Saturday, May 16, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 16: Pennsylvania School Boards Association files Right-to-Know requests on charter school spending

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 16, 2015:
Pennsylvania School Boards Association files Right-to-Know requests on charter school spending

School directors, superintendents and administrators are encouraged to register and attend this event.
Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Legislative Council
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Quakertown Community School District, 100 Commerce Drive  Quakertown, PA 18951

Keystone Crossroads Series

'Fully fund my education because ...'
Winning entries from a student essay contest on the school funding crisis.
By NewsWorks Staff on May 15, 2015 01:19 PM
The Philadelphians most affected by the city's school funding crisis are without a doubt the nearly 200,000 District and charter school students. We talk about the students all the time, but how often do we talk to the students?  In order to give them a voice in the public discussion, Mayor Nutter, Superintendent William Hite and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan announced an essay competition in April called "Students Speak."  The campaign encouraged students across the city to submit written and video essays that completed the sentence: "Fully fund my education because ..." The winning entries, announced Thursday -- a written essay and a video from elementary, middle, and high school levels -- appear here.

Pennsylvania School Boards Association files Right-to-Know requests on charter school spending
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 15, 2015 2:47 PM
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association today said it has filed Right-to-Know requests with charter and cyber charter school operators asking for financial information about their schools.  The requested items include advertising costs, contracts with private management companies, advanced academic courses offered, salary and compensation information for all 180 brick and mortar and cyber charter schools in the state.  The Right-to-Know requests also ask for documents related to leases and real estate and donation information from foundations or educational improvement organizations.  Nathan Mains, PSBA executive director, said the information being sought will help his association and the school districts it represents to better understand how charter schools operate and to provide transparency to taxpayers on charter school spending.

PSBA NEWS RELEASE: RTK request to charters seeks transparency in spending
PSBA website POSTED ON MAY 15, 2015
In an effort to better understand the operations, financial needs and expenses of Pennsylvania charter schools, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) today sent a Right-to-Know request to charter and cyber charter schools asking for a short list of public information. The requested items include advertising costs; contracts with private management companies; advanced academic courses offered; donation information to the charter from any foundation or educational improvement organization; salary and compensation information; and documents related to leases and real estate.  “For years charter proponents have criticized public schools claiming they don’t understand how charter operators work or the costs and benefits of charters,” said Nathan Mains, executive director of PSBA. “The data we are requesting will help the association and our member school entities better understand the work of charters around the state.”  As public school entities, charters are funded by public dollars and taxpayers have every right to know how their money is being spent. The ultimate goal of the request is to ensure transparency in charter school spending. Last year, nearly $1.3 billion passed through traditional public schools to charters and cyber charter schools.

Big Votes on Big Ideas
Penn Live slide show  by Jan Murphy | May 15, 2015
Pennsylvania lawmakers are only four and a half months into the current legislative session but already their chambers have moved some big-ticket bills as well as a myriad of other pieces of legislation that would make a difference in people or government's lives. Here is a reacap of some of those proposals that have been approved by the House or Senate since January.  …The House passed legislation that would increase funding for Pennsylvania's two school choice programs – the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program and theOpportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program – to a record-level $250 million. The bill now awaits action in the Senate and is expected to be considered as part of the 2015-16 budget negotiations. Both programs grant state tax credits to businesses that fund scholarships that allow eligible students to attend a school of their choice. The EITC program also grants tax breaks to companies that fund innovative public school programs.

Server issue disrupts Keystone Exams in Pennsylvania schools
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer May 15, 2015
About 500 middle and high school students taking the state's Keystone Exams in Lancaster County Friday were disrupted by a server issue, according to district officials.
An email sent to superintendents by state education secretary Pedro Rivera said that the server operated by testing company Data Recognition Corporation was disrupted around 9:30 a.m.  At School District of Lancaster, the issue occurred about an hour into testing and resulted in the city district rescheduling the mandatory exams for about 440 students. Those students will take the exams on Monday, said district spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder.

No tax hike in Pottstown School District’s proposed $57.1M budget
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/15/15, 7:14 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> It’s looking like school taxes in the borough will not go up in the coming year.  On Thursday night, the school board’s finance committee enthusiastically endorsed a proposed $57.1 million 2015-2016 budget that, although it raises spending by 2.16 percent, would not raise school taxes at all.  “Zip, zero, nada,” Business Manager Linda Adams said when explaining the impact the spending plan would have on Pottstown property taxpayers.  The spending plan relies heavily on Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget, which would increase state funding by $1,343,212, a 6.9 percent jump over the previous year.  However, Adams said the administration recognizes that the first budget proposed by a Democratic governor presented to a Republican Legislature is unlikely to get passed unscathed.  “So we have a contingency plan,” Adams said which accounts for as much as $800,000 of that $1.3 million never materializing.

"Truebright, which opened in 2007, is one of more than 120 charters nationwide founded and operated by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who lives in self-imposed exile in the Poconos."
Appeals court orders Truebright charter to close
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, May 16, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2015, 7:34 PM
The troubled Truebright Science Academy Charter School in Olney will close at the end of the academic year next month - unless it decides to continue its court fight to remain open.
A Commonwealth Court three-judge panel on Friday affirmed a state Charter Appeals Board decision that said the School Reform Commission had ample grounds to close Truebright for poor academic performance.  The judges said that Truebright had promised that its students would "realize high academic rank" and would score proficient or higher on the state's standardized math and reading tests.  "Truebright has had a consistently low percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the PSSA [math and reading tests] and has shown no clear sign of improvement," Judge Rochelle S. Friedman wrote.

