Friday, February 20, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 20: Charter school providers turned down in Philly can make a case before state appeals board

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 20, 2015:
Charter school providers turned down in Philly can make a case before state appeals board

Education Voters of PA holding public forums on school funding
Lancaster County: Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University
York County: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm at the York Learning Center
Cumberland County: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center

"The lawsuit seeks court action to erase disparities in per-pupil spending between richer and poorer school districts across Pennsylvania. Often reflecting variations in property values, education spending ranges from a low of $9,800 per pupil to a peak of $28,400 per pupil, said the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. These groups, school districts and parents filed the lawsuit last November saying the Legislature and governor have failed to uphold a state constitutional obligation to provide public education that gives all children the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards."
Court to hear school funding case March 11
Scranton Times Tribune BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: February 19, 2015
HARRISBURG — A state appeals court will hear arguments next month concerning a lawsuit calling for an end to sharp inequities in the way Pennsylvania public schools are funded.  The full Commonwealth Court scheduled a March 11 hearing in Harrisburg to decide if the case can go forward, Brett Schaeffer, policy analyst for the Education Law Center, an advocacy group, said Wednesday.  Wilkes-Barre Area School District in Luzerne County, Shenandoah Valley School District in Schuylkill County and Panther Valley District in Carbon County are among several school district plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  Plaintiffs include Tracey Hughes on behalf of her unnamed minor son who is an eighth grader at E.L. Meyers Junior-Senior High School in Wilkes-Barre.

Scranton events push for more education funding
Times-Leader February 18. 2015 5:30PM  By Mark Guydish -
SCRANTON — Maybe it was an accident of timing, maybe well-planned coordination. But two events focusing on the state education money were staged in Scranton the same day Gov. Tom Wolf touted his “Education Reinvestment” plan in Wilkes-Barre.  Officials from School Districts in Wayne, Susquehanna and Lackawanna counties gathered with others at Scranton High School Wednesday morning to announce a new report on the impact of state budget cuts on school district. A “Rally to restore Education Funding Through a Fair State Budget” was slated nearby later in the afternoon.

"The appeal board's six appointed members must include, by law, an academic, a charter school parent, a business owner, a member of a public school board, and representatives of the state Board of Education and the state teachers union. It's chaired by the Secretary of Education, a position now filled by Gov. Tom Wolf's nominee, Pedro Rivera. Other than the chairman, all six appeal board members were appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett. Wolf will get to replace two when their terms expire in June."
Charter school providers turned down in Philly can make a case before state appeals board
Marc Mannella is a veteran of the Philadelphia education reform movement, but his education in the finer points of charter law may have only just begun.  "One way to look at tonight was that it was a night only lawyers could love," said Mannella on Wednesday, after the School Reform Commission shot down two of his three proposed new charter schools.  As the head of KIPP Philadelphia, Mannella must now decide whether to turn those lawyers loose.  Until this year, the SRC had the final say on Philadelphia charters. But thanks to an amendment included in last summer's cigarette tax bill, charter providers can now appeal the SRC's decisions to the state's Charter Appeal Board.  It's that board that now has the final say over which charters open, and which ones close.

"Several years ago, Research for Action released a report on how parent engagement in Philadelphia had been affected by the proliferation of charter schools. Historically, the city-wide Home & School Association pressured elected officials to support city schools. But as children moved to charter schools, their parents shifted attention to the charter school their children attended, and District schools lost those parents' support, thereby fragmenting parent power - an unintended consequence of the “choice” movement.
What is particularly unfortunate about this shift is that charter schools and District schools are equally dependent on the state, city, and District for funding. Charter and public school parents have common cause when the issue is school funding. And there is no argument when it comes to whether city public schools are underfunded, an argument substantiated by recent state and national studies."
It's time for broad-based pressure to support city schools
the notebook commentary By James H. Lytle on Feb 19, 2015 12:07 PM
Come May, I hope the primary elections for mayor and City Council will be the event that catalyzes the city to act in support of public education in Philadelphia.
Last November, I wrote about what public education issues mayoral candidates should address. Much has happened in the last few monthsmost notably the ascension of a new governor committed to increased funding for public schools and the emergence of the likely candidates for mayor.  In addition, Commonwealth Court has decided that the School Reform Commission exceeded its authority when it terminated provisions of the teachers' contract (agreement), a decision that immediately affected the District deficit for the current school year and increased its projected deficit for 2015-16.

