Monday, October 12, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 12: Judge OKs charter payment cuts for Chester Upland

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 12, 2015
Judge OKs charter payment cuts for Chester Upland

“(Judge) Kenney said he based his findings partly on the fact that Chester Upland lost $25.6 million after Gov. Tom Corbett eliminated reimbursements for charter schools in 2011.”
Judge OKs charter payment cuts for Chester Upland
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, October 10, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Friday, October 9, 2015, 6:11 PM
After months of hearings over the escalating fees that the Chester Upland School District pays to its three main charter schools, a judge Friday agreed the payments should be cut by $20 million, or nearly a third.  But to cover the cuts, he also ordered the state to kick in an extra $20 million in subsidies to the bankrupt district.  Delaware County Court President Judge Chad F. Kenney approved a recently negotiated deal that would slash the amount the district compensates charters for special education students, and wipe out debt owed to the schools. But he said that wasn't enough to eliminate the district's ongoing structural deficit.

Chester Upland, charter schools OK payment deal
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 10/07/15, 9:20 PM EDT
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Attorneys representing cyber charter schools presented arguments Wednesday before President Judge Chad Kenney on why he should deny a plan proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Chester Upland School District that would reduce charter school tuition reimbursements and wipe out debt already owed to the charter schools.  Attorney Brian Leinhauser, who represents several cyber charter schools in the Chester Upland receivership proceedings, said that his clients were not involved in recent negotiations between the district and three brick-and-mortar charter schools to come to an agreeable figure for special education reimbursements.  The district currently pay $40,000 per special education student to the charters and cyber charters Chester Upland students attend. An earlier proposal from the district that was backed by the PDE and Gov. Tom Wolf sought to reduce that figure to $16,000.
In the latest proposed plan, the district, PDE and three charter schools — Chester Community Charter School, Chester Charter School for the Arts, and Widener Partnership Charter School — agreed that $27,000 was amenable to those parties. 

With ongoing tax push, Wolf may torpedo hopes for #PaBudget progress, report
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 12, 2015 at 8:14 AM, updated October 12, 2015 at 8:16 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With his decision to press on with tax hikes to balance the state budget, Gov. Tom Wolf has "disregarded the letter and spirit" of the Legislature's rejection of his tax package and may have torpedoed chances for progress, a newspaper has reported.  Drew Crompton, a top lawyer for Senate Republicans, tells The Philadelphia Inquirerthat he doesn't know "what we would talk about at this point," with the Democratic governor, as Pennsylvania's budget impasse drags well past its 100th day.  "We are not looking for a fight, but philosophically, we are in a much different place than he is,"Crompton told the newspaper over the weekend.  Budget talks - without Wolf - are set to resume this week, days after the state House voted (with Democratic support) to reject a suite of broad-based tax hikes the Democratic administration says are key to getting the state back onto sound fiscal ground after years of patchwork budgeting.

“While that night’s vote did not move legislation toward Gov. Robert P. Casey, who had proposed raising the income tax, the Democratic governor signed a budget bill a month later that raised the 2.1 percent personal income tax to 3.1 percent for a year before dropping it to 2.8 percent.”
Pennsylvania has history of contentious tax-hike efforts
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau October 12, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Back in 1991, the Pennsylvania House held a vote to raise the personal income tax that was not unlike the House vote on Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal last week, except that the one 24 years ago ended with representatives pushing and shoving on the chamber floor.  The problem was not just the fact that only 85 representatives, all Democrats, had voted for the tax increase, though the political vulnerability of having done so may have factored into the reaction when a Republican aide was spotted photographing the board that shows how each member voted.

