Tuesday, March 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 31: About those "backpacks of money": North End Palm Beach mansion listed at $84.5M

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 31, 2015:
About those "backpacks of money": North End Palm Beach mansion listed at $84.5M

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.
More info/registration: http://www.educationvoterspa.org/index.php/site/news/2015-events/

"Smucker noted that in 2013, Pennsylvania's eighth graders ranked 7th in the nation on reading and math tests, and fourth graders ranked 19th in math and 11th in reading . Meanwhile, when it comes to graduation rates, Pennsylvania ranked fifth highest.  At town hall meetings, he said constituents seem to have the perception that Pennsylvania is doing poorly in terms of school performance. "The data shows that is not the case."
Budget hearing covers proposed school funding flap, graduation tests and more
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 30, 2015 at 4:24 PM
It took nearly three hours into Monday's Senate budget hearing before Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera was asked to answer for a letter he sent to school superintendents two weeks ago that riled Republican lawmakers in both legislative chambers.  Rivera's letter asked district officials to submit a plan by May 15 explaining which of 14 programs they would employ with their share of the $400 million increase in direct support to school districts that Gov. Tom Wolf proposed in his budget to improve student learning and how they would measure the results.

Facebook chat: Gov. Tom Wolf will hold virtual town hall to discuss budget
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015 1:15 pm | Updated: 1:59 pm, Mon Mar 30, 2015.
Gov. Tom Wolf will log onto Facebook Tuesday to answer questions about his state budget proposal.  The virtual town hall event will get started at 1:30 p.m. The York County Democrat invites visitors to his official Facebook page to submit questions about the $33 billion state spending plan he unveiled earlier this month. He then asks that viewers return to watch a live stream of him answering the questions.  Wolf has proposed to increase sales and personal income taxes to support a huge infusion of money into schools and property tax cuts.

Former Pa. Gov. Corbett: From pension critic to collector
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Monday, March 30, 2015, 11:30 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a vocal advocate for pension reform, is collecting a $38,765 state pension, retirement system records show.  He withdrew a $118,378 lump-sum payment based on his contributions with 4 percent interest earned, records reflect.  
Corbett's pension is based on a final average salary of $186,204, an amount that reflects annual cost-of-living raises Corbett declined as salary. He kept his salary at $174,914 for four years.  Corbett took office in 2011 and was defeated in November by Democrat Tom Wolf, who has declined a state salary. With the governor's pay set by statute, it's unclear whether Wolf would get a pension.  Corbett declined raises, “but he will more than make up for it through a lifetime pension bounce,” said Eric Epstein, co-founder of Rock the Capital, a government watchdog group.
Senate GOP eyes current workers as source of pension savings
Centre Daily Times BY PETER JACKSON Associated Press March 27, 2015 
HARRISBURG, PA. — Pennsylvania's cold war over public pensions is heating up as state Senate Republicans consider resurrecting a plan to reduce future benefits for current state and school employees.  Such a move would affect hundreds of thousands of workers.
Majority Leader Jake Corman said this week that savings could free up money for other programs.  Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett advanced a similar plan in 2013 but the GOP-controlled Legislature rejected it.  Corman is threatening to hold up the state budget if unspecified reforms are not approved.  Public employee unions have said any such cutback would be illegal.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf also opposes any benefits reduction. He is proposing a $3 billion bond issue to refinance school employee pension debt, and says other measures could also help prop up the system.

"Four other school districts are on the state's financial watch list: Aliquippa in Beaver County; Reading in Berks County; Steelton-Highspire in Dauphin County; and Wilkinsburg Borough in Allegheny County."
For schools on the brink, Pa. mulling more ways to help
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 31, 2015
The Wolf administration is reconsidering the way Pennsylvania helps school districts with rocky finances.  Four of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts – including Chester-Upland in Delaware County -- have such severe problems that the state has put them on financial recovery status, appointing an outside officer to balance the books.  Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, said Harrisburg City School District, in financial recovery since late 2012, had seen uneven progress -- greater financial stability but not the same pace when it comes to student learning.

