Friday, July 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 24: PA Cyber teachers get contract as Pennsylvania's only cyber union

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 24, 2015:
PA Cyber teachers get contract as Pennsylvania's only cyber union

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

Once more, with feeling: Just where is the money to reform PA education coming from?
Lancaster Online Posted on July 23, 2015 Smart Remarks by Gil Smart
I get tired, sometimes, of saying the same thing over and over and over and over again.
I mean, I’m used to it, I have kids. But there are also things you have to repeat over and over and over and over again when it comes to public policy – maybe not because people don’t hear it, but because they don’t want to hear it.  Such is the case today, with this (very good) op-ed at about school funding in Pennsylvania. Adam Schott and David Lapp make the case that even before Pennsylvania passes reforms to try and come up with a better way for the state to take over – and hopefully turn around – struggling school districts, those school districts need more money:

Pottstown school officials demand more education funding
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 07/23/15, 5:46 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Pottstown educators stepped into the state budget battle Thursday, calling on local legislators to adopt a budget that significantly increases funding for public education.
In a press conference staged on the front steps of Rupert Elementary School, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana was joined by school board member Kim Stillwell and teachers’ union president Beth Yoder in supporting the budget initiatives that Gov. Tom Wolf first proposed this spring.  “The budget that the Legislature passed calls for a $300 million decrease, or 75 percent less, than the basic education funding proposed by the governor, resulting in a loss of over $365,000 of the projected increase for the Pottstown School District,” Sparagana said.  Sparagana’s math jibes with a Mercury analysis published Sunday that found a $3 million difference in basic education funding for nine area school districts between Wolf’s proposed budget and the one passed by the Legislature — enough to pay 45 teachers the average salary in the area.

Wolf taps insider as new chief of staff
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Thursday, July 23, 2015, 12:10 PM POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2015, 11:06 AM
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf on Thursday tapped Mary Isenhour, a key aide and Democratic Party veteran, to be his new chief of staff, one day after Katie McGinty resigned the job for what many observers believe will be a U.S. Senate campaign.  A onetime state Democratic Party leader and political strategist, Isenhour had been Wolf's director of legislative affairs.  "She is stepping into some very big shoes," the governor said during a Capitol news conference. But he said she knows how to manage people and has the ability to work with the Republican-controlled legislature.  "Mary comes to this position with a lot of skills," Wolf said. "She has done a really good job of building relationships with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House over the last six months . . . She understands how the politics of this place actually works."

Musical chairs for the governor's staff
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 23, 2015 1:57 PM
Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday said goodbye and good luck to his chief of staff for the past six months and turned to his legislative liaison, Mary Isenhour, to step in as his top aide.
Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday and is expected to launch a bid for U.S. Senate in 2016 after being courted intensively by national Democrats. She would not confirm Thursday that she intends to run.  "Today's not about that," McGinty said, all smiles as she stood next to the governor. "I am resigning in order to give due and appropriate consideration to potentially a U.S.   Senate run, potentially other public service."  Sliding into McGinty's chair is Isenhour, a longtime Democratic campaign consultant in Pennsylvania. Her promotion comes as Wolf is trying to negotiate a deal with the GOP-controlled Legislature on a state budget that's already more than three weeks late.  "Katie has built a tremendous foundation for the governor's administration," said Isenhour, visibly less comfortable in the spotlight than her predecessor. "I hope to build on that administration."  Republicans lauded the governor's selection of Isenhour as someone who had cultivated relationships across the aisle.  "She has done a tremendous job since the transition in meeting with legislators, meeting with the leaders, and working through issues and problems," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP majority leader.

Republicans see Isenhour’s replacement of McGinty as a positive development
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, July 23, 2015
Shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday formally announced the resignation of his Chief of Staff, Katie McGinty, and announced Secretary of Legislative Affairs Mary Isenhour as her replacement, Republicans praised the move as a positive development in terms of ongoing budget negotiations.  “Mary Isenhour is a great pick and probably should have been his pick from the beginning,” said House GOP spokesperson Steve Miskin. “It’ll be good to have someone who actually factors in these meetings.”  Miskin praised Isenhour’s consistent efforts to work with members of the legislature and listening to their concerns in an attempt to work through issues.  Senate Republicans were of the same opinion.

