Thursday, August 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 27: Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 27, 2015:
Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?

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

Bogger commentary:
If your public school district receives more in revenue than it spends in a year the excess money goes into the district's fund balance, where it is available for rainy-day emergencies and possibly eliminating or reducing future tax hikes.  School district finances are transparent and available to the public, who pay the bills.

In contrast, and as a backdrop to the financial difficulties playing out in the courts and the press this week, Charter School Management Company, which runs the Chester Community Charter School, has ignored right-to-know requests regarding its finances for several years.  Significant concerns have been raised regarding special education classifications and tuition rates.  Does the tax-paying public have a right to know the scope and extent of profits being taken out of the financially struggling Chester Upland School District via charter tuition payments?

Judge rejects state plan to rescue Chester Upland district and cut charter payments
the notebook By Laura Benshoff for Newsworks on Aug 26, 2015 09:25 AM; Updated | 11:30 a.m.
Delaware County Judge Chad Kenney rejected the key piece of Gov. Wolf's plan to rescue the troubled Chester Upland School District on Tuesday: slashing payments to charter schools for their special education students.  In a 13-page opinion, Kenney wrote that the two days of hearings showed that the state-mandated funding formula sends to Chester charters far more money than they need or use to educate these students.  Nevertheless, he concluded, Wolf's overall plan is "wholly inadequate to restore the school district to financial stability." It would not, he said, prevent a more than $20 million deficit from opening up before the end of this school year. He also noted that the district owes $8.7 million to charter operators, which the state did not include in its calculations.  Charters educate more than half the students in Chester, one of the poorest districts in the state. Charter school payments, especially those for special education students, are the major financial drain on the district, the Wolf administration argued. Chester Upland is running at a $22 million structural deficit, and the reduction in charter payments that the governor proposed would have saved about $24 million.  Kenney did approve three smaller measures included in the proposed recovery plan: an independent forensic audit of the school district, the hiring of a financial turnaround specialist, and a loan forgiveness agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Kenney also rejected Wolf's proposal to reduce payments to cyber charters.

Charter school chief declares victory for children in Chester Upland
Delco Times POSTED: 08/27/15, 6:17 AM EDT | UPDATED: 4 MINS AGO
CHESTER >> A day after a judge ruled against a plan that Chester Upland School District officials believed would have saved the public schools from a financial quagmire, the founder of the state’s largest charter school lauded the decision as a victory for all children.  In an emailed statement Wednesday morning, founder of CSMI, LLC Vahan Gureghian said that the ruling, which denied a proposal to significantly reduce tuition reimbursements to charter schools in Chester Upland, will help keep the charters operating. A little more than half of all students in the district attend charters, with most attending CCCS. CSMI manages the charter school.  “We’re, of course, pleased with Judge Kenney’s decision,” Gureghian wrote in a statement, referring to Delaware County President Judge Chad F. Kenney, who oversees Chester Upland’s receivership proceedings. He ruled on the amended financial recovery plan proposed by Receiver Francis Barnes Tuesday night after two days of testimony.  “The ruling ensures that Chester’s children will be able to return to their classrooms, next month, at the same time that the rest of the students across the Commonwealth will,” Gureghian wrote.

Delco Times Editorial: Is there a solution for Chester Upland?
Delco Times POSTED: 08/26/15, 10:25 PM EDT | UPDATED: 46 SECS AGO
Gov. Tom Wolf had about as much luck with Delaware County President Judge Chad Kenney on a financial recovery plan for the Chester Upland School District as he’s been having with the state Legislature on a new budget for the commonwealth.  In other words, not a lot.  The bucks – and the red ink – don’t stop. Not in Harrisburg, not in Chester Upland either. That does not bode well for the perennially broke district, not the families and students who are trapped in this never-ending financial morass.  After two days of testimony, Judge Kenney late Tuesday night rejected the key cog in the latest financial recovery plan proposed for Chester Upland.  While he gave the green light for a forensic audit of the district’s books and appointment of a financial turnaround specialist, those were just window dressing. The guts of this plan was money, specifically the outrageous amounts Chester Upland reimburses its charter schools for special education students.  Currently the district pays in excess of $40,000 for every special education student enrolled in a charter school. State Budget Director Randy Albright called that number “extraordinary,” one that “bears no resemblance to the actual costs it takes to educate these children.”

