Monday, April 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 27: Open 2007 RTK:"If charters were allowed to operate in the dark with public money, it would be an incredible breeding ground for fraud."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 27, 2015:
Open 2007 RTK:"If charters were allowed to operate in the dark with public money, it would be an incredible breeding ground for fraud."

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding will be live tweeting from today's hearing using hashtag #FairFundingPA
Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission Meeting April 27 10 am
University of Pittsburgh, April 27, 2015 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. William Pitt Union Assembly Room 

Central PA education forum Tuesday, April 28, 6:30-8:30
Grace Lutheran Church (in Harkins Hall), 205 S. Garner Street, State College
Info and Registration: HERE

Southeastern PA Regional Meeting on School Funding
Wednesday April 29th 7:00 pm Springfield High School Auditorium, 49 West Leamy Avenue, Springfield, PA 19064
Info and Registration: HERE

November 2007: Still Waiting for compliance with this RTK…
"If charters were allowed to operate in the dark with public money, it would be an incredible breeding ground for fraud."
Pa. Supreme Court ruling says charter school data are public
By Dan Hardy INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: November 22, 2007
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision has, for the first time, established that charter schools must release information requested under the state's Right-to-Know law, according to a lawyer in the case.  The decision, handed down Tuesday said a Chester charter school must hand over its management contract and other financial documents to a Delaware County newspaper.  In 2005, Matthew Zager, a reporter for the Delaware County Daily Times, filed a Right-to-Know law request with Vahan Gureghian, head of the management company that operates the Chester Community Charter School. Zager asked for an auditor's report, financial statements, and the school's management agreement with the corporation that had managed the charter before 2002.
The request was denied by Danielle Gureghian, Vahan Gureghian's wife and a lawyer for his management company. She said the management firm was a private company and not subject to the Right-to-Know law.  Delaware County Common Pleas Court, Commonwealth Court, and the Supreme Court all rejected that argument. "Charter schools are not exempt from the statutes that are applicable to public schools," the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

Time to get involved in education funding discussion
Delco Times Heron's Nest Editor's Blog by Phil Heron Monday, April 27, 2015
We used our so-called bully pulpit again on Sunday to lament something we've talked about many times.  Pennsylvania's system of funding education is broken, fundamentally flawed that has created an uneven playing field.  It's especially dangerous for kids in distressed school districts, kids like those who live in the William Penn School District. They are the ones who get penalized for no other reason than their zip code.

"There’s no question we need to change the way that we fund our schools. According to federal data, Pennsylvania now has the largest gaps in the nation in spending from wealthy school districts to poorer ones. Students from one district to the next in Delaware County can have access to vastly different schools, classrooms and resources based solely on where there were born.
Without a formula, education funds are dispensed yearly based on political considerations with little regard for what is actually needed in the classrooms to give students the opportunity to meet academic standards set by the state."
Letter to the Editor: Find out how we can fix education funding
Delco Times Letter by Lawrence Feinberg POSTED: 04/26/15, 10:33 PM EDT |
Lawrence A. Feinberg is Chairman, Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council and a Circuit Rider for PA Schools
To the Times:
Having served as a member of the Haverford School Board for the past 16 years, I’d like to believe that I have a good understanding of the challenges that our students, teachers and our taxpayers confront as we strive to provide access to a quality education for the roughly 6,000 students we serve.  And I am very confident that, collectively, we do a great job, especially our students whose achievements in the classroom speak volumes for how hard they work. But districts in every corner of the state are facing some stiff challenges.
For the past nine months, I’ve been making the rounds, literally, and visiting school districts across the county and the region as a “circuit rider” as part of a statewide effort to change fundamentally the way that our state funds public education.  Dozens and dozens of groups and individuals are working across Pennsylvania to make sure that every student, no matter where they live, has access to a quality education. Our goal, collectively, is to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education by 2016.

“I try not to say we just need more money,” Cave said, adding that he would like to instead see a plan where the board is at least able to have some idea of the help it could get from the state when it comes time to put together the next budget.
“A formula to predict a forecast and plan, that would be a huge help,” he said. “I don’t believe throwing money at a problem would solve anything.”
William Penn struggles with bleak budget numbers
By Nick Tricome, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 04/26/15, 1:48 AM EDT |
HARRISBURG >> When it comes to the budget for the William Penn School District, Rafi Cave can’t tell you what will happen next.  “We have no idea,” Cave, the vice president of the school board, said. “We can’t forecast the current method.”  The current method’s lack of a funding formula from the state is what has been a problem for the district. On Wednesday, Cave, representing the district and the Coalition for Residents of Yeadon (C.R.Y.), accompanied 23 other organizations, consisting of 50 young voters from Southeastern Pennsylvania, on a trip to Harrisburg to call for fair funding for schools.