PA Cyber teachers get contract as Pennsylvania's only cyber union
Post Gazette by Associated Press July 23, 2015 10:52 AM
Teachers at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School have their first contract.
Lon Valentine, president of the PA Cyber Education Association, said the 140 online instructors approved the deal earlier this month. PA Cyber’s teachers are the only unionized online instructors in the state.  The school earlier this week announced it is cutting 43 jobs — including 21 teachers — out of roughly 700 full- and part-time positions as it deals with declining enrollment and increased competition from other online programs.  The four-year contract, retroactive to last year, contains a 15 percent first-year raise, plus 2 percent in subsequent years. That’s meant to bring PA Cyber teachers’ salaries more in line with others in Beaver County.  Valentine says PA Cyber teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn $41,000 to $67,000 annually.  As a charter school, PA Cyber is a public school to which the home school district of each student pays a fee set by the state. Based in Midland, Beaver County, PA Cyber is open to students from throughout the state.

PA Cyber teachers union rep 'very disappointed' in layoffs
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 4:45 pm
MIDLAND -- Contrary to comments made by the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School’s chief executive officer the previous day, the teachers union president said Wednesday that staff layoffs would negatively affect students.  “They’re losing out on teachers that were very good at their jobs,” said Lon Valentine, the president of the PA Cyber Education Association (PCEA).  Valentine said he was “very disappointed” with the layoffs of 21 virtual classroom teachers as well as 22 non-teaching employees. However, Valentine said he was not that surprised because PA Cyber teachers have yet to be given their schedules for the school year and that made him suspicious.  “I had a feeling that something might happen,” Valentine said.  Valentine said there are 140 virtual classroom teachers who are strictly online and 100 blended classroom teachers who are online and occasionally meet with students. Only virtual classroom teachers are in the PCEA.  Fifteen blended teachers lost their jobs while the remaining virtual ones seemed to be elementary-level instructors, Valentine said. Those suddenly out of jobs, he said, will be hampered to find new ones because the layoffs were done late in the summer after most districts have solidified their staffs.

Rejection of charter school appeal favors New Castle district
By Debbie Wachter New Castle News Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 5:00 am
The state Charter School Appeal Board has denied a charter school's appeal to open in New Castle.  The board following a June 9 hearing ruled Thursday by a 4-2 vote against the appeal filed by the New Castle Arts Academy Charter School. The New Castle Area School Board had previously rejected the charter school's application.  Principals of the charter school have been eying the site of the former Days Inn property in downtown New Castle as its location, within the New Castle Area School District.  Acting secretary of education, Pedro A. Rivera, is chairman of State Charter School Appeal Board.  Debra Rice, an organizer of the New Castle Arts Academy, said yesterday that the avenues are not exhausted, and the charter school has other options.  "There are a couple of ways that we can move forward with this," Rice said.  The group is waiting for written denial from the charter school appeal board, she said. Then the members will review it and make a decision. She declined other comment, meanwhile, about the board's ruling until decisions are made of how to proceed next.

Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's May 15th Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania's 174 charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Congressman Costello: Bill improves the outdated status quo policies
West Chester Daily Local By Ryan Costello POSTED: 07/21/15, 8:13 PM EDT
Ryan Costello is a freshman congressman representing the 6th District
This month, the House took action to pass legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through H.R. 5: the Student Success Act (SSA). ESEA, the nation’s primary federal K-12 education program, was first enacted in 1965 and was last reauthorized through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002. While the intentions of NLCB were genuine, the flaws in the program caused it to expire in 2007 without reauthorization.  This opened the door for federal bureaucrats to impose the Common Core agenda on students across the country. With only 26% of high school seniors proficient in math and 38% proficient in reading, it is clear this top-down and one-size-fits-all approach did not adequately address the needs of many students. The good news is the SSA would replace the current national accountability scheme based on high-stakes tests, and aims to replace it with accountability systems that are controlled by states and school officials. The SSA puts the responsibility of measuring student and school performance back where it belongs – in the in the hands of local school officials and states.  The SSA includes several provisions that put students, parents and educators first. 