2 big questions loom for Chester Upland
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Thursday, August 27, 2015
There are two big questions looming over the Chester Upland School District this morning.
Parents and children have to still be wondering what will happen when - or maybe the correct word is 'if' - schools open next week.  The other is something the district has been dealing with for decades. What is the answer to the district's fiscal woes.  All of this is part of the fallout from this week's court ruling that saw a Delco judge reject the state's attempt to radically reduce charter school reimbursements.  State officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, had made it clear they were not sure if Chester Upland would be able to open without the changes they sought. And even if they did, they warned it was entirely possible the red ink the district is awash in would force them to close the doors before the end of the school year.  The district is looking at a $23 million deficit, one that state officials believe could balloon to $40 million by the end of the school year.  Wolf said he was disappointed in the ruling and is mulling his options at this point in terms of an appeal.

Inky Editorial: Wolf hasn't lost the war
INQUIRER EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2015, 1:08 AM
A Delaware County judge has blocked Gov. Wolf's attempt to apply some common sense to Pennsylvania charter school funding. One lost battle doesn't mean Wolf has lost the war, but if the dismal odds for success in the Republican-controlled legislature were better, he wouldn't have needed to take the case to court.  Wolf wanted to amend the Chester Upland School District's court-ordered financial recovery plan to reduce special-education reimbursements to charter schools from $40,315 per student, which is 50 percent more than the state average, to $16,152. But Judge Chad Kenney said the proposal lacked "meaningful" details justifying the funding reduction.  It's too bad the governor didn't present a stronger case, especially since even some charter proponents admitted that the special-ed reimbursements are too high. Among them was Donald W. Delson, president of the Chester Charter School for the Arts trustee board, though he said his school couldn't survive the cuts Wolf wanted to make.

Wolf school plan creates 'separate and unequal' policy
Inquirer Opinion By Paula Silver POSTED: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015, 1:07 PM
Paula Silver is chairperson of the Widener Partnership Charter School Board of Trustees and dean of the School of Human Service Professions at Widener University
In addressing the decades-long financial crisis facing the Chester Upland School District, Gov. Wolf has insisted that he is committed to educational reform, educational accountability, and fiscal accountability. However, the governor’s proposed recovery plan, rejected in Delaware County court on Tuesday, would have not only served to punish those who have practiced the very ideals to which he ascribes, it would have also created a separate and unequal application of state policy regarding education funding.  The Widener Partnership Charter School in Chester, the state’s first university-based, independent charter school, has a proven record of educational and fiscal accountability. The results of the school’s educational testing compared with district-operated schools, and the results of its annual financial audits, stand as solid evidence that effective, cost-efficient education is achievable in the district.  For too long, charter schools that serve the Chester Upland district have been lumped together and labeled as the key culprit of the district’s financial woes. The fiscal mismanagement in the district existed long before the charter schools. It was a combination of this mismanagement, violence in district-operated schools, substandard facilities, and the poor quality of education that prompted many parents to seek alternative opportunities, such as the Widener Partnership Charter School, at which to educate their children.

STATEMENT: PSBA disappointed with Chester-Upland decision
PSBA Press Release August 26, 2015
 PSBA is discouraged with the decision made by Common Pleas Court Judge Chad F. Kenney to reject the financial recovery plan proposed by the state for the Chester-Upland School District that would implement needed corrections to the overpayments being made to charter schools for special education services. These changes would have paved the way for the school district to end its $22 million deficit and appropriately align the payments being made with district pays to charters for the services actually rendered to students. The plan also would have placed a cap on overpayments to cyber charter schools.  “While this case is unique to the Chester-Upland School District, the fact is that all school districts are impacted by charter and cyber charter schools expenses, and statewide reforms need to be enacted,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “Charter schools continue to rely on emotionally charged rhetoric, ignoring the facts about the impact of the current flawed calculation because it allows them to profit at the expense of school districts and taxpayers.”

