Sunday, July 10, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 10, 2016: 25 Reasons to Vote NO on PA #HB530 Charter School Reform

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 10, 2016:
25 Reasons to Vote NO on PA #HB530 Charter School Reform

Long, slow climb to hit 1000 Keystone State Education Coalition followers on twitter  - 1000 folks who are interested enough in PA ED Policy that they haven't un-followed.  Thanks!!!
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Call your State Rep’s office and urge them to oppose HB530
25 Reasons to Vote NO on PA #HB530 Charter School Reform
Keystone State Education Coalition Commentary July 10, 2016
The Pennsylvania House may vote on House Bill 530 as early as Sunday evening.  Please reach out to your State Representative and urge them to vote NO on this legislation.
Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter school tuition bills annually in addition to funding all of the state’s traditional public schools.  The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain.  In 2011 the charter reimbursement: line was eliminated from the state budget.  It used to provide state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

EdVotersPA Update on HB 530 & still no revenue to fund the PA budget
Education Voters PA Posted on July 6, 2016 by EDVOPA
Thanks to the very significant efforts of education advocates who contacted lawmakers with concerns, HB 530 (the harmful charter school legislation) has not gone up for a final vote in the House (yet). We are continuing to monitor HB 530 and other school code legislation and will alert you if we learn that a vote is imminent on HB 530 or other school code legislation.
This is a tricky time in Harrisburg, when lawmakers may try to move controversial legislation as they finalize a budget and think no one is paying attention.  Please be ready to make a phone call or send an email if lawmakers move this bill. The House will be in session on Sunday night. Your actions make an enormous difference and hold lawmakers accountable for their votes!

Bill Analysis: Key provisions of House Bill 530 as amended by the House Rules Committee, June 28-30, 2016
PSBA website July 1, 2016

Pennsylvania legislators to return Sunday to try to fund budget
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis / Harrisburg Bureau July 9, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — The House of Representatives will return to the Capitol on Sunday, even though budget negotiations have dragged on without agreement on how to pay for the $31.5 billion spending plan the Legislature approved last month.  It was not clear late last week what the House planned to vote on when it convenes at 4 p.m. Steve Miskin, spokesman for the GOP-controlled chamber, said Friday he anticipates there will be floor votes on bills, albeit ones not necessarily related to the budget.  “Do we have an agreement at this moment? No,” Mr. Miskin said Friday. “… But we are working to get there.”  At issue is how to pay for the $31.5 billion budget proposal the Legislature sent to Gov. Tom Wolf on June 30, the last day before the start of the new fiscal year. House Republicans have proposed raising about $1 billion from gambling expansion, allowing some private retailers to sell wine, new taxes on tobacco products and instituting a tax amnesty program.

Deal or no deal? That is the question as Pa. lawmakers try to complete state budget work
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 09, 2016 at 8:15 AM, updated July 09, 2016 at 11:13 AM
It's NFL hours for the Pennsylvania House members this weekend, as lawmakers get to work Sunday afternoon to see whether they can finalize a divided government budget somewhere in the neighborhood of "on time."  The state's new fiscal year began July 1.  The Republican-controlled General Assembly actually sent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf a $31.5 billion spending plan that day. Building the $1.3 billion tax and revenue package needed to bring it into balance has been slower.  That's where this weekend's work come in.  By Monday night, the 10-day clock Wolf gets to consider the budget runs out, meaning the governor will have to either sign the budget, veto it, or use his line-item veto powers to cut enough funding to satisfy him that the plan is in balance.  Here's a look at the essential questions facing your lawmakers as they set to reconvene.

