Sunday, November 1, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 1: Study on online charter schools: ‘It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year’

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup November 1, 2015:
Study on online charter schools: ‘It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year’

School Funding Lawsuit: Why Tuesday’s PA Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial
The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution

Pennsylvania Supreme Court election will change course of history
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, 5:47 p.m.
Pennsylvanians will change the course of state history on Tuesday when they elect three new members to the state's highest court.  Yet despite the power of that body, despite a historic high of three open seats and despite record campaign contributions, judicial elections typically produce low-information, low-profile races.  “We have possibly the most important election in the state during a year where most voters don't even bother to come out to vote, let alone pay attention,” said Jeff Brauer, political science professor at Keystone College in Lackawanna County.  In Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, elections officials anticipate turnouts of 28 percent and 32 percent, respectively. In last year's gubernatorial contest, turnout was 41 percent and 45 percent.

Election 2015: State Supreme Court key race in low-turnout year
Tuesday's vote will fill spots in appeals and county courts, plus a hotly contested seat in state Senate
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 1, 2015 12:00 AM
The stakes for the Nov. 3 election are potentially historic. The turnout is likely to be anything but.  Allegheny County Elections manager Mark Wolosik said he expects turnout of around 28 percent on Tuesday. The Department of State doesn’t make such projections statewide, but similar elections in 2011 and 2007 drew just under 26 percent of voters across Pennsylvania.  But those who do show up may have an outsize role in shaping the state’s future, largely because for the first time since the days of William Penn, there are three seats open on the state’s Supreme Court. Who voters pick to fill those seats could give either Democrats or Republicans as much as a 5-2 advantage on the seven-member panel. That could have lasting implications for how state laws are interpreted, and for who is writing them years from now: The court plays a key role in drawing the lines of state legislative districts after each census.

Editorial: Can’t take it anymore? Vote!
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 10/31/15, 8:55 PM EDT
124 days.
That is how long Pennsylvania has been adrift — sort of like that blimp that meandered across the center of the state Wednesday — in fiscal limbo. The state Constitution mandates a new spending plan be in place July 1. Try not to snicker. School districts are now borrowing money to stay afloat. Social service agencies are curtailing services.  Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned and won the governor’s mansion on a platform of increased education funding, restoring the cuts enacted during the four years of his predecessor, Tom Corbett. The Democrat readily admitted he would need new revenue — hence new taxes or increased levies — to achieve his goal. And he still crushed the Republican incumbent at the polls.  Unfortunately, at the same time, voters were delivering even bigger majorities to Republicans in both the state House and Senate. The GOP is not terribly interested in increasing taxes. Especially the hikes in the income and sales taxes proposed by the governor. They want to privatize the sale of liquor in the state, as well as reforming the state’s two large public employee pension funds, which are currently swimming in red ink.  Gov. Corbett also placed those two issues at the top of his agenda. But the Republican governor couldn’t convince those in his own party to stand with him.

Ballot question: Will Pa. voters show up?
Hillary and Marco, Bernie and Donald, and the 2016 presidential race already may be on voters' minds, but first Pennsylvanians have decisions to make in the 2015 elections.  If patterns hold, only about 25 percent of them will cast ballots Tuesday. Along with county judges, prosecutors, commissioners, and other officials, they will choose an unprecedented number of Supreme Court justices.

Dems hope to claim all 3 open seats on state's highest court
AP State Wire By PETER JACKSON October 31, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - For the Republicans running for three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Tuesday's election has to be daunting.  Of the $10.5 million in campaign contributions reported by the seven candidates through Monday, more than three-quarters flowed to the Democrats.  And in a campaign in which paid media plays a key role in defining the candidates, TV ads supporting the Democrats were airing more than twice as often as pro-GOP ads through Monday, based on an analysis by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity of commercials sponsored by the candidates and two outside political committees on opposite sides in the race.  Politically, the election is important because of the unprecedented number of openings on the seven-seat court, the result of resignations by two disgraced justices and the retirement of a third.

