Tuesday, July 12, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 12: Unbridled charter expansion in play today with PA budget deal

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PA Ed Policy Roundup July 12, 2016:
Unbridled charter expansion in play today with PA budget deal

Blogger Commentary:

If you like sending your local taxpayers’ dollars to pay cyber charter tuition for schools that your elected school board never authorized, then don’t bother calling your state senator this morning.

Charter reform provisions being considered as part of the budget deal would permit the creation and expansion of charter schools without public input or authorization by a school board, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities and putting local taxpayers at risk for tax increases to meet the cost of growing charters.

You can bet that the folks who would profit handsomely from unencumbered expansion of the charter sector without having to put up with those pesky school boards (and have been generous with their campaign contributions) have their best teams lobbying at the Capitol today.

Call your State Senator’s office this morning and urge them to oppose the “charter reform” provisions in HB530/HB1606

20 reasons to vote no on Pa. HB 530 charter school reform
The Keystone State Education Coalition weighs in on the bill.
The notebook by Lawrence A. Feinberg July 11, 2016 — 1:09pm
Lawrence A. Feinberg is the founder and co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, a non-partisan, grassroots public education advocacy group.  He is currently serving his 17th year as a school director in Haverford Township.
Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding 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 provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.  Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

“The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center opposes any school code that permits charter schools to enroll new students, add grade levels, or recruit students from outside the school district without the approval of the local school board.

We oppose any school code that creates an evaluation system for charter schools that makes it more difficult to compare charter school success with that of traditional schools or that undermines the ability of local school boards to hold charters schools accountable for financial management and educational success.

And we oppose the creation of a charter school advisory commission that does not represent all the stakeholders in the education of our children.

What we do welcome are provisions in the school code that finally create fair rules for reimbursing cyber charters and holding them accountable for what they do with public funds.”
Third and State Blog Posted by Marc Stier on July 11, 2016 3:14 pm
We are hearing that some of the provisions in a House school code bill, HB530, are being included in a Senate-supported school code bill, HB1606. It is unclear which parts of HB530 will be included in HB1606, but we will be monitoring to determine if any of the very problematic provisions of the former bill wind up in the latter.  School districts in Pennsylvania contain a mix of traditional public schools and charter schools. Some local school districts want to add charters schools. Many do not. All of them should be empowered to evaluate the best way to educate students in their respective districts.   Unfortunately, provisions included in HB530 which might be amended into HB1606 will remove much of the supervisory and decision-making authority from local school districts in every corner of the state. Since charter schools receive funding from local school districts, the creation of new seats in charter schools without school board supervision and control diminishes the ability of school districts to establish and manage their budgets. That could result in the underfunding of traditional schools or significant local tax increases all over the state.

“Senate Republican leaders on Monday evening told their rank-and-file members that they have an agreement that they expect to hold together with the House. No details were given, and work was still to be done, senators said.  …Major legislation sought by Republicans to pare back public-sector pensions and enable charter school expansion could accompany any budget package.”
Pennsylvania lawmakers lack answers, money for spending bill
AP State Wire by MARC LEVY Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Tuesday will be crucial to determining whether Pennsylvania state lawmakers can pass a tax increase to fully fund a $31 billion election-year spending bill, and put a quick end to legal questions over how the state can operate on an unbalanced budget, lawmakers said.  Lawmakers said they would work through Monday night to try to seal an agreement, but gave little detail about their private discussions or their meeting with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf at his official residence in Harrisburg.  Fueling their urgency was Wolf's Sunday night pronouncement that he would not stop the budget bill from becoming law at midnight Monday, despite tax collections that are projected to fall hundreds of millions of dollars short of funding it.  It immediately raised concern that any delay beyond Tuesday would draw another downgrade on Pennsylvania's already battered credit rating and a lawsuit by conservative lawmakers that could upend the spending bill.

“There's talk about some charter school reforms being in the mix but Reed said they are trying to strike a balance between the pro-charter and anti-charter demands and he was uncertain whether that could be achieved in the compressed timeframe that lawmakers have set for themselves.”
Budget talks 'moving closer to the finish line' but still more work to do
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on July 11, 2016 at 9:06 PM, updated July 11, 2016 at 9:21 PM
By Jan Murphy & Charles Thompson 
A last-minute rush to finalize a revenue package to bring into balance a $31.5 billion spending plan that was set to become law at midnight Monday appears to be producing results.  While the outcome of Monday afternoon talks between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders didn't produce a deal to put the punctuation mark on the 2016-17 state budget, all sides expressed optimism that one may not be far off.  "We are moving closer to the finish line," said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana. "There are still some outstanding issues but they are getting smaller in scope and hopefully they can be resolved in the next 24 hours. I think the next 24 hours will tell the tale whether we're going to have an agreement or whether all sides retreat back to their own corners."  Senate Republicans also seemed somewhat encouraged after coming out of a closed-door caucus meeting following the high-level talks. One gave a thumbs up signal to a lobbyist after exiting the caucus room and another was overheard sharing "there is a deal" but members were not told details of it.

“S&P Global Ratings warns that Gov. Tom Wolf's intention to let the $31.5 billion general appropriations bill to fund state government to become law even if a revenue plan is not in place to fully fund it could spell trouble for the state's credit rating.”
Wall Street issues warning over Pa.'s state budget dilemma
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on July 11, 2016 at 4:34 PM, updated July 11, 2016 at 4:35 PM
Now that Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated his intention to let the $31.5 billion state spending plan become law on Monday even if there is not a revenue plan in place to fully fund it, a credit rating agency has warned this move could have negative consequences on the state's credit ratings.  S&P Global Rating on Monday announced it has put the commonwealth on its CreditWatch list.  "The CreditWatch action reflects recent developments that indicate that Pennsylvania will likely proceed into fiscal 2017 with a spending plan that is not supported by a revenue package or offsetting spending cuts to bring the budget into alignment," said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Carol Spain in a news release, "but if lawmakers continue to negotiate and reach a balanced budget within a 90 day timeframe, we could remove the ratings from CreditWatch."