SRC feels heat for adding five charters
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, February 19, 2015, 7:59 PM POSTED: Thursday, February 19, 2015, 5:31 PM
The School Reform Commission continued to take heat Thursday for its decision to approve five new charter schools, with critics from both sides railing against the action.  Mark Gleason, executive director of Philadelphia School Partnership, said he was "deeply disappointed" that the SRC approved only 2,684 seats Wednesday, rejecting proposals by qualified schools.
PSP, a well-funded, controversial nonprofit dedicated to expanding strong schools, had offered $25 million to help defray new-charter costs, but for now, that money is off the table, Gleason said.  Advocates of wide charter expansion cited pent-up demand for strong charters, with thousands on waiting lists for the schools, which are paid for with public dollars and run by independent boards but authorized by the Philadelphia School District.  Others, including Gov. Wolf and the teachers union, say that any new charter seat strips children of needed resources in the already financially desperate district.

SRC blasted from both sides on charter vote
ELECTED OFFICIALS and education reformers yesterday voiced frustration with the School Reform Commission's decision to approve five of 39 charter applications.
The commission voted during a raucous meeting Wednesday to grant charters to Independence, MaST Community, KIPP, Mastery and Freire. The approved applicants are the first stand-alone charters granted in the city since 2007 and will provide an additional 2,684 seats by 2019.
Despite the measured approach, those on both sides of the issue were unhappy with the outcome.

Gov. Wolf decries Philadelphia's charter school expansion
York Dispatch by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED:   02/19/2015 01:23:42 PM EST
PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has approved just five of 39 new charter school applications, but Gov. Tom Wolf and a teachers' union say any new charters will be a financial strain on the city's public school system.  Wolf issued a statement after Thursday's vote saying the district, which projects an $80 million budget deficit next school year, can't responsibly handle the approval of new charter schools.
The commission granted conditional three-year charters to: Independence Charter School West, KIPP Dubois, MaST Community, Mastery and Tech Freire.

Mike Turzai “Very Disappointed” Philadelphia SRC Only Approved 5 New Charters
Pa. Speaker of the House says there could be financial consequences for the Philadelphia School District.
Philly Mag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  FEBRUARY 19, 2015 AT 11:39 AM
Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai says he is “very disappointed” that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Wednesday night to approve only five of 39 new charter school proposals.  The Allegheny County Republican made clear by Thursday morning that the SRC’s vote could have consequences: He says it “makes it tougher” to have a discussion about reinstating the charter reimbursement line item in the state budget.  The phrase "charter reimbursement line item" might sound wonky, but it represents a potentially huge amount of money for the Philadelphia School District. Former Gov. Tom Corbett eliminated the line item in 2011, cutting more than $100 million annually from the city's schools.
Public school advocates and education reformers alike have urged GOP leaders in Harrisburg to put the line item back into the budget. Many see it as the most feasible way to persuade Republican and rural lawmakers to provide more money to Philadelphia's schools.
Turzai originally told us the SRC's vote "negates" the conversation on reinstating the line item.
"If they're not going to provide the charter schools for the parents and grandparents that want them," Turzai said, "I think that negates the discussion."  Jay Ostrich, a spokesman for Turzai, later walked back his statement, saying the speaker "misspoke" and meant that the SRC's vote makes the conversation more difficult.

SRC Approves 5 New Charter Schools
PoliticsPA Written by Abby Smith, Contributing Writer February 19, 2015
Thirty-nine charter school applications went in, but only five came out approved from the Philadelphia School Board Commission’s meeting Wednesday.  The SRC approved the five schools in the five-hour long meeting under the agreement that they will meet certain conditions by the end of May.  Charter schools have been a sticking point between city and even statewide Republican and Democratic leaders. GOP legislators pushed for applications to be approved to secure state funding for the district. In contrast, newly elected Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wanted the SRC to approve none of the schools.

Top Corbett officials make soft landings with industry groups Commonwealth Confidential Blog WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2015, 12:53 PM
With new governors and party changes comes new staff but until now top aides were all but guaranteed an eight-year run with their administration.  The historic ouster of Republican Gov. Corbett in November left many staff members  wondering where they'd go after January 20.  Two familiar Corbett officials found soft landings with industry trade groups.  Former education department spokesman Tim Eller will be the first executive director of the newly created Kaystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a group formed to represent two dozen brick-and-mortar charter schools in Pennsylvania.  Under Corbett, charter schools received large infusions of funding through expanded block grants.

Pittsburgh leaders outline government, education collaboration
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, 2:15 p.m.
Mayor Bill Peduto held up an 18-page document on how to improve the relationship between Pittsburgh Public Schools and city government and called it progress.  Another city official said dedicating city staff positions to education wastes public money.  “One year ago today, we were fighting about school closings, we were fighting about teacher evaluations,” Peduto said. “We were fighting over a rising crippling school debt, and we were fighting over a lack of communication.”  Peduto on Thursday released the final report from the city's 21-member Education Task Force, the product of an eight-month process. City officials, district leaders and education advocates say the process began a new conversation on how the city can help the school district and improve quality of life and education for students.