PA school choice advocates get a big win in court By Evan Grossman  /   August 26, 2015
School choice advocates won a victory in court this week when a Delaware County judge rejected Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to de-fund charter schools in the cash-strapped Chester Upland School District.  As a means to mend the district’s bleeding budget, Wolf proposed slashing special education funding to Chester Upland charters and other cost-cutting actions. Judge Chad Kenney ruled late Tuesday night Wolf’s proposal to slash $24 million in charter school funding was “wholly inadequate” and found the state’s lawyers offered a flimsy argument for doing so.   “It is certainly an affirmation that the recovery plan submitted was incomplete and was not well researched and ignored a lot of the costs that the district had,” said Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. “It focused purely on charter school costs. Is this a victory for charter schools? Yes.”  Blocking the state from going after charters to achieve cost savings will have a ripple effect across Pennsylvania, especially in larger, fiscally challenged districts like Philadelphia, home to most of the state’s charter schools.

"Parents are — justifiably — fed up with the failings of a district that has for nearly three decades mishandled its finances and offered a subpar education to nearly three generations of students.  Claiming that the “District’s entire structural deficit can be directly attributed to the tuition rates paid by the district for special education students in charter schools …,” the Wolf administration’s new financial recovery plan circumvents Pennsylvania’s lawmaking process by unilaterally dictating charter-school tuition rates at the expense of brick-and-mortar charter school students.  The Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools believes the process being used by the Wolf administration is a back-door way to rewrite Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law by ignoring the 253 members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and shifting the burden of the district’s financial failure to the community’s charter schools."
Letter to the Editor: Don’t blame charter school students for Chester Upland’s financial woes
Delco Times By Tim Eller, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 08/25/15, 9:31 PM EDT 
Tim Eller is Executive Director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools
It should come as no surprise that the Wolf administration is taking an anti-school choice approach as it attempts to “rescue” a failing school district in Delaware County — one that has consistently failed students and families of Chester City, Upland Borough and Chester Township for nearly 25 years.  Long before brick-and-mortar charter schools became an option, Chester Upland School District was — and continues to be — fiscally mismanaged and failing academically, forcing parents to flock to charter schools for a better education for their children.  Since the community’s first charter school opened in 1997, parents have increasingly moved their children from the classrooms of district-run schools to those of charter schools.  In the 2013-14 school year, more than 60 percent of the students who resided in the Chester Upland School District were enrolled in a charter school. Sixty percent! Has anyone asked or ever wondered “Why?” Obviously, something is seriously wrong when 60 percent of students are fleeing the district.

"The poll of more than 600 registered voters performed between Aug. 17 and 24 shows 54 percent hold lawmakers responsible while 29 percent say it's the governor's fault.  That finding came as no surprise to the poll's director G. Terry Madonna given that the governor is emphasizing ideas that previous polls show are favorable with the public – a severance tax on natural gas drillers and more money for schools."
Who's to blame for late state budget: governor or lawmakers?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 27, 2015 at 5:00 AM, updated August 27, 2015 at 5:06 AM
Pennsylvania is still waiting on Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature to finalize a state budget that was due by July 1.  So who's to blame for the late budget?
A Franklin & Marshall College poll released on Thursday finds that more registered voters point the finger at the state Legislature.  The poll of more than 600 registered voters performed between Aug. 17 and 24 shows 54 percent hold lawmakers responsible while 29 percent say it's the governor's fault.  That finding came as no surprise to the poll's director G. Terry Madonna given that the governor is emphasizing ideas that previous polls show are favorable with the public – a severance tax on natural gas drillers and more money for schools.  "The governor is out there nonstop aggressively pushing a popular agenda," he said. "And the governor demands a lot more attention than individual members of the Legislature so that's another reason."