Wolf budget decision looms amid stalemate over taxes
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY Published: July 9, 2016
Pennsylvania's 2016-17 fiscal year is in its second week with no spending bill having been enacted and no agreement over how to raise the revenues necessary to fund it. This stalemate has emerged after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's first effort to get a budget resulted in a record-breaking impasse that took nearly 10 months to resolve.  The National Association of State Budget Officers says Pennsylvania is the only state without an enacted budget for part or all of the new fiscal year. On Tuesday, credit ratings agency Moody's warned that another ratings downgrade is possible if Pennsylvania doesn't get its spending in line with its tax collections.
Where things stand:

Editorial: Budget work not done in Harrisburg
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 07/09/16, 11:59 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Make a new education funding formula permanent? Check!
Increase funding for education? Check!
Buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket? Check!
At least attempt to start the process of tackling the massive deficit in public pensions? Check.
Pay for it all? Uh, not so fast.
Maybe Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature just couldn’t help themselves.
Last year both sides dug in their heels and dragged the state through a torturous nine-month budget standoff that hurt people, created cuts in social services, and made the state something of a national joke.  This year, amid a much more positive atmosphere in Harrisburg, they did what many doubted they could. They delivered an on-time budget that did not increase the state’s personal income or sales taxes.  But their work is not done.
Now they have to figure out a way to pay for it.

State budget process abnormality now normal
Times Tribune BY ROBERT SWIFT / PUBLISHED: JULY 10, 2016
HARRISBURG — It’s a receding memory now, but 2008 was the last year when Pennsylvanians saw a “normal” end to the state budget process.  The finale that year came several months before the spectacular financial collapse that triggered the Great Recession.  The 2008 budget was adopted several days after the June 30 deadline on the Fourth of July, but it came with a spending and revenue package tied together with a nice bright ribbon on Gov. Ed Rendell’s desk. School districts, county governments and nonprofits had a reasonable expectation of what they would receive in state aid in 2008 as they prepared their own budgets.  Since 2008, there’s been something unusual or just plain weird about every annual state budget enacted in Harrisburg.

Cyber school tuition criticized as unfair
New Castle News By John Finnerty CNHI State Reporter July 8, 2016
HARRISBURG — A festering dispute over the state's 13 cyber schools, their funding and students' sagging test scores is reigniting in Harrisburg.  A proposal tacked onto an annual education budget bill alters the formula for how much local school districts pay to the virtual campuses, and how online schools are managed.  Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland County, said he is calling for "sensible changes" to the funding of cyber schools. That includes allowing schools to deduct the costs of collecting taxes and providing library services.  They are part of a broader update he proposes to the law governing charter schools.  The bill also creates a panel to determine if there's a better way to calculate how much school districts pay in cyber charter tuition. The plan includes a host of other rules for bookkeeping, ethics, and oversight of charters, as well.  Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charters enroll 36,000 students. Collectively they represent the second-largest school district in the state, behind Philadelphia's.  The online schools are far more popular in Pennsylvania than elsewhere. While cyber schools are legal in 35 states, those in Pennsylvania, Ohio and California account for more than half of the enrollment of virtual schools in the United States.

Education funding outpaced by prison spending in Pa. and N.J.
Federal researchers note that two-thirds of state prison inmates in the U.S. did not graduate from high school
Pennsylvania and New Jersey each are spending less on higher education than they are on prisons, according to a study published by the U.S. Department of Education.  This is emblematic of a trend in most states across the country, federal researchers say, and not just when comparing the money appropriated for prisons to money budgeted for public state colleges.  Statistics show that during the last 30 years, state and local government expenditures for corrections has skyrocketed three times as fast as money spent on elementary and secondary education.  A person with less education is more likely to end up in prison. Researchers note that two-thirds of state prison inmates in the U.S. did not graduate from high school, and they estimate that a 10-percent increase in high school graduation rates could lead to a 9 percent decline in the country's arrest rate.