Looking Behind the Value-Added Measures Curtain
Administrator February 2015 By Dr. Gregory A. Taranto, Kenneth W. Schrag and Dr. Mark A, Abbondanza

Penns Valley school board OKs preliminary budget
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO February 18, 2015
PENN TOWNSHIP — The Penns Valley Area school board unanimously approved the 2015-16 preliminary budget on Wednesday night that calls for a 3.25 percent increase — or $810,267 more than the current budget.  The $25,725,348 proposed preliminary budget comes with a 3.73 percent tax increase, said district business manager Jeff Wall.  That’s a $72.40 increase per median assessed house value in the district, Wall said. The average home in the district is assessed at $43,085.  But Wall said the proposed preliminary budget is a conservative estimate that “gives the board the maximum options,” and will be adjusted.  An additional $150,000 was added to the charter school budget. That money was taken from money raised through capital funds, Wall said.  “When looking at recent bills, we’re seeing an uptick in charter school enrollment,” Wall said.   The budget also includes $133,000 that will go toward salaries — a 1.36 percent increase from 2014-15. Retirement contributions include $480,000 — a 24 percent increase. Medical insurance also increased by 5.28 percent for a total of $114,310.

Philadelphia Approves Five New Charters After Intense Debate
Education Week District Dossier Blog  By Denisa R. Superville on February 19, 2015 10:14 AM
For the first time in seven years, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to approve new charter schools, giving the nod Wednesday night to five of 39 applications it received. 
The vote came after a nearly five-hour meeting that was fraught with emotion and often interrupted by outbursts from members of the audience who opposed opening the new schools.
The five-member commission, which runs the city schools, had been under pressure from all sides: from some parents and advocates, including the city's teachers' union, who were adamantly opposed to the openings, fearing that new charters would drain additional financial resources from the already cash-strapped district; from parents whose names have been on long waiting lists and want their children to have the option to attend charter schools; and from politicians, particularly Republicans, who have called for the expansion of high-quality school options among the city's schools.  The intense debate over charter school expansion erupted late last year when the School Reform Commission sought new applications, and 40 were submitted. A provision in a cigarette tax passed last year ginned up revenues for the city's schools and required the panel to seek new charter school applications.

Follow the Money: How Charter Schools in Pennsylvania Succeed
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch February 19, 2015 //
This is an excellent series of articles on the rise of the privatization movement in Pennsylvania. The bottom line, as usual: Follow the money.  If you want to understand the growth of charter schools in Pennsylvania, you must read this bombshell article by Daniel Simmons-Ritchie.
The charter lobby has spent millions to influence legislators. It also has the ability to mobilize hundreds of children to pack legislators’ offices, a tactic unavailable to public schools.  Pennsylvania does not allow for-profit charter schools, yet there are many for-profit charter schools in the state.  Do you want to know who is making money by sponsoring charters? The article has the names and details.

New Education Initiative Replaces K-12 Curriculum With Single Standardized Test
The Onion • ISSUE 51•07 • Feb 19, 2015
WASHINGTON—Citing the need to measure student achievement as its top priority, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative Thursday to replace the nation’s entire K-12 curriculum with a single standardized test.
According to government officials, the four-hour-long Universal Education Assessment will be used in every public school across the country, will contain identical questions for every student based on material appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade, and will permanently take the place of more traditional methods such as classroom instruction and homework assignments.
“By administering one uniform test to our nation’s 50 million students, we can ensure that every child is evaluated by the exact same standard, regardless of background, age, or grade level,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, explaining that students will be able to take the test at any time between age 5 and 18. “It’s absolutely crucial for us to know where our kids stand, and eliminating the teaching model will provide us with the most affordable and efficient means of measuring student proficiency.”

Public screening: Standardized - Lies, Money, and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education
Church of the Redeemer, Wednesday, February 25, 7-9pm 230 Pennswood Road, Bryn Mawr, Parish House, Assembly Room
The Redeemer Moms will follow up with a Q & A session with parents who have been researching this topic for over a year. All are welcome and invited to bring a friend. RSVP by Feb. 23 to Cheryl Masterman.

The State of Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM
United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
Join Law Center attorneys for a briefing on the basics of education funding, a recap of the March 11th oral arguments in the school funding lawsuit, information on the new administration’s budget proposal and more.  There are limited spots available for this free event. 1.5 CLE credits will be offered to participating attorneys.