Katie McGinty: Tom Wolf’s Chief of Staff on Philly schools and surviving the boy’s club of Harrisburg (Q&A)
Billy Penn By Anna Orso March 30, 2015  at 11:15 am
At this time two years ago, Kate McGinty was considering running for governor of Pennsylvania. The former Secretary of Environmental Protection would eventually lose to Tom Wolf in the Democratic primary.  Since then, she’s been named Wolf’s chief of staff and has become arguably the most powerful woman in Harrisburg. McGinty has Philly roots, and has spent the last several weeks traveling around the state touting Wolf’s ambitious budget proposal.  Billy Penn sat down with McGinty while she was in Philadelphia last week to talk about the city’s relationship with Harrisburg, education and what it’s like in the boys’ club that is the state capital. Here’s what we talked about:

Blogger's note: Originally detailed in an article by Dan Hardy in the Inquirer in June of 2009 now posted on this ACSE website, the legal wrangling over this right to know request has apparently quietly gone away over time. 
Without fiscal transparency PA taxpayers have no way of knowing how their money is being spent.
Charter school appeals to block release of records
Alliance of Charter School Employees website
The Chester Community Charter School has filed a court appeal to a recent Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruling that gave The Inquirer access to a wide range of financial records from the management company that operates the school.  The Chester Community Charter School has filed a court appeal to a recent Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruling that gave The Inquirer access to a wide range of financial records from the management company that operates the school.  The Delaware County school, the state's largest charter, and Charter School Management Inc., a private, for-profit management company, have repeatedly denied requests by the newspaper for details about how millions of dollars in public money were spent and how much the company and its owner, Vahan H. Gureghian, were making.  Because Charter School Management Inc. is a private business that hires all school employees and manages the school's finances, it has been able to keep many aspects of its financial operations secret, in contrast to most charters, which have to disclose more information in nonprofit reports.

"The owner is a trust linked to Philadelphia lawyer and charter-school entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian and his lawyer wife, Danielle. Three years ago, she told town officials the house was the couple’s dream home, but their plans appear to have changed."
North End Palm Beach mansion listed at $84.5M
Under-construction house has bowling alley, 242 feet of beachfront
Listed at $84.5 million, a mansion under construction at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. has entered the market as the most expensive property for sale in Palm Beach, according to the local multiple listing service.
By Darrell Hofheinz Palm Beach Daily News Real Estate Writer March 30, 2015
Priced at $84.5 million, a direct-oceanfront mansion under construction on the North End has entered the market as the island’s most expensive property, according to the local multiple listing service.  Sporting its own bowling alley, the French-style house is rising on the double lot – expansive even by Palm Beach standards – that measures about 2 acres with 242 feet of beachfront at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd.  With about 35,000 square feet of living space, inside and out, the house should be ready for occupancy some time next season, according to listing broker Christian J. Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate.

Source of $125K donation to Rob McCord's Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign is revealed
Morning Call By Marc Levy Of The Associated Press FEBRUARY 10, 2015
Who gave Rob McCord $125,000? Now we know.
HARRISBURG — A political action committee that gave $125,000 to the failed gubernatorial campaign of former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord has revealed the source of its money eight months after it blew through the deadline to report the information to the state.
A report by the Enterprise Fund appeared on the Pennsylvania Department of State's website Friday. The department, which administers state election and campaign finance reporting laws, fined the group $500 for missing a June deadline to file the report.
The Enterprise Fund's report shows that it received $100,000 from Ross Nese, president of a Pittsburgh-based nursing home services company, and an additional $25,000 that filtered through two other political action committees after being given by Vahan and Danielle Gureghian of Gladwyne, Montgomery County.  Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of a Chester-based charter school management firm, is active in Montgomery County's Republican Party and gave more than $330,000 to former Gov. Tom Corbett's two campaigns for governor.