Pittsburgh schools are making progress
The new superintendent, Anthony Hamlet, should build on data-proven initiatives to improve student performance
Post Gazette Letter By John Engberg July 10, 2016 12:00 AM
John Engberg is a senior economist at RAND Corp. and a resident of the North Side.
Pittsburgh has a long tradition of community involvement in the public schools. Our new superintendent, Anthony Hamlet, will get lots of advice as he starts his job. That’s good. He has a very big job ahead of him, nurturing a district that has made great strides recently but still has a long way to go.  I know this because, as a Pittsburgh Public Schools parent and an education policy researcher, I have looked carefully at the evidence about how well the district is doing and what is really helping students achieve and succeed.  I have been a PPS father for 20 years, and I likely will be one for seven more, when my youngest child is expected to graduate high school. I’m also a close observer of PPS because, in my job with the nonprofit RAND Corp., I’ve traveled around the country and around the world working with school systems as they figure out what’s wrong, what works and what doesn’t work.  My colleagues and I, many of us Pittsburgh residents and PPS parents, have worked with the past four PPS superintendents and countless central office staff, school leaders and teachers to diagnose problems, design solutions and help implement and evaluate the resulting policies and programs.  We found that, in 2004, African-American students were half as likely to score well on state 

“Stepanoff voted for his district’s 2.4 percent tax increase. He said pension costs, prevailing wage and other unfunded mandates essentially force districts to raise taxes. If not for those mandated requirements, he said the arguments over school funding each year wouldn’t need to happen.   “School districts would not need any more money from the state if they would just fix those things,” Stepanoff said.
…“It’s like Groundhog Day until the state finally has the courage to address the problem and do what it needs to do.”  The Palisades School District’s 2016-17 spending plan illustrates Stepanoff’s point. The Upper Bucks district is increasing spending $321,723 next year, or 0.76 percent. But retirement costs are going up $800,000, meaning the district has essentially cut nearly $500,000 from its previous budget.”
Most Bucks, Montgomery taxpayers will dig deeper to fund school budgets
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2016 5:30 am
Budgets passed in June by school boards in all of Bucks and parts of Montgomery County will spend more than $2.5 billion in 2016-17.  Many of the local boards followed Act 1, the state’s property tax law, and raised the levy by the allowable 2.4 percent — some went higher, some lower — but the result is approximately $60 million more coming out of the pockets of area property owners.  “The Act 1 index favors school districts and not taxpayers,” said Paul Stepanoff, president of the Quakertown Community school board. “It’s supposed to be an inflationary increase, but it’s about twice the rate of inflation and will continue to be. Even when school boards discipline themselves and act within Act 1, it’s still hurting the taxpayer.”

Big tax hike for property owners in Unionville
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News POSTED: 07/09/16, 5:58 PM EDT
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Property owners in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District got their tax bills in the mail this week, and the average homeowner in Chester County saw they will pay about $160 more this year, and those in Delaware County, close to $200 more.  School directors recently approved, by a 7-2 vote, an $82.4 million budget, with a tax increase of 2.59 percent in Chester County, and 2.93 in Delaware county, for a balanced, weighted tax increase of 2.66 percent. The new millage rate for Chester County property owners will be 27.69 in Chester County and 23.56 mills in Delaware County. A mill is a tax of $1 for every dollar of assessed property value.  Additionally, the 1 percent real estate transfer tax will be retained.  School directors Gregg Lindner and Michael Rock opposed the budget, noting it exceeds the Pennsylvania Act 1 limit through special education and pension cost exemptions.

Opinion: Focus outrage on public school funding formula
Pocono Record By Merlyn Clarke Posted Jul. 9, 2016 at 8:52 PM
Merlyn Clarke is a member of the Stroudsburg Area School District board.
Interpreters of Greek mythology suggest that when Pandora opened her famous box, her intent was purely innocent, driven by honest curiosity, but nevertheless resulted in introducing evil into the world. The Judeo-Christian take on this event substitutes knowledge for evil. One could argue that the adoption of the fair funding formula for distributing education dollars approximates both interpretations. Developed by well-meaning legislators and administrators determined to rectify the irrationalities of basic education funding in Pennsylvania, it has revealed the magnitude of the inequities in ways that most could not have imagined. The recent adoption of the Fair Funding Law, now known as Act 35, declares that only new money put into education must be distributed according to the fair funding formula. The indignation arising from the revelation of how inequitable education funding has become should almost certainly result in demands that the formula be applied to all education funding. This will be anathema to many legislators and the school districts that they represent— districts that benefit handsomely from the way basic education dollars are currently distributed.