Wolf cancels state budget negotiations, no more talks this week
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2015 at 1:14 PM, updated August 26, 2015 at 1:51 PM
The way Tuesday's state budget negotiations ended left Republican legislative leaders anticipating that when talks resumed on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf would finally give them an answer as to whether he would accept a potentially budget-impasse-breaking offer that the GOP put on table last week.  Instead, Wolf cancelled the 1 p.m. meeting.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed Discusses What He Sees Are The Possible Choices The Governor HasReed, R-Indiana, advises that Gov. Tom Wolf cancelled Wednesday's budget talks when the GOP legislative leaders had hoped to get Wolf's answer to the offer they put on the table last week. They saw their offer of $400 million more in basic educati...  House and Senate GOP leadership said the meeting was not rescheduled but were told it would not take place later this week.  Wolf's spokesman Jeff Sheridan placed the blame for the need for more time on the Republicans. "Republican leaders changed their numbers regarding pension savings three times during yesterday's meeting and cannot provide clarity on the details of their pension reform plan," Sheridan said.    He also made it clear that the House's failed attempts to override 20 budget lines on Tuesday didn't help.

Cancelled budget meeting blasted by House GOP leadership
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Call it cancelled or postponed, Wednesday’s previously scheduled 1:00 p.m. meeting to discuss the state budget and the GOP offered pension-for-basic education funding proposal was nixed by Gov. Tom Wolf just hours before it was supposed to begin.  While Wolf spokesperson Jeff Sheridan in an email to The PLS Reporter said the meeting has been merely postponed, House GOP leaders speaking to the press Wednesday morning said the meeting was cancelled and not expected to be rescheduled anytime this week.  “Certainly, we’re a little bit concerned about that,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana). “The governor has had our proposal for a little over a week, it’s time to get a response to that proposal.”  Rep. Reed said that response could have come in any number of ways, even in the form of a counterproposal.  “The response could even be: ‘We’re not fully supportive of that pension proposal, we have some tweaks we want to make to it, we’re willing to change our education number accordingly’,” he said.
This represents a decided change in tone from last week's take-it-or-leave-it rhetoric by Republicans following the initial proffer of the plan.

"I'm not excusing the suffering some are having to go through or will go through but it's not global and that's what it is obviously going to have to take," Madonna said. "There has to be an imminent pressure that makes them make this deal."  Some say it's when schools are in danger of not being able to open that'll create that kind of pressure.  Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Business Officials Association, said he anticipates school districts will be able to get by for now. But if they miss their state subsidy payment in October, that will leave some in a significant financial bind."
Pa. budget impasse now on Day 57. Does anyone care?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM, updated August 26, 2015 at 6:21 PM
Pennsylvania will end August in the same position it started, with no finalized state budget in place.  After this week's failed attempts to nudge budget negotiations along, prospects of breaking this budget impasse — which entered its 57th day Wednesday —  certainly aren't looking brighter.  But some argue the impact of not having a budget in place has yet to be felt by many Pennsylvanians, which is playing a part in the lack of forward progress.  Just to recap, Gov. Tom Wolf met with legislative leaders on Tuesday and asked for another day to mull over what Republicans put on the table last week and saw as a potential budget-impasse-breaking offer.  That delay contributed to House Republican leaders' decision to proceed that afternoon with holding override votes on 20 lines in the GOP-passed budget that Wolf vetoed in its entirety on June 30. This effort failed.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed Discusses What He Sees Are The Possible Choices The Governor HasReed, R-Indiana, advises that Gov. Tom Wolf cancelled Wednesday's budget talks when the GOP legislative leaders had hoped to get Wolf's answer to the offer they put on the table last week. They saw their offer of $400 million more in basic education funding in exchange for pension reform as having the potential of bringing an end to the 57-day budget impasse if the governor accepted it.  GOP leaders went into Wednesday expecting to get an answer on their offer from Wolf.The governor cancelled the meeting and left it up in the air when they would meet again. 