State budget impasse enters fifth month but signs of progress reported
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on October 30, 2015 at 6:31 PM, updated October 30, 2015 at 9:17 PM
Pennsylvania is about to begin its fifth month without an enacted state budget.   House and Senate Republican leaders and their staffs both reported signs of progress being made as they continue to try to come up with a compromise proposal to present to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that addresses his and their priorities.  But Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said it continues to be a slow-go. The GOP leaders and staff talks are still focusing on the framework of a budget deal that tries to establish the spending needs for this year as well as next, he said.  "Once we get that, we can sort of get down and have more specific discussions on what revenue raising we need, if any," Corman said.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, sent an email to House Republicans on Thursday indicating reaching agreement on a budget framework may be the easy part. "The details are much harder to nail down," he said.

Centennial School District eyes lawsuit against PA lawmakers
By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2015 6:00 am
The Centennial School District is seeking to sue Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and possibly the Legislature, for the interest income the state is accruing by withholding the district's subsidy.  The school board has asked its solicitor, the Levin Legal Group, to look into the legality of taking a sitting governor and General Assembly to court.  "Every month we sit here and lament over the fact that we don't have a budget from the state," director Michael Hartline said at last week's board meeting. "We pass proclamation after proclamation, none of which have any teeth or do any good."  He then called for the board "to move this up to another level. ... Usually when a judge orders you to do something, that usually has some teeth."  As Pennsylvania moves into its fifth month without a budget, school districts are not receiving any money from the state. The Republican-led Legislature passed a budget that was vetoed by Wolf, a Democrat. In late September, Wolf vetoed a stop-gap spending plan that would have provided districts with four months of funding and the release of federal money.  So far, no district in Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties has needed to borrow money because of the lack of state funding. But the Bucks County Intermediate Unit has "done the paperwork" to apply for a $25 million loan, said Hartline, president of the BCIU executive board.

Pa. Budget Impasse Affects School and County Funding
WGRZ by Ron Plants,12:27 a.m. EDT November 1, 2015
Delayed Funding for Schools and Counties in Penna. Budget Deadlock
McKean County, Pa. - For the past few years New York has been able to pass an on-time state budget thereby reversing years of late state budgets in Albany. But now our neighboring state of Penna. has gone four months without a budget agreement. And that's taking a toll on schools and county government.  Classes are still in session at the Otto - Eldred School District in Penna. But the district's $11 million dollar budget is running thin as 80 percent of its funding from both state and federal sources is locked up in Harrisburg. That is because the Republican majority state legislature and the Democratic Governor Tom Wolf are still wrangling over over Penna's state budget and revenue sources like taxes and natural gas well fracking. The financial impasse is now heading into its fifth month and forcing school districts to take drastic steps to stay open.

Let's face it, standardized testing has failed our students: Jerry Oleksiak
PennLive Op-Ed  By Jerry Oleksiak on October 30, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Jerry Oleksiak, a former special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District, is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. 
Students are frustrated. Parents are concerned. Educators are calling for change. Finally, our elected leaders are starting to listen.   Finally, we have a chance to change the heavy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing in our schools.  Just last week, the Obama administration said that the obsession with standardized tests has gone too far, and announced that it wants to revisit this policy and cap the amount of time public school students spend taking standardized tests.   This is great news for our students and our schools.  Today in our schools, some students will take 112 standardized tests between kindergarten and graduation. One-hundred-twelve.

Why Philadelphia needs a 'Citizens' Commission for Education'
the notebook Commentary By Susan Gobreski on Oct 30, 2015 03:00 PM
We need a better mechanism for authentic public participation in the governance of the state-controlled School District of Philadelphia.  Education Voters has launched a new effort calling for the creation of a “Citizens’ Commission for Education” in Philadelphia.
Our current structure is inadequate. “We the people” really don’t have a way to ask questions about what is going on with schools. We can go to School Reform Commission meetings and make comments or ask questions, but that is all – speakers have no certainty of a response.  A formal committee convened by City Council could be a space where hearings can be held, issues can be explored, and questions can be asked with some expectation of an answer. Such an entity could help give citizens a way to explore how public education is functioning, how it is being run and whether it is meeting community needs. It could give them a way to talk about issues, even if the SRC or District administration is not talking about them.