Science Leadership Academy senior named Philly's youth poet laureate
The notebook by Ellen Schoder July 8, 2016 — 3:53pm
Otter Jung-Allen, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, was named Philadelphia’s youth poet laureate for 2016 at an event on Thursday at City Hall. Jung-Allen will work with different organizations in Philadelphia to encourage and share a passion for poetry and the arts.   Jung-Allen will be the fourth student in Philadelphia to hold this position.  “We are proud to have Otter Jung-Allen serve as the City of Philadelphia’s Youth Poet Laureate and to lead by example in demonstrating to young Philadelphians that poetry can be an educational tool, a form of expression and a means of connection with people of all ages,” Mayor Kenney said in a statement.  The Youth Poet Laureate Program falls under the direction of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Jung-Allen will also work closely with Yolanda Wishner, the city’s poet laureate.

“This news organization's investigation into K12's California schools revealed the company reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding whole graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12's software may be counted as "present" in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.”
California Attorney General probe leads to $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online school operator K12, Inc.
Mercury News By Jessica Calefati, POSTED:   07/08/2016 11:54:46 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the state Department of Justice has reached a $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online charter school operator K12 Inc. over an array of alleged violations of false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.  The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published a two-part investigative series on the publicly-traded Virginia company, which runs a network of profitable but low-performing online charter schools serving about 15,000 students across the state.  Harris' office found that K12 and the "virtual" academies it operates across the state used deceptive advertising to mislead parents about students' academic progress, parent satisfaction and their graduates' eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.  The Attorney General's office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company improperly coerced the non-profit schools it operates to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.

“K-12 and its schools misled parents and the state of California,” Harris said, “by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction, and loading nonprofit charities with debt.”
In addition, Harris’ office had alleged that K12 and its affiliated schools turned in inflated attendance figures and collected more in state funding than they were entitled to receive.  The AG said one whistleblower had reported to her office that K12 counted students as logging on for one minute a day as a full day of attendance, at a cost absorbed by taxpayers.”
K12 Reaches Settlement With Calif. AG, but Acrimony Remains
Education Week Marketplace Sean Cavanagh Senior Editor July 8, 2016
The oft-criticized online education provider K12 Inc. has reached a settlement agreement with California’s state attorney general, who alleged the company misled parents about the academic record of charter schools it manages and exaggerated enrollment numbers.  Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said the for-profit charter operator, which admitted no wrongdoing, will pay $8.5 million to settle all the claims brought by her office.  The agreement also says that K12 will forgive $160 million of its “accumulated annual balanced budget credits” to the nonprofit schools it manages. The credits are part of financial arrangements the company established with the schools.  In a statement, Harris called the forgiveness of the credits “debt relief” for the schools. Her description drew an angry reaction from K12’s CEO, who said the AG was “flat wrong” about nature of the credits and had “grossly mischaracterized” both the terms of the settlement and the accusations against the company.  In announcing the settlement, Harris said her goal was to ensure that K12 and the 14 schools affiliated with the company, known as the California Virtual Academies, are “held accountable and make much-needed improvements.”

CA: K12 Caught Lying and Cheating, Again
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Sunday, July 10, 2016
K12, one of the giants of the cyber-charter biz, has reached a settlement in California after being slapped for lying about student enrollment and student achievement. K12 and California Virtual Academies collected about $310 million in money from the state over the last twelve years (and those are largely Californis tax dollars diverted to the Virginia HQ of K12); the settlement will cost K12 $168.5 million-- sort of.  K12, a for profit company, provides the curriculum and programming for CAVA, a non-profit cyber charter in California. As part of the settlement, K12 must cancel $160 million in "credits" that CAVA "owed" it and which represented part of the crushing debt that K12 saddled CAVA with. In addition, it must pay $8.5 million to the state.