Mailers target Sen. Smucker, other Republicans in budget battle
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Friday, July 24, 2015 5:30 am
Residents of state Sen. Lloyd Smucker’s district have been receiving mailers this month blasting his budget stance.  “LLOYD SMUCKER is blocking progress,” they proclaim. “Lloyd Smucker’s budget is bad news.”  The mailers give the number of the Republican lawmaker’s Lancaster office. Call him and “tell him to support Governor Wolf’s balanced budget!” they urge.

PSEA seems to have forgotten what matters in school funding debate - students: Mike Folmer
PennLive Op-Ed  By State Senator Mike Folmer on July 23, 2015 at 1:00 PM
One of the key differences in the ongoing budget impasse between the Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly is the issue of education funding.  Thirty-eight percent of the budget that Wolf vetoed on June 30 would have spent $11,515,925,000 of state moneys in support of education:  $31,550,479.45 a day, $1,314,603.31 an hour, $21,910.06 a minute, and $365.17 a second.  When you factor in federal and state tax money in support of education, the Commonwealth spends about $27 billion to support education: $74 milion a day, $3 million an hour, $51,369 a minute, and $856 a second.  Wolf wants another $620 million for education. This would be in addition to the $1,3 billion needed to close the structural deficit facing this year's state budget (another $2 billion will be needed to again balance the Commonwealth's spending next year).

ALEC: Group wants answers about conservative lawmakers' conference
Penn Live By Sam Janesch | Special to PennLive on July 23, 2015 at 11:31 AM
A controversial meeting of the nation's lawmakers is happening this week in San Diego and government reform group Common Cause Pennsylvania is keeping tabs on what's on the agenda.  The annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council brings together thousands of legislators and business leaders from across the country to discuss policy in an effort to "advance the common goals of limited government, free markets and federalism, "according its website.  But the organization has come under fire in recent years for lack of transparency and conservative agendas.  "It's a gathering whereby some of the most powerful corporations in America get together with legislators to draft legislation and create joint strategies for moving it to passage," said Barry Kauffman, Common Cause Pennsylvania executive director. "Legislators and corporations have equal votes and some of them behind closed doors and the public is not permitted to see or know what they're doing."  Kauffman said the meetings and events held at the ALEC conference are activities defined as lobbying under Pennsylvania's lobbyist disclosure law but ALEC does not register or report to the state.

Two more Philly educators disciplined in cheating investigation
the notebook By David Limm on Jul 23, 2015 03:55 PM
Two more Philadelphia educators have been disciplined in the multiyear investigation into cheating on the state's standardized tests.  Darlynn L. Gray, 54, a former principal of Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School, and Ellen Berson, 45, a former assistant principal at McDaniel, surrendered their educator's licenses earlier this year.   They are alleged to have "violated the integrity and security of the PSSA exams," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education's list of teacher certification actions.   Both Gray and Berson voluntarily retired from the District on June 30, 2013, according to Chanice Savage, a School District spokesperson. Gray, a 20-year veteran of the District, and Berson, a 12-year veteran, were both at McDaniel when they retired.  McDaniel Elementary in South Philadelphia was one of 53 District schools targeted for investigation of suspicious erasure patterns after a forensic analysis discovered near-impossible gains on the PSSAs.

Here's a related set of KEYSEC postings….still no word on any pending legal action
PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 26, 2014: "the odds that erasure patterns were random … were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. …But the state left the charter to investigate itself."