Editorial: Fair funding issue continues down the road
West Chester Daily Local POSTED: 04/25/15, 6:57 PM EDT |
Kids – and taxpayers - in the William Penn School District who for years have faced an uphill slog, weighed down by an inherently unfair funding system that penalized them for no good reason other than their zip code, got a hard civics lesson this week.
Their plea for justice, for the courts to do what the Legislature too often has failed to do, that is fix what is clearly a broken system of school funding in Pennsylvania, fell on deaf ears.
A lawsuit filed by officials in financially struggling school districts, along with seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and the NAACP Pennsylvania State conference was rejected by Commonwealth Court.

Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners is an arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which is funded by a number of donors, including Jeffrey Yass, one of three Main Line financial traders who support Democratic State Sen. Anthony H. Williams' mayoral campaign.  Mark Alderman, a lawyer for the independent expenditure group financed by Yass and his partners to support Williams, said Yass and his wife had assured him they were not among donors who contributed to Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners' ad campaign.  Wang said the advertisements were being funded by some of the partnership's donors, but he declined to identify them.
School-choice advocacy group plans big TV push
A school-choice advocacy group in Philadelphia will roll out on Monday the first of a planned series of television advertisements to promote its cause as voters consider whom to support in the mayor's race.  Mike Wang, executive director of Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, said his organization intended to spend more than $1 million on television ads in the coming months, much of it after the May 19 primary.  "This is about getting every child access to a great school," Wang said, adding that the group would spend "whatever it will take to do that."
The 30-second ad, which will run on cable and network television in the Philadelphia area, criticizes politicians who "won't allow more public charter schools" and spotlights the power of the vote wielded by families seeking better school options.

While you were gone: Monday morning debates, polling updates and more
Wondering what's been going on with the mayoral campaign since you walked away from your computer on Friday? We got you covered.  Let's check out a few stories that have run here, and via other media outlets, in the past few days. (And one that's coming up.)

The PA Chamber had it wrong - Gov. Wolf's budget works for Pa. workers: Jeffrey Sheridan
PennLive Op-Ed   By Jeffrey Sheridan on April 26, 2015 at 1:00 PM,
Jeffrey Sheridan is Press Secretary to Gov. Tom Wolf. 
Pennsylvania can have jobs that pay, schools that teach, and a government that works but we cannot accept where things currently stand.  We are facing a $2.3 billion deficit, schools without the resources necessary to provide an adequate education to our children, the economy is stagnant, and soaring property taxes are burdening middle-class families and seniors.
Despite the suggestions of Gene Barr in his recent op-ed, these are real problems facing Pennsylvania that we must address.   Governor Wolf's proposed budget is a blueprint for Pennsylvania's future.

Top Wolf aide stands by tax-shift claims despite independent report finding of higher net taxes for all income groups
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 24, 2015 at 6:42 PM, updated April 24, 2015 at 8:55 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration responded to a potential political body-blow to its tax reform proposals Friday, with top aides arguing some of the underlying assumptions in a new report that says the Wolf plan will result in higher net tax burdens for even middle-income families are "shaky."  But Republican legislative leaders, or their spokesmen, said the report bears out what they suspected all along: that Wolf's policy ambitions are expensive and should be recognized by all as coming with tax increases for most if not all.
Wolf's Policy Secretary John Hanger held a conference call with reporters Friday to reaffirm the administration's basic sales pitch - that even as overall collections rise, most Pennsylvania taxpayers will pay less under Wolf's approach- in spite of the new conclusions from the Independent Fiscal Office.

All Pennsylvanians to pay more, GOP gleans from report on Wolf's tax plan
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Saturday, April 25, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's tax plan would hit all income classes and amount to a “huge tax grab,” said a leading Republican lawmaker.  But John Hanger, Wolf's policy director, on Friday disputed the Independent Fiscal Office report's main conclusions. Wolf's plan “would benefit most Pennsylvania homeowners making up to $100,000 and renters up to $50,000,” Hanger said.  The report released this week makes a key observation when it says all groups would pay more — including a small net increase for the lowest income group, those making $25,000 or less annually, said House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County.
Wolf budget right approach, even if all Pennsylvanians must pay
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Monday, April 27, 2015 6:00 am
The Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan state agency, reported late last week that Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would mean “a net tax increase for all (income) groups” in Pennsylvania, “including a small net increase for the lowest income group.” The Wolf administration disputes the finding, saying Revenue Department estimates show it delivering tax cuts to  all, including middle class families.  Giving the Independent Fiscal Office the benefit of the doubt, the governor’s budget still sets Pennsylvania on the right path for the future.  If we all have to pay higher taxes, it will be worth it.  It is our schools — K-12 public schools, state-system and state-supported colleges and universities, and our community colleges — that need some of those funds. They need resources to deliver a solid education to our future plumbers, construction workers, doctors, nurses, governors, lawmakers, business leaders and overall workforce.
We all have a responsibility to help pay for that investment.