“Even supporters acknowledge that balancing the budget on a gambling expansion is problematic: It is very difficult to estimate how much actual gambling revenue will materialize.  Case in point: Lawmakers legalized gambling in bars in 2013, using a state government estimate that a 60 percent tax on games of chance would bring in about $150 million a year to the state treasury.  Practically nothing has materialized. It contributed $554,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30 out of $30.6 billion in total tax collections for the state's main bank account.”
Facing a huge deficit, Pennsylvania eyes gambling for help
AP StateWire By MARC LEVY October 12, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania who are resisting tax increases to balance a deep budget deficit are taking steps toward the state's third expansion of gambling in six years as an alternative source of cash.  Lawmakers who support it estimate that an expansion of some sort could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in one-time license fees plus collections from taxing a new stream of gambling profits. It also would keep the state's industry current in a competitive and fast changing environment, supporters say.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, gave gambling expansion a prominent place in his list of priorities. Exploring the possibility should come before lawmakers raise taxes, he said Wednesday after the House defeated a $2.4 billion tax package presented by Gov. Tom Wolf.  "I think we need to have a discussion first on what other revenues are on the table," Reed said. "We need to come to a conclusion on liquor reform. We need to address cost drivers like our pension system. We need to look at gaming options."

“For those scrambling to cover caseloads of more than 1,000 students, the worry is constant. Last week, Giangiordano happened to be at Key Elementary when a second grader went into cardiac arrest.  "She fell over in the classroom; the teacher was calling me frantically. The little girl had no heartbeat when I got there, and I did CPR, and thank God, I got her back," said Giangiordano. "Everybody was so upset, and they just kept saying, 'What if I wasn't there?' "
New this year: Philly schools with no nurses
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, October 12, 2015, 1:07 AM
By now, Philadelphia's beleaguered public schools are accustomed to doing without things that elsewhere are givens: paper, textbooks, cleaning supplies.  But this year, some schools lack a service covering their most basic of needs: a school nurse.  Three Philadelphia School District schools have no nurse coverage at all this year, officials confirmed, not even once a week. A higher number - 16, nurses say - have no regular coverage, but do have a nurse assigned to check on the school if there is a spare moment.

Philly Daily News POSTED: Friday, October 9, 2015, 12:17 AM
BECAUSE OF THE failure of Harrisburg to act on a new state budget, people across the state are beginning to feel the hurt. And it's only going to get worse.  Seventy two cents of every tax dollar sent to Harrisburg gets returned to local governments and school districts. And they cannot operate without regular infusions of state aid.  That aid stopped July 1, when the deadline for a new state budget came and went. Over the summer, as the budget stalemate continued, districts and local agencies found ways to cope. Some borrowed money. Some furloughed workers or cut back on hours.

Letters: District's goofs fall on citizens
Philly Daily News Letter by Helen Gym POSTED: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 12:16 AM
NO ONE IS telling Superintendent William Hite he doesn't have the right to do his job. Part of a superintendent's job is looking at data and engaging with school communities, not doubling down on unproven initiatives.  Converting public schools to charters has raised legitimate concerns from financial analysts and academics as well as communities most affected:
* Three of the seven charter conversion schools started in 2010 were deemed failing and have or will likely see their charters revoked because of poor academic performance.
* Each charter conversion costs the district up to $4,000 more per pupil in "stranded" costs. That's millions of dollars that either can't or won't be spent when a school is under district control. The district has yet to do a full accounting of these costs.
* In 2014, parents at two different schools voted down charter conversions citing a process of reform that was being done to them rather than with their input.

The struggle is a protest against conditions that teachers have been forced to work under the past several years. Decimated state funding has left many city schools with only part-time counselors and nurses and virtually no support personnel. With a protracted standoff between the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the School District, teachers have worked without any raises for three years.
Philly Teachers spent week in work-to-rule protest
Extent and depth of action pits challengers from the Caucus of Working Educators against the leadership of PFT
The notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 10, 2015 11:30 AM
On a normal day, they’d be tutoring.
But when students tried to come into Room 202 at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls on Thursday, during what is usually teacher lunchtime, Pamela Roy and her colleagues waved them away.  It pained them to do it, but all last week teachers at Mifflin and other schools around the city were making a point by “working to rule,” or refusing to do anything beyond what they are required to do by their contract.  So, no helping in the morning when students arrive, or in the afternoon when they leave. No tutoring during their half-hour lunch. No buying paper and supplies. No afterschool clubs.  “We want to bring our struggle to the larger community,” said Roy, who teaches science and writing to 7th and 8th graders. “Usually, there would be 15 to 20 students here with us now.”