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University
Education Voters of PA and the Millersville University Education on Location program will be co-hosting a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County on Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University, the Lehrer Room in the Bolger Conference Center.
This event is free and open to the public. It will give Lancaster County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Dr. Brenda Becker, Hempfield Area SD, Superintendent
Dr. Bob Hollister, Elanco SD, Superintendent
Dr. Mike Leichliter, Penn Manor SD, Superintendent
Dr. Tim Shrom, Solanco SD, Business Manager
Ms. Idette Groff, Conestoga Valley SD, School Board Member    
Mr. Tim Stayer, Ephrata Area SD, School Board Member
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Education Voters of PA

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm to 8pm at the York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Avenue, York.

This forum will give York County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Dr. Emilie Lonardi, West York SD, Superintendent
Dr. Scott Deisley, Red Lion Area SD, Superintendents
Mr. Brian Geller, Northeastern York SD, Director of Operations
Mr. Troy Wentz, Hanover Public SD, Business Manager    
Mrs. Ellen Freireich, York Suburban SD, School Board Member    
Mr. Eric Wolfgang, Central York SD, School Board Member
Guest Panelist: Mr. Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators
Moderated by: Ms. Susan Spicka, Education Voters of PA

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Cumberland County: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center, 340 North 21st Street, Camp Hill.
This forum will give Cumberland County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Mr. Richard Fry, Big Spring SD, Superintendent
Mr. John Friend, Carlisle Area SD, Superintendent
Dr. Mark Leidy, Mechanicsburg Area SD, Superintendent
Ms. Christine Hakes, Camp Hill Area SD, Business Manager
Mr. Matt Franchak, school board member, East Pennsboro SD, School Board Member    
Guest Panelist: Mr. Dave Patti, President and CEO, Pennsylvania Business Council
Moderated by: Ms. Susan Spicka, Education Voters of PA

PSBA 2015 Advocacy Forum
APR 19, 2015 • 8:00 AM - APR 20, 2015 • 5:00 PM
Join PSBA for the second annual Advocacy Forum on April 19-20, 2015. Hear from legislative experts on hot topics and issues regarding public education on Sunday, April 19, at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg. The next day you and fellow advocates will meet with legislators at the state capitol. This is your chance to learn how to successfully advocate on behalf of public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
·         Schedule of Events
·         Day One –PSBA headquarters
·         10 a.m. — Early Bird Arrival and Registration
·         10:30-12 p.m. — The State Education Agenda
The chairman of the Senate and House Education Committees will share their perspectives on the education agenda for the 2015-16 session of the General Assembly. Speakers: Senator Smucker, chairman, Senate Education Committee; and Representative Saylor, chairman, House Education Committee
·         Noon-1:15 p.m. — Welcome Lunch
·         1:00-12:15 p.m. — Special Welcome and Introduction: Nathan Mains, PSBA Executive Director and William LaCoff, PSBA President
·         12:30-1 p.m. — Speaker: Diane Ravitchnationally known education historian, policy analyst and author of Reign of Error.
·         1:15-2:00 p.m. — Education Priorities will be discussed with the Education Secretary Pedro Rivera
This session provides the latest information on the governor’s proposed state funding plans, the pension crisis and the latest on special education.
·         2:00-2:30 p.m. — Federal Education Update: NSBA
Director of National Advocacy Services Kathleen Branch will join Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman from NSBA, to speak about federal advocacy.
·         2:30-3 p.m. — Social Media Training (Speakers to be announced)
·         3-3:15 p.m. — Break
·         3:15-3:45 p.m. — Grassroots Advocacy: How to be an Effective Advocate
Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D’Alessandro, school director from West Jefferson Hills SD and PSBA Allegheny Region 14 director, and Mark B. Miller, board vice president of Centennial SD and PSBA BuxMont Region 11 director.
·         3:45-4:15 p.m. — Legislative Update and Lobby Day Coordination
PSBA’s Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan will walk you through legislative issues and priorities that might be addressed the next day during legislative visits by members.
·         4:15-5 p.m. — Roundtable Discussion
Network with your fellow board members before visiting your legislator
·         5:00-5:15 p.m. — Break
·         5:15-6:30 p.m. — Dinner Buffet
Enjoy a legislative discussion on the 2015-16 budget and appropriations with Senator Browne
·         6:30 p.m. — Adjourn

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
Campaign for Fair Education Funding February 2, 2015
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding seeks a campaign manager who is a strategic thinker and an operational leader. This position could be filled by an individual or firm. The manager will lead the day-to-day operations of the campaign and its government relations, communications, mobilization and research committees and work in partnership with the campaign governing board to set and implement the campaign’s strategic direction.

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 21, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA  15120
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

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

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