Education Plus Cyber wants to open a regular Philly charter
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, October 31, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 5:42 PM
A cyber school that got into hot water with the state Department of Education for operating more like a regular charter than an online school said it plans to apply to open a traditional charter school in Philadelphia next fall.  Nicholas Torres, chief executive of the Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School, which focuses on students with learning needs, confirmed Friday that Education Plus wants to operate a brick-and-mortar charter in the district. He said the company would submit its application before the School Reform Commission's Nov. 15 deadline.  Education Plus is negotiating with the state to continue running its program, which blends online learning with classroom instruction at eight student learning and tutoring centers, he said.

York homeless students could get help
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com2:31 p.m. EDT October 30, 2015
KaShanda Jones-Wright beams when she says her 12-year-old made the honor roll. She marvels that he learned some Latin at a summer program at Millersville University, which he was able to attend because he's doing well at McKinley K-8 School in York.  Jones-Wright makes sure her three kids, ages 11, 12, and 15, get to school every day. And they're progressing in York City schools, she said. But she worries about being able to keep them there.  She has several part-time jobs, but not a steady income. She has a place to stay, but not a permanent home. She wants stability for her family, but one problem seems to lead to another.  She feels like she's drowning, spinning.  "I'm still grabbing at strings, trying to tie them all together," she said.
She believes the first step is finding a place to live.
Jones-Wright isn't alone in the York City School District, which has a high rate of students who are homeless or transient -- who frequently move from place to place and therefore school to school. But a project in the works in York aims to help those families make sure their children have a place to stay during the week. Work is in the early stages, but organizers hope to have a pilot program running for the next school year.

Study on online charter schools: ‘It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 31 at 12:10 PM  
A new study on the effectiveness of online charter schools is  nothing short of damning — even though it was at least partly funded by a private pro-charter  foundation. It effectively says that the average student who attends might as well not enroll.  The study was done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as CREDO, and located at Stanford University, in collaboration with the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and Mathematica Policy Research. CREDO’s founding director, Margaret Raymond, served as project director. CREDO receives funding from the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation, which provided support for the new research.

"Rob Reich, a political-science professor at Stanford who is also a co-director of the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, notes that the tax deduction that comes with a billionaire’s grant to charter schools is essentially money that won’t be spent on public schools, calling Silicon Valley largess “an exercise of power that is unaccountable, nontransparent and tax-subsidized.”
Silicon Valley’s New Philanthropy
New York Times By ALESSANDRA STANLEY OCT. 31, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO — THE enduring credo of Silicon Valley is that innovation, not money, is its guiding purpose and that world-changing technology is its true measure of worth.
Wealth is treated as a pleasant byproduct, a bit like weight loss after rugged adventure travel.  The tech world is home to some of the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and most dynamic philanthropists, 21st-century heirs to Carnegie and Rockefeller who say they can apply the same ingenuity and zeal that made them rich to making the rest of the world less poor. San Francisco also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the nation, with the wealth distortion most concentrated among the very people who are driving the economy as a whole.

Blogger note: So what does it mean to be a "public" school, funded by public tax dollars?
The real moral duty of charter schools: The goal should be to create orderly and challenging environments where strivers from poor families can learn
BY MICHAEL J. PETRILLI NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Friday, October 30, 2015, 4:11 PM
  • Does she need to serve every single child?
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is crowing about the allegations that Eva Moskowitz’ Success Academies charter schools regularly suspend or counsel out disruptive students. “Eva touts Success Academy’s ‘equity’ and record,” Weingarten tweeted, “while blasting public education. Now we learn her secret — pushing kids out.”  What makes this sort of demagoguery more disappointing than usual is the nature of the issue at hand. As Weingarten’s own members know all too well, classroom disruption is a major problem. In a Public Agenda survey, 85% of public school teachers said that the experience of most students suffers because of a few chronic offenders.  Addressing this challenge — enabling serious learners to learn, without denying serial disrupters opportunities to resume learning — takes smarts (finding better approaches to school discipline) and guts (making some hard choices). Unfortunately, today’s shrill debates are encouraging little of either.