Auditor General DePasquale says 561 schools overlooked by PDE
Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 10/10/15, 3:52 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG >> Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his recent performance audits of the Pennsylvania Department of Education show the department did not provide adequate assistance to561 academically challenged schools with 310,000 students enrolled.  On this list are several schools in the Coatesville, Octorara and Oxford school districts. These schools include, in Coatesville Area School District: Caln Elementary, Coatesville Area Senior High, Friendship Elementary, Rainbow Elementary, Reeceville Elementary, Scott Middle School; in Oxford Area School District: Penn’s Grove School and Oxford Area High School; in Octorara Area School District: Octorara Junior High School. The Chester County Technical College High School and the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School are also on the list.  The 89-page audit report, which covers July 1, 2010, through Aug. 1, 2015, includes the results of two performance audits of PDE and 30 recommendations for improvement to address four findings:

Audit reveals 6 Alle-Kiski schools among underperformers
Trib Live By Mary Ann Thomas and Tom Fontaine Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
The state Department of Education failed to provide enough help to 561 academically challenged schools statewide, according to an audit report from state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  
According to the audit, which was released earlier this week, six Alle-Kiski Valley school districts had schools that were among underperformers purported to have been neglected by the state Education Department.

11 low-performing Lancaster County schools 'overlooked' by state, audit finds
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer Ocober 8, 2015 
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Nearly a dozen academically struggling schools in Lancaster County have been “overlooked” by education officials, leaving them without vital help from the state to improve student performance, a new audit found.  The report from State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, identified 561 “academically challenged" schools in Pennsylvania that weren’t receiving targeted assistance to improve student performance.  To remedy the situation, DePasquale recommended the Department of Education initiate direct outreach to schools and rework its internal structure.

PA Cyber Charter School employees to vote on union representation
Trib Live Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, 6:54 p.m.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled that 72 employees at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Beaver County are entitled to decide whether they want to unionize, a filing shows.
The employees include special education teachers and reading specialists at the Midland cyber charter school — Pennsylvania's largest. They will vote whether they want to be represented by PA Cyber Special Education Association, PSEA/NEA.  The filing said the election will be conducted by mail, with ballots sent to employees by Oct. 26. Voters need to return their ballots to the National Labor Relations Board's Pittsburgh office by Nov. 16.  Attorneys for the charter school and the proposed Pennsylvania Cyber Special Education Association did not return messages left early Friday evening.

The Times said these families, and their related entities, have contributed $176 million in the first phase of the 2016 election -- or roughly half the total of donations from the entire nation.”
These 158 super rich American families get to pick your leaders
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch POSTED: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2015, 4:58 PM
It's just too perfect a metaphor.  The Democrats in Vegas. It'll be Sen. Bernie Sanders talking about his vision for democratic socialism in the glitziest monument to unfettered capitalism that mankind has ever created. Then there's Hillary Clinton, who'll be pressed about her private email server and her penchant for secrecy in the city where "what happens here, stays here."   I'm also told there's a person named Lincoln Chafee, who plans to make an issue of the metric system. The whole thing sounds like a giant crap shoot.  Then there's your host for Tuesday night's first-of-the-season Democratic presidential debate, which is promoted every 45 seconds or so by CNN. The two-hour showdown will be held at the Wynn, the palatial hotel and gambling parlor that serves as the imperial capitol for billionaire casino magnate Steve Wynn.

It's About the Money, Stupid
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt October 11, 2015
America is no longer about freedom.  Its not about opportunity.  It's not about a fair deal or a moral center  Its about money.  Who has it.  What it buys them.
What protects it and helps make more for those who already have more than they could spend in 10 lifetimes.  A  perfect fall day was marred yesterday by the intrusion of reality, courtesy of The New York Times.