"Among one of the lobby’s biggest donors is Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of CSMI, which manages the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County. According to Follow The Money, Gureghian pumped $336,000 into the campaign coffers of former Gov. Tom Corbett — making him his second largest individual donor over his gubernatorial career.  Gureghian has also donated close to a million to other Pennsylvania politicians and PACs.
Meanwhile, the American Federation for Children, a national organization that supports the growth of charter schools and “school voucher” legislation, has pumped in $3.7 million to Pennsylvania lawmakers. A trio of investors in Montgomery County— Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchik — have donated about $4 million under a PAC dedicated to similar aims."
Pa. charter schools buy influence with $10M in donations to politicians
Pottstown Mercury By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, For The Associated Press POSTED: 02/28/15, 1:39 PM EST |
HARRISBURG >> 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.
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.

Charter Influence in PA
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, March 2, 2015
Charters have huge direct and indirect influence in Pennsylvania. Some of that is shown in a great Daniel Simmons-Ritchie piece at PennLive looking at how the big boys of charterdom play high stakes hardball in Pennsylvania.  PennLive's analysis shows about $10 million going out to PA politicians over the last nine years. It is a measure of how accustomed we have become to the throwing around of money in the education biz that the amount doesn't seem all that huge.
State Rep Bernie O'Neill of Bucks County told PennLive that in addition to their ability to throw money at their problems, charters are also shameless about deploying children as lobbyists. Eva Moscowitz is only one of the more famous of these practitioners, closing her schools so that he students can be bused to the state capital to lobby for her interests.
O'Neill notes that it's an easy sell. Just tell small children and their parents that some mean guys in the capitol want to close their school, and they'll be making posters and phone calls and trips.
Pennsylvania charters have perfected the profitability dodge. PA schools must be non-profit, but that means nothing-- Gotrocks Ed, Inc simply sets up Nonprofit School Biz as a company to file the application and be the charter operator of record, but then NSB simply turns around and hires Gotrocks to run the school, an operation on which Gotrocks makes a handy bundle.

Study cites strong performance of Philly charter schools
Philly Trib by Ayana Jones Tribune Staff Writer  Posted: Friday, March 27, 2015 3:00 am
A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found students attending charter schools in Philadelphia are posting larger gains than their traditional public school peers.  Released Wednesday, the study analyzed 41 urban areas in 22 states to create a matched student database containing data from charter schools and traditional public schools between the 2006-2007 and 2011-2012 school years.

Philly schools inform parents on testing 'opt-out'
SPURRED BY a local push from parents and educators, the Philadelphia School District is giving parents new information about their right to excuse their children from standardized testing.  The district earlier this month sent home information regarding the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, which students in third to eighth grade will take next month. The packet includes frequently asked questions, which districts are required to provide under state law, along with a letter signed by the school principal telling families where to find information on opting out.

Kenney releases plan to raise $105M for schools, bolster pre-K offerings citywide
By Brian Hickey for NewsWorks on Mar 30, 2015 04:58 PM
With a retired teacher at his side Monday in a University City pre-K, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney released an education-policy paper that aims to raise $105 million and fully fund early childhood education "for 3- and 4-year-old Philadelphians in need."  The plan would raise money "by instituting zero-based budgeting, creating a reverse auctioning system [for city contract bids], selling marketable commercial tax liens, and revising the land value to collect a fairer share of taxes from abated properties."   "This is the beginning of a generational change our city sorely needs," said Kenney, sitting in front of a wooden toyhouse, five tricycles, two toy lawnmowers and a mini trampoline inside Philadelphia Cathedral Early Learning Center. "It would be the hallmark of my administration."