2016-20: The Waltons Set Out to Promote “Choice Ecosystems”
deutch29 Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog October 29, 2015
In September 2015, Jim and Alice Walton contributed a combined $400,000 to a Louisiana PAC in order to influence the October 2015 Louisiana state board of education election.
The Waltons have an eye on Louisiana, and it has to do with school choice in New Orleans. As of 2014, almost all public schools in New Orleans are charter schools, with 100 percent of the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) operating charter schools. (RSD currently has 63 schools.)  It seems that from 2016 to 2020, the Waltons plan to particularly expand their presence in New Orleans (and DC and Denver). They have a new plan for school choice, as noted in this October 2015 Grantmakers for Education report.  Here are excerpts from the Walton report, including what they supposedly learned on their way to buying what they want.

Hillsborough schools to shelve Gates-funded system that cost millions to develop
Tampa Bay Times by Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer Thursday, October 29, 2015 2:10pm
TAMPA — After six years of effort, high hopes and more than $180 million spent, the Hillsborough County school system is unraveling the teacher evaluation system it developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The news came in an email this week from superintendent Jeff Eakins to more than 260 "peer evaluators" and mentors who form the core of the system.  It also arrived as the once-cordial relationship between the district and its teachers union imploded Thursday. The two sides walked away from each other in anger as talks over a salary agreement for the current school year broke down.  Eakins announced in his email he has formed a committee to transition away from the once-touted Gates program, and said a number of employee groups would be on the panel.  Unlike the complex system of evaluations and teacher encouragement that cost more than $100 million to develop and would have cost an estimated $52 million a year to sustain, Hillsborough will likely move to a structure that has the strongest teachers helping others at their schools.

"The movement has founded hundreds of charter schools across the United States and around the world"
Turkish faith movement secretly funded 200 trips for lawmakers and staff
Paul Singer and Paulina Firozi, USA Today 7:10 p.m. EDT October 29, 2015
WASHINGTON — A Turkish religious movement has secretly funded as many as 200 trips to Turkey for members of Congress and staff since 2008, apparently repeatedly violating House rules and possibly federal law, a USA TODAY investigation has found.
The group — a worldwide moderate Islamic movement led by a religious scholar named Fethullah Gülen — has been accused by the Turkish government of attempting a coup in that country. Turkish leaders have asked the United States to extradite Gülen from the remote compound in rural Pennsylvania where he has lived for 20 years.
The movement has founded hundreds of charter schools across the United States and around the world, has its own media organizations, and was deeply entrenched with the Turkish regime until a falling out two years ago. That led President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare Gülen was running "a parallel state" inside the country with the intent of undermining the government. In advance of Turkish elections this weekend, police raided the offices of Gülen affiliated-media organizations..

120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric
The FBI is investigating a group of educators who are followers of a mysterious Islamic movement. But the problems seem less related to faith than to the oversight of charter schools.
The Atlantic by SCOTT BEAUCHAMP  AUG 12, 2014
It reads like something out of a John Le Carre novel: The charismatic Sunni imam Fethullah Gülen, leader of a politically powerful Turkish religious movementlikened by The Guardian to an “Islamic Opus Dei,” occasionally webcasts sermons from self-imposed exile in the Poconos while his organization quickly grows to head the largest chain of charter schools in America. It might sound quite foreboding—and it should, but not for the reasons you might think.  You can be excused if you’ve never heard of Fethullah Gülen or his eponymous movement. He isn’t known for his openness, despite the size of his organization, which is rumored to have between 1 and 8 million adherents. It’s difficult to estimate the depth of its bench, however, without an official roster of membership. Known informally in Turkey as Hizmet, or “the service”, the Gülen movement prides itself on being a pacifist, internationalist, modern, and moderate alternative to more extreme derivations of Sunni Islam. The group does emphasize the importance of interfaith dialogue, education, and a kind of cosmopolitanism. One prominent sociologist described it as “the world’s most global movement.”

Job Announcement – Publisher, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Application deadline is now November 7th
Founded in 1994, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news organization serving thousands of readers who strive for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public education system. A pioneering resource and voice for the parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community, the Notebook is Philadelphia’s go-to source for news, information, and conversation about its public schools. With six annual print editions and a website updated daily with news and commentary, the Notebook is among the few resources of its kind in the U.S.

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

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 <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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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