"Our leaders in Harrisburg need to reach a compromise that funds Pennsylvania schools adequately and fairly, that reforms Pennsylvania’s underfunded pension systems, and that gets the state out of the liquor business.  Given that there should be savings on pensions and revenue from selling off the state liquor stores, moving the ball on education funding should not be that heavy a lift.
Call your lawmakers and tell them that their message to their leaders should be to reach a compromise. Call the governor’s office and tell him to do the same."
Tell them: Eight weeks late is long enough. Get back to work. Stay in the room until a deal is reached. Then, and only then, take off for Labor Day.
LNP Editorial: Hey 'leaders:' Get a Pennsylvania budget done
Lancaster Online Editorial The LNP Editorial Board
THE ISSUE: Pennsylvania has gone eight weeks without a budget. The state’s resulting failure to pay $11 million in reimbursements for state-mandated programs since July 1 led to an emergency meeting Wednesday of the Lancaster County Salary Board. Seeking to preserve funds while Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders continue to be at odds, the board adopted a hiring freeze for noncritical positions. It also discussed more drastic actions affecting county employees if the stalemate continues, including furloughs and four-day workweeks for some.
The standoff in Harrisburg has gone on long enough.
Faced with what he considers a lack of clarity on the savings the GOP’s pension proposal will produce, the governor on Wednesday  indefinitely postponed a budget negotiation with Republican legislative leaders.  Republican leaders — including House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler of Peach Bottom — say the governor had a week to review the proposal. Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan says Republicans gave conflicting answers on the savings — questions he expected them to be able to answer about their own proposal. Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher says the savings are about $10 million, and the Senate GOP has offered confirmation of that number from four actuaries.  One would like to be in the room to hear how these negotiations are going. The hope from outside is that the talks are going better than the two sides’ public rhetoric would suggest.

Quinn bill would keep needy schools off hook during budget impasse
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, Staff writer Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:15 pm
Should the state budget stalemate continue into the fall, school districts without deep capital reserves may need to take out loans to pay bills.  New legislation in Harrisburg would prevent districts most in need from having taxpayers foot the bill for the fees and interest payments associated with the loans.  The measure — House Bill 1487 — sponsored by state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-143, Doylestown, would help counties and municipalities as well as the districts.  It would amend the fiscal code to provide the Treasury Department with the authority to make credit available to schools and human services provided by counties.  "This would prevent the interruption of critical program services," Quinn said. "Politics shouldn't come into play when it regards funding education and human services."

Mastery charter grows its network with North Philly 'turnaround of a turnaround'
Scholar Academies operates one the highest-performing charter schools in Philadelphia, Young Scholars Charter School.  So when the school district gave the organization the keys to one of its own chronically struggling schools in 2010 through the renaissance initiative, it expected to see significant improvement.  But five years after the transfer, the school has changed hands once again.  After being operated by Scholar Academies for five years, Frederick Douglass Elementary School in North Philadelphia opened anew Wednesday as one of Mastery Charter's growing portfolio of schools.  "We think that the school was doing OK, but it needs to get a lot better," said Courtney Collins-Shapiro, Mastery's chief innovation officer.  While most charters take in students through lotteries that draw students from all over the city, the "renaissance" distinction means the schools are neighborhood schools that must serve all students within certain boundaries.  Since 2010, the district has handed 20 of its schools to charter operators through this process. While some have seen gains on state tests, Mastery has had the most success in maintaining growth.

Bad News for Testing Advocates
It only gets worse for testing advocates, who cannot seem to get out of their own way.  First we learned that 20% of 3rd-8th grade students in New York State opted out of the state testing this Spring, and now two national polls show that even more than 20% of adults approve of opting out.   Bear in mind that current federal law requires that 95% of students be tested. Districts where more than 5% of students opt out can be punished.
The annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll reports that 41% approve, while a poll conducted by EdNext puts the figure at 25%. Some who oppose opting out are spinning this as a defeat for the protestors because more oppose opting out than support it, but that’s just plain silly because of the fed’s 95% rule.  Both 25% and 41% are a long long long long way from 5%.
What’s even more revealing is how tone deaf the testing advocates seem to be.  Saying stuff like “Yes, perhaps there are too many tests, but these tests are important so please don’t skip them,”  That’s not leadership. Strong leaders would be taking steps to reduce the number of tests and suggesting alternatives ways of assessing.  Other so-called leaders are issuing vague threats against parents and educators who support opting out, which is never a good idea.