Pa. Republican Senators hope to win battles over pensions, liquor
Penn Live By Marc Levy | The Associated Press on April 26, 2015 at 10:38 AM, updated April 26, 2015 at 10:57 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Even before Gov. Tom Wolf took office, Republican lawmakers drew lines in the sand. Now, with two months until the new fiscal year begins, Republicans who control the Pennsylvania Senate are under the gun to back up their words with votes.  The GOP hopes to force the Democratic governor to make concessions on two key issues during horse-trading over his $31.6 billion budget proposal. But it is not clear whether Senate Republicans can produce a viable plan on either: overhauling benefits in Pennsylvania's two big public employee pension systems and permitting the sale of wine and liquor by private businesses.

"Schools in Allegheny County reported 2,985 homeless students last year, said Bill Wolfe, executive director of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, where Smith and the other eight students volunteer."
Senior at Pittsburgh's CAPA school focuses spotlight on homeless students
Trib Live By Mike Wereschagin Sunday, April 26, 2015, 11:03 p.m.
They stood silently, faces impassive, their young hands holding the cardboard signs of beggars in a place that once was sacred.  An audience of about 100 people in the Grand Hall of The Priory Hotel, a former Benedictine monastery, stared silently back at the eight high school students whose clean, unwrinkled faces contrasted so sharply with the messages about youth homelessness scrawled on their signs.  “Homeless people have been reduced to a single image, which is the man on a corner with a cardboard sign and an open palm,” said Madeline Smith, a senior at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school.  Smith, 18, of Marshall-Shadeland said she organized the art event, Hope through Creativity, on Sunday to show that reality is more complex.
Proposed UCF budget would boost taxes beyond Act 1 limits
Unionville Times By Karen Cresta, Correspondent, The Times April 14, 2015
Keystone Exams face growing opposition; health care eligibility audit discussed
EAST MARLBOROUGH – Taxes for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District would increase beyond the state’s Act 1 limits, if the Board of Education opts to adopt the $79.2 million proposed budget discussed in some detail during Monday night’s board work session — meanwhile growing area opposition to the use of the Keystone Exam as a graduation requirement could mean changes on the horizon.  Although the budget doesn’t require final approval until the end of June (the board is expected to give final budget approval at its June 15 meeting), the heavy lifting of the budget process is underway. A public hearing on the budget is already slated for next month — and final decisions on whether to push taxes beyond the 1.9% Act 1 index limit, and if so, how much, are only now starting to come into focus.

"The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014."
Testing Corporations Spend Millions to Lobby Congress and State Legislatures
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch April 26, 2015 //
Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.  The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.

States Expanding Mandates for Students to Take Computer Science
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Audrey Armitage on April 23, 2015 11:34 AM
Fourteen states are now mandating that computer science classes be counted towards students' required credits in high school math, science, or foreign language, according to a new report by the Education Commission of the States.  Additionally, two states have enacted policies that allow computer science classes to be used to fulfill graduation requirements, though they don't require students to take those courses.   These policies are relatively new—most have been adopted within the past year or two, said report author Jennifer Zinth of the ECS, a Denver-based research organization.

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

All are invited for a screening of the documentary:
STANDARDIZED: Lies, Money & Civil Rights—How Testing is Ruining Public Education Monday, April 27, 7- 9 PM Wayne, PA
The Saturday Club, 117 West Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA
Standardized testing has long been a part of public education. Over the last ten years however, education reform has become an increasingly heated political issue and seemingly a highly profitable target market for private enterprise resulting in expanded and high-stakes testing. While some hold the view that testing is an effective assessment of student ability and teacher and school effectiveness, many feel these exams are instead undermining our students, teachers and schools.   Daniel Hornberger’s STANDARDIZED documentary raises issues about this model of  education reform and the standardized testing that goes along with it. The film includes interviews with prominent educational experts and government officials who take aim at the goal of standardization that is being promoted and imposed by our federal and state governments. It sheds light on the development, nature and use of these assessments, the consequences of high-stakes testing, and the ostensible private enterprise and government agendas behind them. 
A Q&A session with a panel of informed parents, teachers and experts will follow.
This screening is made possible through a collaboration of Radnor, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Lower Merion concerned parents and PTOs.
For questions and to RSVP, contact

PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, April 15
Northeast High School1601 Cottman Ave.
 Wednesday, April 22
Bartram High School2401 S. 67th St.
 Tuesday, April 28
West Philadelphia High School4901 Chestnut St.
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20
Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

Nominations for PSBA offices closes April 30
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA. The positions open are:
  • 2016 President Elect (one-year term)
  • 2016 Vice President (one-year term)
  • 2016 Eastern Section at Large Representative - includes Regions 7, 8, 10, 11 and 15 (three-year term) 

Complete details on the nomination process, including scheduled dates for nominee interviews, can be found online by clicking here.

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