Morningstar Executive Compensation for K12, Inc. (LRN)

Large Pa. Cyber Charter Agora Under Review for Data Irregularities
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Benjamin Herold on June 2, 2016 4:31 PM
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is conducting an in-depth review of the operations, finances, and child-accounting procedures at the Agora Cyber Charter School, an 8,500-student full-time online charter that has been racked by allegations of fraud and changes in management.
Last month, the department sent a series of letters to the school demanding information about Agora's "troubling financial, administrative, and governance problems." The department's areas of greatest concern, according to May 16 correspondence from Pennsylvania Executive Deputy Secretary of Education David Volkman:
·         "Agora's child accounting systems and processes—and whether school districts are properly billed for cyber charter students."
·         "Agora's student attendance—and whether students are properly kept on active membership rolls."
·         "Agora's academic accountability—and how Agora will determine whether students are receiving the education to which they are entitled."
A spokeswoman for the school said Agora is "working with the Department of Education to give them exactly what they have requested." The school submitted data to the department on May 27 and is "working diligently and cooperatively with the department to provide them with the most accurate information," according to Joann Gigliotti.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that Agora had failed to meet a state-imposed deadline for providing information and is now under investigation.

‘For black lives to matter, black #education has to matter.’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 8 
It would be easy on a Friday so dominated by news of deadly violence in different parts of the country to ignore everything else, but there is an event in Washington that shouldn’t be overlooked.  It’s the annual conference of Save Our Schools, a coalition of educators, parents, students and concerned citizens fighting against corporate school reform and for the health of America’s public education system.  It is one of several conventions now being held every year by public education activist groups, including United Opt Out and the Network for Public Education — all of which illustrate the growing effort among activists to strategize together to achieve greater impact on the education debate in this country.  Activists over the last several years have been successful in bringing national attention to problems with high-stakes standardized testing, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, elements of the school choice movement and other key issues in the world of education. And with achievement gaps still gaping, some 22 percent of American children living in poverty, and schools being more segregated today than they have been since the 1960s, these activists have consistently pressed federal officials and legislators to focus their reform efforts on bringing educational equity to all students.

Teaching Traumatized Kids
Some schools are using simple acts of kindness to support vulnerable students.
When Kelsey Sisavath enrolled as a freshman at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington, in the fall of 2012, her mother was struggling with drug addiction. Kelsey herself was using meth. The multiple traumas in her life included a sexual assault by a stranger at age 12. She was angry, depressed, and suicidal. Her traumatized brain had little room to focus on school.  Today, much has changed in Kelsey’s life. She graduated from Lincoln this spring with a 4.0 GPA while also taking classes at a community college. She is articulate, confident, and happy. Kelsey believes Lincoln changed her life.  A deeper understanding of Kelsey’s journey could offer answers to critical questions about how to help millions of traumatized children—particularly those growing up in poverty—succeed in school and beyond.

Public Schools? To Kansas Conservatives, They’re ‘Government Schools’
New York Times By JULIE BOSMAN JULY 9, 2016
LEAWOOD, Kansas — Erica Massman, a moderate Kansas Republican, refers to the building where her daughter attends fourth grade as a public school.  Ms. Massman’s mother, whose politics tilt further to the right, calls it something else: a government school.  “My mother, who is a Tea Party person, started saying ‘government schools’ all the time,” said Ms. Massman, recalling when she first heard the phrase around 2010. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow.’”  Kansas has for years been the stage for a messy school funding fight that has shaken the Legislature and reached the State Supreme Court. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his political allies threatened to defy the court on education spending and slashed income taxes in their effort to make the state a model of conservatism.
Somewhere along the way, the term “government schools” entered the lexicon in place of references to the public school system.  “Our local grade school is now the government school,” State Senator Forrest Knox wrote in an op-ed article last year, echoing conservative concerns that the government had inserted itself unnecessarily into education.  The intent was obvious to her, Ms. Massman said. “They are trying to rebrand public education,” she said.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 7/10/2016

Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
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 2016 Allwein Award nominations will be accepted starting today and all applications are due by July 16, 2016. The nomination form can be downloaded from the website.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

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