K12, Inc. has been the management company running Pennsylvania's Agora Cyber Charter.  Beginning July 2015 Agora is reportedly moving to self-managing.
K12 has historically received about 13 percent of its revenue from Agora.
Agora's SPP scores for 2013 and 2014 were 48.3 and 42.4; a score of 70 is considered passing by PDE
Executive Salaries at K12, Inc.
Diane Ravitch's BLog By dianeravitch August 26, 2015 //
While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.  Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.
The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.
The former CEO made $4 million.
The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.
The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.
The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.
The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.
Numbers are rounded.
Remember: It is all about the kids.

Big Hype, Hard Fall for News Corp.'s $1 Billion Ed-Tech Venture
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: August 25, 2015
The global media giant News Corp. sought to push its way into the K-12 marketplace five years ago by betting big on technology.  Now, despite a $1 billion investment and a steady stream of brash promises to radically disrupt the way public schools do business, the company's education division, known as Amplify, is deeply in the red and on the auction block.  Veteran observers of the fickle K-12 ed-tech market say they aren't surprised.  "There's a long history of education entrepreneurs who have crashed on the rocks because the market was not what they thought it would be," said Douglas A. Levin, a consultant on the ed-tech market and the recent head of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.  Earlier this month, it became clear that the highly publicized venture had become a financial albatross. When News Corp. announced that it would write off the education division's $371 million in losses over the past year and look to sell off Amplify, investors cheered, sending the parent company's share price up 7.5 percent, to $14.89.

Top K-12 Education Policy People on Social Media 2015
As I foreshadowed last week, it’s time for my annual list of top Twitter handles in education policy. (Last year’s ishere.) Today we’ll look at the rankings for top people; later this week we’ll release the results for top organizations and media outlets.  We tried to be much more inclusive this year in terms of the universe of folks included in our analysis, asking the edu-sphere to nominate people and organizations to examine. You came through in a big way; in the end we looked at almost 500 Twitter handles. (The whole list is here.) However, a couple of the same caveats remain from previous years: We wanted to limit the finalists to those who tweet primarily about K-12 education policy, and not education technology, higher education, parenting, or other related topics. And sometimes that meant making tough judgement calls. (More on that below.)
So without further ado, here are the top education policy people on social media, as measured by Klout scores(which looks at Twitter, Facebook, and several other platforms):

The Melting of Mark Zuckerberg’s Donation to Newark Schools
New York Times By JONATHAN A. KNEE AUG. 26, 2015
The national debate over how to best educate our children is usually undertaken at a high level of abstraction. Constructive dialogue is often hampered by intense philosophical preconceptions that drive the perceptions and characterizations of all key players in the underlying drama: union leaders, charter operators, philanthropists, school administrators, politicians and teachers. The great strength of Dale Russakoff’s heartbreaking and disheartening book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) is its steadfast insistence on avoiding generalities and explaining realities.  In place of the cardboard figures that often dominate education narratives, Ms. Russakoff provides nuanced portraits of flawed but largely well-meaning human beings. It is not just sticking to the facts and the avoidance of taking sides that makes “The Prize” such a moving and thought-provoking book. It is the painstaking specificity with which she describes the lives of those strangely absent from many more ideological tracts: the children.  Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark public schools in 2010 provided the perfect canvas on which to examine a failing urban school district. Although not an education expert as such, Ms. Russakoff’s long tenure in The Washington Post’s New York bureau earned her access to all of the protagonists in the unfolding tragedy. Many may question their decision to be quite so open after reading “The Prize,” whose only heroes are individual teachers and principals working with particular children and their families to occasionally overcome breathtaking odds.  Watching the $200 million iceberg (Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation was contingent on raising a matching amount) slowly melt into an ocean of recrimination over the course of 256 brisk pages can be a sometimes painful exercise.

Save the Date: Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging at the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day — your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and then plan to meet with your elected officials from 1-3 p.m., scheduled by PSBA . There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online, which will be available in the next few days. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award close Aug. 28th
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

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openAug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now 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 is live at:

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.

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