Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 3: Big for-profit schools, big donations: the influence of charter schools on Pennsylvania politics

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 3, 2015:
Big for-profit schools, big donations: the influence of charter schools on Pennsylvania politics

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearings scheduled in Montgomery County and Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 5, 2015, 10 am Montgomery County, Central Montco Tech HS, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager

“There's absolutely no guarantee that "charterizing" York or any other school district will pay off for students.  There is plenty of evidence that charters, on the whole, perform no better than public schools. And charters create their own set of problems, as vulture capitalists swoop in, looking to make easy money by grabbing a steady flow of state education dollars.”
York's school crisis and the push for charters: PennLive editorial
Editorial By PennLive Editorial Board on February 02, 2015 at 2:07 PM, updated February 02, 2015 at 3:24 PM
York school leaders are desperately fighting the state receiver's push to put all of the city's schools in the hands of a profit-making charter school company.   The intense battle has raised doubts about the law that allows the state to take over a troubled school district.
The state's takeover law does override the tradition of leaving school matters to local control, but in some extreme cases, outside intervention is necessary. Here in Pennsylvania, it has been done in only four of the state's 500 districts. And experience in Harrisburg has shown that the state takeover law is a potentially valuable tool that's worth keeping.

“According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.”
Big for-profit schools, big donations: the influence of charter schools on Pennsylvania politics
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | simmons-ritchie@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2015 at 11:20 AM, updated February 02, 2015 at 3:13 PM
It's no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.  But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O'Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.  In 2014, O'Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.  "They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything," O'Neill said. "Everybody was coming after me."
In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated - particularly those run by for-profit management companies - so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

“Three principals of the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group have contributed $250,000 to a relatively new political committee that will support state Sen. Anthony Williams' Philadelphia mayoral campaign.”
Williams' backers invest $250K in independent effort
A critical question about Philadelphia's mayor race has been answered. The three pro-school choice businessmen who put an eye-popping $5 million into state Sen. Anthony Williams 2010 campaign for governor are back for more, investing in an independent effort to help put Williams into the mayor's office.  Three principals of the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group have contributed $250,000 to a relatively new political committee that will support Williams' mayoral campaign. The effort could give Williams an edge over candidates struggling to raise money under the city's contribution limits.

York mayor, state lawmakers meet with Gov. Tom Wolf about York City School District
By Candy Woodall | cwoodall@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 30, 2015 at 4:20 PM, updated January 30, 2015 at 4:50 PM
York officials left a meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf feeling certain the new state executive and his team have made the fate of the city school district a priority.  Mayor Kim Bracey and Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, met with Wolf on Tuesday, and members of the York County delegation met with him on Wednesday.  Whether the York City School District should remain in receivership, be converted to charter schools or follow a new plan to financial and academic success was discussed.  "It was clear his team is well versed on the city school district and they're ready to move forward and move swiftly to rebuild the district," Schreiber said.

SRC, expand number of Phila. charters now
POSTED: Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 1:08 AM
Philly.com Opinion By Mike Turzai Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) is speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. mturzai@pahousegop.com
I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Mahsaan Wearing and Derrick Brockington, two Pennsylvania high school seniors who are anything but typical teens.  During a visit to Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia, a bipartisan delegation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives met the smart, polite, and enthusiastic pair, who are eagerly getting ready to enter college next year at Penn State and Millersville University.
While that may not strike man y as atypical, it's actually extraordinary considering the obstacles Mahsaan and Derrick have been able to overcome.  Like many of their neighborhood friends, both students were initially placed in their traditional neighborhood schools. Trouble was, those schools, like many in the School District of Philadelphia, were failing to educate students.

“The letter, which asks applicants to respond by tomorrow, has created some confusion among charter operators, according to Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.”
SRC seeks to delay vote on Philly charter applications
THE SCHOOL Reform Commission wants to push back the deadline to vote on dozens of charter applications.  The SRC sent letters on Friday to 30 groups who submitted 39 applications to the Philadelphia School District in November, asking applicants to sign a waiver to postpone the deadline from Feb. 21 until June 1 due to the high number of applications.
"This is a voluntary request," district spokeswoman Raven Hill said. "For those who don't agree to it, we would have to vote [this month]. Otherwise, we would have until June 1."
Hill noted that some of the schools do not plan to open until 2016.  The financially strapped district accepted charter applications for the first time in several years as a requirement of the Philadelphia cigarette tax.

Storify: #FairFundingPA Monthly Chat
Pennsylvania's major education leadership organizations come together on Twitter at 8 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month to discuss the need for fair, predictable basic education funding and other important issues impacting public schools. This story captures our Jan. 2015 #FairFundingPA chat.