The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election
They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.  Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

“The billionaires are Eli Broad, the California-based housing and insurance magnate who is now leading an attempt to send half of Los Angeles’s public school students to charter schools, and Alice and Jim Walton, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, who have collectively poured a total of $650,000 into Baton Rouge business magnate Lane Grigsby’s PAC, called Empower Louisiana. According to this post on Louisiana teacher Mercedes Schneider’s Edublog, Jim and Alice Walton each donated $200,000 on Aug. 20, and Broad contributed $250,000 on Sept. 10.”
Why are out-of-state billionaires pouring big money into Louisiana board of education elections?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 9 , 2015
For years now we’ve watched school board races around the country attract a lot of money from donors who don’t actually live in the state where the elections are taking place. For example, in 2012, outsiders poured money into a New Orleans school board race; in 2013, millions of dollars were spent on school board races in Los Angeles, with much of the money coming from people who lived outside California; and in 2014, non-Minnesotans plowed cash into a school board race in that state.  Why? It’s part of an effort by school reformers and their financial backers to elect like-minded public officials to help spur corporate school reform around the country.
And now we have the latest example: A California businessman and a pair of Arkansas billionaires are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into races for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in Louisiana in an effort to help keep its majority friendly to corporate school reform. The election is Oct. 24.

Some Key Education Programs Alive in NCLB Rewrite, But Dead in the Budget
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 12, 2015 8:44 AM
If you care about K-12 education, there are two things you're probably watching in Congress this fall: the federal budget process and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  But, when it comes to some federal programs—including top priorities of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats—these two legislative trains don't seem to be on the same track.  There are a handful of high-profile programs that the Obama administration, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. (the top Democrat on the Senate education committee), and other key Democratic lawmakers pushed to include in a bipartisan Senate bill to reauthorize ESEA.  But those same programs, or others with very similar purposes, get zero dollars in a partisan spending bill approved earlier this year by the Senate appropriations committee. They're also nixed in a House appropriations bill.

PSBA launches an alumni network
Are you a former school director or in your final term? Stay connected through the PSBA Alumni Network. Your interest in public education continues beyond your term of service as a school director. And as a PSBA alumnus, you have years of experience and insight into the workings of public education and school boards. Legislators value your opinions as a former elected official. Take that knowledge and put it to work as a member of the PSBA Alumni Network.
For a nominal yearly fee of $25 a year or $100 for a lifetime membership, you will receive:
  • Electronic access to the PSBA Bulletin, the leading public education magazine in Pennsylvania
  • Access to legislative information pertaining to public education and periodic updates via email.
To join, complete the registration below. For more details or questions, contact Member Engagement Director Karen Devine at or (800) 932-0588, ext. 3322.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  School Play is going on tour!  Click below for more information about tour dates in your county.  All performances are FREE!
School Play, a documentary-based live theatre piece, is here to put school funding center stage. Compiled from a series of interviews, the play premiered in Philadelphia in April, 2015 and is now available for free for performances around the Commonwealth.

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:

Back to School Special Education Seminar October 20th
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Join us on October 20, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our first special education conference of the 2015-2016 school year!
Building on last year’s successful Back to School seminar, this year you will hear about the current state of special education law and engage in dialogue about today’s most pressing matters.
  • Early Intervention
  • Inclusion
  • Assistive Technology
  • General update on the state of special education, both in Philadelphia and nationally
  • HUNE
  • The PEAL Center
  • Sonja Kerr
Our “Know Your Child’s Rights” Special Education workshops aim to educate parents, educators, attorneys and advocates so that they can advocate for the rights of children with disabilities. CLE credit is available for attorneys in Pennsylvania that attend the seminar in person.  Questions? Email or call 267.546.1303.

Registration is open for the 19th Annual Eastern Pennsylvania Special Education Administrators’ Conference on October 21-23rd in Hershey. 
Educators in the field of special education from public, charter and nonpublic schools are invited to attend.  The conference offers rich professional development sessions and exceptional networking opportunities.  Keynote speakers are Shane Burcaw and Jodee Blanco.  Register at

Register Now for the Fifth Annual Arts and Education Symposium Oct. 29th Harrisburg
Thursday, October 29, 2015 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Act 48 Credit is available. The event will be a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about important policy issues and the latest news from the field. The symposium is hosted by EPLC and the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and supported by a generous grant from The Heinz Endowments.

Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

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 <>

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

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