Bucks County school once tied to Fattah Jr. shutters
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, March 30, 2015, 4:58 PM
Columbus Academy, a state-approved private school in Warminster run by a for-profit firm, abruptly closed last week amid bankruptcy proceedings.  The shuttering of the Bucks County school is the latest development in a three-year saga that has included a federal probe of the company's operations and its relationship with Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., who was once its chief operating officer.  The school, which was previously known as Delaware Valley High School-Bucks, ceased operations Thursday. The school is owned by David T. Shulick, a Bala Cynwyd lawyer, who did not respond to e-mail or phone messages Monday seeking comment.

"Nearly half of all beginning teachers will leave their classrooms within five years, only to be replaced by another fresh-faced educator."
Revolving Door Of Teachers Costs Schools Billions Every Year
NPR.org by OWEN PHILLIPS MARCH 30, 2015 3:10 PM ET
Every year, thousands of fresh-faced teachers are handed the keys to a new classroom, given a pat on the back and told, "Good luck!"  Over the next five years, though, nearly half of those teachers will transfer to a new school or leave the profession altogether — only to be replaced with similarly fresh-faced teachers.  We've been reporting this month on the pipeline into teaching — and hearing from teachers themselves about why they stay. Richard Ingersoll, who has studied the issue for years, says there's a revolving door of teacher turnover that costs school districts upwards of $2.2 billion a year.

Who will be at the PSBA Advocacy Forum April 19-20 in Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg?
  • Acting Ed Sec'y Pedro Rivera
  • Senate Ed Committee Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker
  • House Ed Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne
  • Diane Ravitch
  • House Majority Leader Dave Reed
  • House Minority Leader Frank Dermody
  • 2014 PSBA Tim Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D'Alessandro and Mark Miller
How about You?
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.
Details and Registration for PSBA members (only $25.00) https://www.psba.org/event/advocacy-forum-day-hill-2015/

INVITATION: Join next Twitter chat on PA education March 31, 8:00 pm
PSBA's website March 23, 2015
The next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations is set for Tuesday, March 31 at 8 p.m. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.

Join NPE in Chicago April 25-26
Curmuducation Blog Saturday, March 21, 2015
I don't get out much. I'm a high school English teacher in a small town, and kind of homebody by nature. When I leave town, it's for family or work. But in just over a month, on the weekend of April 25-26, I am taking a trip to Chicago for neither.   The Network for Public Education is the closest thing to an actual formal organization of the many and varied people standing up for public education in this modern era of privatizing test-driven corporate education reform. NPE held a conference last year, and they're doing it again this year-- a gathering of many of the strongest voices for public education in America today. Last year I followed along on line-- this year I will be there.

Register Now for EPLC Forum on the State Education Budget –  Philadelphia on April 1
Education Policy and Leadership Center Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum
You are invited to attend one of EPLC’s Regional Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s Proposed Education Budget for 2015-2016    Space is limited. There is no cost, but an RSVP is required.  The program will include a state budget overview presented by Ron Cowell of EPLC and a representative of the PA Budget and Policy Center. The presentations are followed by comments from panelists representing statewide and regional education and advocacy organizations. Comments from those in the audience and a question and answer session will conclude the forum.  Wednesday, April 1, 2015– EPLC Education Policy Forum on the Governor’s State Budget Proposal for Education – 10 a.m.-12 Noon – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA –RSVP by clicking here.

Delaware County and West Philly Dentists to provide FREE dental care to children 0 – 18 years old during spring break the week of March 30 – April 3 for “Give Kids a Smile Day.” 
For this event, sponsored by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local dentists will provide free screenings and cleanings for children.  Give Kids a Smile Day is especially for children who do not have health insurance or who have not had a dental exam in the last six months. Appointments are necessary, so please call PCCY at 215-563-5848 x32 to schedule one starting Monday, March 16th.  Volunteers will be on hand to answer calls. Smile Day information can also be found on the school district website and on PCCY’s website - http://www.pccy.org/resource/give-kids-a-smile-day/

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.
More info/registration: http://www.educationvoterspa.org/index.php/site/news/2015-events/


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