“The emotions and call to action that surfaced at that meeting are what is needed not just in Pottstown, but in Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford, Boyertown and Daniel Boone, and throughout Pennsylvania, to protect our schools.”
Mercury Editorial: Change in schools’ fair funding demands citizen action
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 02/03/15, 2:00 AM EST
An editorial by The Daily News reprinted here Monday made a strong case for a fair schools funding formula in Pennsylvania, a cause which we have championed repeatedly over the past year.  Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not have a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state money to local school districts, the editorial stated, quoting a study by Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative.  The study explains the dilemma that is playing out in schools in Pottstown and similar districts in urban areas or low-income towns.
That dilemma -- having fewer education dollars despite a higher tax burden on homeowners -- was the topic of a joint meeting last week between Pottstown school and borough officials, and the result was a challenge to wage a grassroots effort for change.
Fair education funding advocate Lawrence Feinberg said change would not come easily. Feinberg, a school board member in Haverford and one of 11 circuit riders for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, described the effort to put some sort of sense to Harrisburg’s method for funding public schools as “pushing a rock up a hill.”  “You need 26 senators and 103 House members to agree to get legislation to the governor’s desk,” Feinberg said.

OP-ED: Make a difference locally — run for school board
York Dispatch Op-Ed By SHELLY MERKLE, Superintendent York Suburban School District POSTED:   02/02/2015 11:02:47 AM EST 
Education is certainly making the headlines in Pennsylvania. Nowhere is this more true than in York County.  Now is the time for every local citizen to ask, "What can I do to make a difference in public education?" The answer is simple. Run for your local school board.
As we welcome a new governor with deep roots in York County, there is a very real sense of optimism that he will be the one to make a difference in public education in Pennsylvania. Can Gov. Wolf correct the inequities of the current funding formula? Will he intervene with the crisis in the School District of the City of York? Should we expect any answers to the pension crisis? Many folks will sit back and cheer on Gov. Wolf from the sidelines. Many will offer advice and even advocate for their positions. Still others will sit back and see what happens.
A very few citizens will go so far as to make a real difference — at the local level — by running for school board. There is no better way to impact your local community than through service as a member of your local school board.

“She is the co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, a Philadelphia organization of parents who advocate for basic resources in public school classrooms and classroom investments, as well as a board member of Asian Americans United. Gym is also the founder and former editor of the independent publication Philadelphia Public School Notebook.”
Penn grad and city activist to run for City Council
The Daily Pennsylvanian By BRYN FERGUSON February 2, 2015
Public education and Asian-American activist and 1993 College and 1996 GED graduate Helen Gym will run in the Democratic City Council at-large elections that will take place Nov. 3, according to the Philadelphia City Paper.  Gym’s decision to run comes just five days after Councilman Jim Kenney announced his resignation from city council on Jan. 20 in order to run for mayor. With an empty seat, at least one new at-large Council member will have to be elected this year.  Local news outlets have speculated that the pool of twelve candidates that were running for city council would grow after Kenney’s resignation, given the open seat. Gym was specifically named as a likely candidate.  Gym has had a long career in social activism and in 2014 was named one of the 75 most influential people in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Magazine. 

Who’s involved in the Read! by 4th campaign
The list of campaign supporters is long.
the notebook By Paul Jablow and Shannon Nolan  on Feb 2, 2015 02:21 PM
Memoranda of understanding have been signed by four dozen organizations, detailing what they will do to support three of the main goals of the READ! by 4th initiative – boosting school attendance, reaching out to parents, and preventing summer learning loss. Among the organizations involved are the American Reading Company, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the city’s Department of Recreation, and the Maternity Care Coalition, as well as other city departments, museums, civil rights groups, and civic and philanthropic organizations.
Two groups, Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition, led the campaign planning phase. Now there is a coordinating organization, the Free Library of Philadelphia; a lead corporate sponsor, Wells Fargo; and a lead media sponsor, iHeartMedia.

Scholastic study: Choosing books builds love of reading
Trib Live By Kellie B. Gormly Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Tarreau Simpson, 11, says he likes to read action and adventure stories, poems and haikus and sports stories. But don't try to dictate what he reads.  “I like to have my own opinion,” says Tarreau of the North Side as he enjoys a reading group for youths at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Allegheny branch.  Lavontae Sanders, 12, agrees. If pushed to read a book, “I wouldn't really read it,” the North Side resident says.  Many children and adults agree with the results of a recent Scholastic Corp. study, which suggests that students in middle and high school who have time to read books they choose themselves are more likely to read frequently for pleasure. In the survey, 91 percent of kids ages 6 to 17 say they're more likely to read a book if they pick it out.
Erie schools celebrate district, public education
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News February 2, 2015 12:01 AM
The Erie School District wants to shine a light on the positive things that happen in its schools -- and thank the community that supports it.  The second annual We Love Erie's Public Schools Week, a campaign aimed at boosting pride and showcasing urban public education, starts today with the awarding of more than $10,000 in mini-grants to schools throughout the district for various art projects.  "A lot of the education news that's coming out is about funding, about charter schools, about the financial challenges of the state and the financial challenges of urban school districts like ours," said Matthew Cummings, the district's director of communications. "This week gives us an opportunity to celebrate the things that are really important and the things that set public education in the city apart from many of our peers."
The Partnership for Erie's Public Schools, a nonprofit foundation that supports and raises funds for the district, is sponsoring the weeklong effort.