Aspira Charter staffers to vote on whether to unionize
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, May 16, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2015, 3:06 PM
Teachers and other staffers at John B. Stetson Charter School in Kensington will be allowed next week to vote on whether they want to be represented by AFT Pennsylvania.  The National Labor Relations Board late Thursday authorized the election, to be held Thursday at the middle school at 3200 B St.  If the teachers vote to join AFT, Stetson would be the second city charter operated by the nonprofit Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania recently to vote for union representation. Teachers at Olney Charter High School overwhelmingly voted to join AFT late last month.  In its decision, the labor board's regional director rejected Aspira's argument that the NLRB did not have jurisdiction because the Stetson was created by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

A who's who in the race for Philly City Council
As disagreements in recent years between Philadelphia's mayor and City Council have shown, Council's 17 members can collectively wield a lot of power.   (Exhibit #1 from this year: The foiled sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, a situation in which Council refused to even hold a hearing on Mayor Michael Nutter's plan to sell the utility to a private company.)  In Tuesday's primary, all 17 council seats are up for re-election, but only a few races are expected to be competitive.  Of the 10 district seats, six council members are running unopposed; so, consider those champagne corks already popped.

The Challengers: Helen Gym’s Aim — To Be a Schools Watchdog With Teeth and Vigilant Eyes
A series of Citified Q&As with the top Democratic challengers in the at-large City Council race.
PhillyMag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  MAY 15, 2015 AT 12:38 PM
All week, Citified is featuring Q&As with leading at-large City Council Democratic challengers on topics of their choosing. The prompt was simple: if elected, what’s a problem you would you prioritize, and how would you address it? To keep the conversation substantive and on-point, we asked the candidates to focus on a relatively narrow question (i.e., not “schools,” or “crime.”)
Longtime schools activist Helen Gym is running an at-large campaign powered by an enthusiastic grassroots network of supporters, the backing of teacher unions and her own indomitable personality. Her presence on Council would surely shakeup a a legislative body that is, plainly, sick and tired of talking about the city’s struggling schools and how to fund them.  Gym would make schools her central focus if she is elected to Council. In particular, Gym wants to dramatically change Council's approach to schools oversight, and that's the subject she chose to discuss with Citified.

Insider: The Hot New Schools Cure-All That Isn’t a Cure-All
Forbriger: “Community schools” are a fine idea, but they’re also expensive and their effectiveness is unproven.
PhillyMag Citified BY KRISTEN FORBRIGER  |  MAY 14, 2015 AT 10:30 AM
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
City Council released a proposal last week to create “School-Based Family Service Centers” building on the recent popularity of the community schools concept. It’s the education idea that everyone — including mayoral candidates — can get behind: Jim Kenney announced a goal to create 25 community schools; Doug Oliver’s plan “Homework” calls for bringing City agencies, like health and human services, into schools; and both Senator Anthony Williams’ and Nelson Diaz’ education proposals call for schools to provide “wraparound services.”  And what's not to love about community schools? Defined as “both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources,” they “integrate academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement.” Supporters make this analogy: a traditional school is like a rotary phone — providing just education services — while a community school is like a smart phone — allowing a school and its community to connect with lots of needed services.
This sounds like a smart idea. So why aren’t we already doing it? The current public narrative about community schools seems to be evading a few key questions:

Former District CEO continues to champion education
Phil Goldsmith, Notebook member
the notebook By Camden Copeland on May 15, 2015 11:56 AM
Phil Goldsmith has worn many hats in Philadelphia. He has worked in law, journalism, banking, and government. But it was Goldsmith’s position as interim CEO of the School District from 2000 to 2001 that started his relationship with the Notebook.  “I remember [Notebook editor] Paul Socolar coming to interview me. They did some short pieces on me, and that’s how I really got to see the Notebook,” Goldsmith said.  His leadership of the District took place during challenging times. He tried to counter privatization of the District, fighting Harrisburg on the plan to have Edison Schools Inc. take over schools. The District was in financial crisis, and he and others negotiated with state legislators to receive more school funding in exchange for giving the state more control and creating the School Reform Commission.

School directors, superintendents and administrators are encouraged to register and attend this event.
Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Legislative Council
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Quakertown Community School District, 100 Commerce Drive  Quakertown, PA 18951
Welcome by Paul Stepanoff , Board President , QCSD
Introduction of Paul Clymer, State of State Education

Mr. Glenn Grell , PSERS Executive Director
Introduction by Dr. Bill Harner, Superintendent QCSD

Panel of Superintendents and Elected School Directors from Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Counties
Introduction by Mark B. Miller, Board Vice President, Centennial SD

1) The status of 2015-16 budget in their district (including proposed tax increase)
2) PSERS impact on their budget
3) Proposed use of any new funding from Commonwealth

Larry Feinberg and Ron Williams
Benefit and need for County Wide Legislative Council in Delaware and Montgomery Counties respectively

Dr. Tom Seidenberger (Retired Superintendent ) - Circuit Rider Update

SAVE The DATE: Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

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, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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