New Philly school administrator has past controversies
ERIC BECOATS was very dedicated to his administrator job in Charlotte, N.C.
He was also equally committed to his consulting business, Queen Educational Planning LLC, whose client was the Little Rock School District in Arkansas. Once Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials found he made at least 17 calls from district phones to Little Rock, he was censured and suspended for a day.  Becoats, now a newly hired top school district administrator in Philadelphia, has resigned from two previous jobs, including Charlotte, following accounts of his alleged misuse of public resources, the Daily News has learned.  Becoats, who has a business and financial-planning background, was forced to resign after a series of missteps that included underestimating the rainy day fund by $15 million and using a public school bus to ferret around friends and loved ones.  District officials, however, stood behind Becoats yesterday, saying in a statement that he was fully vetted and brings a "deep skills set" to Philadelphia.

New Philly district hires have lengthy charter backgrounds
IN ADDITION TO Eric Becoats, several of the district's recent hires for senior positions come from the growing charter-school sector:
* Jeff Rhodes, assistant superintendent of Learning Network 9, spent two years as director of school quality at Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, a charter-management operator with about 51,000 students.
* Christina Grant, assistant superintendent of the Opportunity Network for district-run and contracted alternative education programs, worked for 2 1/2 years at the Great Oaks Foundation, a charter-management organization with five schools, where she was superintendent. Prior to that, she was founding executive director of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now, a pro-charter education advocacy group, which is part of a national network.
* Jack Perry, deputy chief of Academic Enrichment, was previously founder and executive director of Prestige Academy Charter School in Wilmington, Del., which opened in 2008.
* James Harris, executive director of operations, spent a year as director of operations at Project GRAD USA, a nonprofit college-access program. Prior to that, he worked as associate head of school for one year at Citizens Leadership Academy, a part of Citizens Academy Schools, which runs K-5 charters in Cleveland.

Today’s newest teachers face tough job odds, high turnover
PBS Newshour July 22, 2015 at 6:20 PM EDT
Is it a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven't kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers. And that's if you get a job. Special correspondent for education John Merrow reports on the struggles for today's newly trained educators to find work and stay in the classroom.

We bought it twice but we no longer own it: The bad public policy behind charter school real estate deals
School Finance 101 Blog by Bruce D. Baker Posted on July 21, 2015
I’ve been spending much of my spring and summer trying to get a handle on the various business practices of charter schooling, the roles of various constituents, their incentives and interests – financial and otherwise – in the operations of charter schools. Throughout this process, I also try to consider how or whether similar practices and incentives exist for traditional district schools and private schools and how these markets intersect. There will be much more forthcoming on this blog, and in academic papers and reports in the next few months and year.  But one issue really struck me as particularly ludicrous as I spent more and more time drawing pictures and mapping out business relationships. I had avoided for the longest time digging into the weeds of charter school land deals and facilities financing. It’s messy and there are certainly plenty of fun scandalous news reports on the topic. But when I see this kind of stuff, I ask myself – what policies enable – or perhaps even encourage these things? Where’s the boundary between legally permissible and not… and between good policy and bad?
Here, I provide an example of something that’s just bad public policy. I can’t really say… except in one piece of this puzzle (as I’ve laid it out), that there are any truly bad, unethical, or illegal actors in this scenario. But the outcome is still bad… bad… patently… amazingly stupid public policy.

Call In Day July 29th - Urgent: Budget stalemate hurting schools. Contact your legislators.
Education Law Center July 22, 2015
On Wednesday, July 29, the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and Education Voters-PA, will be participating in a statewide call-in day to contact our legislators.  Pennsylvania students will begin going back to school in just a month and state lawmakers still have not passed a budget.  Please set aside 10 minutes on Wednesday, July 29 to call your state legislators to tell them that we need them to go back to Harrisburg and put Pennsylvania's children first by passing a budget that begins to solve the school funding crisis.  To find your legislators, follow this link.
We know that just 10 calls in a day to one legislator can make a difference in what he or she does. Please make two phone calls and make a difference for children this year!

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award now open
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

Save the Date for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration will be live soon!

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

1 comment:

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