See the full list from PDE here:
Chester County schools rank in top 5 in SAT scores
West Chester Daily Local By Michael P. Rellahan,  mrellahan@dailylocal.com,  @ChescoCourtNews on Twitter POSTED: 02/02/15, 1:53 PM EST 
Two public high schools in Chester County were ranked in the top five schools in the state with highest average SAT scores, according to figures released recently by the state Department of Education.  The figures show that Conestoga High School, in Berwyn, and the Downingtown STEM Academy, in the borough, were ranked third and fourth respectively of the schools surveyed in the rankings.  The average SAT score combines the test’s reading, writing and mathematics scores.  Overall, six of the county’s 21 public high schools had average SAT scores that ranked in the top 50 high schools in the state.

“To those who doubt that we have a crisis, I say: Enroll your child in one of the failing schools to which we relegate the poor and the disenfranchised. You will quickly change your mind.”
A School Crisis? Yes
New York Times Letter by Eva Moscowitz JAN. 30, 2015
The writer, a former chairwoman of the New York City Council’s Education Committee, is the founder and chief executive of Success Academy Charter Schools.
To the Editor: Re “Cuomo Cites School Crisis; Data Suggest Otherwise” (news article, Jan. 24):
Some critics claim that the education crisis that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has rightly called out is just a myth: You report that they say “it would be hard to justify describing the situation in New York as a crisis, unless persistent mediocrity itself were a crisis.” This reminds me of the difference between a recession and a depression: A recession is when your neighbor is unemployed; a depression is when you are.  Similarly, whether you believe that our school system is in crisis may depend upon whether you are forced to send your child to a failing school, which the crisis-deniers plainly do not do.

Closing Education Gap Will Lift Economy, a Study Finds
New York Times By PATRICIA COHEN FEB. 2, 2015
Study after study has shown a yawning educational achievement gap between the poorest and wealthiest children in America. But what does this gap costs in terms of lost economic growth and tax revenue?  That’s what researchers at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth set out to discover in a new study that concluded the United States could ultimately enrich everybody by improving educational performance for the typical student.

Obama Budget Seeks Boosts for Early Ed., High Schools, Technology
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 2, 2015 6:00 AM
President Barack Obama may not have many allies left in the newly GOP-dominated Congress—but he's still planning to ask lawmakers for a sizable increase for the U.S. Department of Education in his fiscal year 2016 budget request.  The request, being formally unveiled Monday, includes big hikes for teacher quality, preschool development grants, civil rights enforcement, education technology, plus a new competitive-grant program aimed at helping districts make better use of their federal and local K-12 dollars.  The administration also is seeking big spending bumps for programs that have proven unpopular with Republicans in Congress, such as the School Improvement Grant program.  Overall, the president wants a total of $70.7 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of $3.6 billion, or a 5.4 percent hike over 2015 levels. 

White House budget: Obama seeks budget bump for education
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton February 2 at 11:31 AM  
President Obama’s education budget seeks new funds to provide for students at both ends of the spectrum — early childhood and community college — as well as an increase in the money spent to educate low-income K-12 children and funds to launch a new version of his “Race to the Top” competitive grants, this time aimed at reinventing high school.  The president is seeking $70.7 billion in discretionary funds for education, a 5 percent increase over the 2015 budget of $67.1 billion.

NSBA Supports Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the main federal law supporting public schools, is intended to hold states, school districts, and schools more accountable for improving the academic performance of each student regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, proficiency in English, or disability. First enacted in 1965, ESEA was scheduled for reauthorization in 2007. Instead, various provisions have been extended through congressional appropriations legislation. Full reauthorization is needed to correct its flaws and improve the school accountability framework. Please read our issue brief for more about ESEA and NSBA’s support for its reauthorization. - See more at: http://nsba.org/advocacy/federal-legislative-priorities/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-reauthorization-esea#sthash.pFjIdmh1.dpuf

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
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.

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

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

PILCOP: Children with Emotional Problems: Avoiding the Juvenile Justice System, and What Does Real Help Look Like?
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
This session will help you navigate special education in order to assist children at home not receiving services, those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system. CLE and Act 48 credit is available.  This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice, a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers.  Click here to purchase tickets  

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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