora Area School District

Mark Your Calendars.  The next Twitter Chat on PA School Funding is Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.  Join us #paedfunding
Tweet from Circuit Rider Kathleen Kelley

PILCOP Special Education Seminar: Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
Philadelphia Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 1:00 - 4:00 P.M.
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Tickets: Attorneys $200  General Public $100   Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available    
Speakers: Sonja Kerr; Kathleen Carlsen (Children’s Dyslexia Center of Philadelphia) 
This session is designed to provide the audience with information about how to address 1) eligibility issues for children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia and ADHD, 2) encourage self-advocacy and 3) write and implement meaningful IEPS (what does Orton-Gillingham really look like?)   This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice is a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers. 
Questions? Email or call 267-546-1316.

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.

PSBA Master School Board Director Recognition: Applications begin in January
PSBA website December 23, 2014
The Master School Board Director (MSBD) Recognition is for individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions as members of their governance teams. It is one way PSBA salutes your hard work and exceptional dedication to ethics and standards, student success and achievement, professional development, community engagement, communications, stewardship of resources, and advocacy for public education.
School directors who are consistently dedicated to the aforementioned characteristics should apply or be encouraged to apply by fellow school directors. The MSBD Recognition demonstrates your commitment to excellence and serves to encourage best practices by all school directors.
The application will be posted Jan. 15, 2015, with a deadline to apply of June 30. Recipients will be notified by the MSBD Recognition Committee by Aug. 31 and will be honored at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October.
If you are interested in learning more about the MSBD Recognition, contact Janel Biery, conference/events coordinator, at (800) 932-0588, ext. 3332.


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