Despite $1.3 billion gap, Pennsylvania lawmakers to let budget become law
At midnight, the spending bill became law after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wouldn’t stand in its way and negotiations proved fruitless.
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis / Harrisburg Bureau HARRISBURG BUREAU July 12, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Legislators recessed Monday without a deal on how to pay for the $31.5 billion budget, extending the uncertainty amid signs of impact on the state’s credit rating and new legal challenges.  Passed by legislators but neither signed nor vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, the unbalanced spending plan was to lapse into law at 12:01 a.m. today.  Budget negotiators said the following day would be critical in determining if the governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature can agree on how to plug the projected $1.3 billion shortfall — possibly from changes to the state’s alcohol sales, expanded gambling or taxes on cigarettes.  “The next 24 hours will tell the tale of whether we are going to have an agreement — or whether all sides retreat back to their own corners,” House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Monday after an hours-long meeting with Mr. Wolf and legislative leaders.  Mr. Reed stopped short of saying what would occur should all sides fail to come up with a revenue-generating plan to support the spending bill.
Several rank-and-file legislators said privately that they believe the House and Senate will send lawmakers home for the summer, with or without a deal, if negotiations drag on for more than a few days.

“Last year's impasse forced cash-strapped school districts and human service agencies to obtain loans or extra lines of interest-bearing credit. Some organizations — including homeless shelters, domestic violence centers and preschools — laid off employees, reduced services or shut down in late fall.  The state has not reimbursed schools or service agencies for any impasse-related costs. Wolf proposed reimbursing as much as $10 million but the Legislature failed to enact such a measure.  \“It is disappointing, absolutely,” said Himes, “because those who had to do that are the districts that are in the least beneficial positions.”
Budget gap stymies Pennsylvania legislators
Trib Live BY NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Monday, July 11, 2016, 11:30 p.m.
State lawmakers squabbled late Monday over how to plug a revenue gap of more than $1 billion, spurring concerns about a potential spending freeze that could harm schools and nonprofits still reeling from last budget season's impasse.  “It looks like it's going to be the same thing all over again,” said Deana Nell, executive director of Bridge to Independence, a Braddock nonprofit that provides services for mental health, drug abuse and emergency housing. The 14-employee nonprofit still hasn't paid off $100,000 it had to borrow in September to operate during the nine-month budget stalemate that was resolved in March. “We've managed to keep things going so far, but we're all very frustrated.”  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had decided by Sunday to allow a 2016-17 budget bill to become law without his signature at midnight Monday — even if the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to agree how to pay for it.

GOP legislators frustrated as revenue bill keeps Pennsylvania budget in limbo
Beaver County Times by J.D. Prose jprose@calkins.com July 11, 2016
After Gov. Tom Wolf announced Sunday that he would let a spending bill sent to him by the Legislature become law without his signature, southwest Pennsylvania Republicans had a mixed reaction as a revenue package was still in limbo.  “It’s really, really frustrating,” said state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46, Carroll Township, Washington County, who is going through just her second budget season but already sounded fed up with the political wrangling that has seen the state again not have a full budget passed by the July 1 fiscal deadline.  “You’d never run a business this way,” Bartolotta, a small-business owner, said Monday.  State Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Fayette County, who also comes from a small-business background, echoed those concerns, saying he has not seen a company budget like the state government by approving spending then deciding on revenues.

Former Cayuga Elementary principal sentenced to 10 years of probation in test cheating scandal
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER Updated: JULY 11, 2016 — 1:58 PM EDT
A former principal of Cayuga Elementary School in Hunting Park has been sentenced to 10 years of probation for promoting a culture of cheating on the state's standardized tests.  Evelyn Cortez, 61, was sentenced by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Timika Lane on Monday, the state Attorney General's office announced.  Cortez, who had entered a guilty plea in February, was sentenced to seven years probation for tampering with evidence and criminal conspiracy.  She received an additional three consecutive years of probation for perjury and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.  Cortez, a former district educator was arrested in May of 2014 by the Attorney General's office as part of an investigation into cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.  "This cheating robbed children of the education they deserve," Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said in a statement. "We are pleased the court ordered an appropriate sentence that will serve as a reminder that this conduct will not be tolerated."

Here’s a related oldie but goodie from 2013; no charges have ever been filed:
“A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself. “
How Pennsyl­vania schools erased a cheating scandal
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
CityPaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 07/18/2013 0 Comments Posted |
The odds that 11th-graders at Strawberry Mansion High School would have randomly erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the district. In 2010, principal Lois Powell-Mondesire left Strawberry Mansion; after her departure, test scores dropped sharply. 
But despite the erasure analysis and those suspicious circumstances, neither Powell-Mondesire nor any other teacher or administrator at Strawberry Mansion was ever disciplined. On the contrary, Powell-Mondesire was promoted — to a job at school-district headquarters, earning more than $145,000 as a “turnaround principal” charged with helping other administrators boost student achievement. (Powell-Mondesire, who retired July 1, could not be reached for comment. Neither the District nor the state would say whether her exit was related to the cheating investigation.)

Looking to balance Pa. budget? Cut Legislature (editorial)
York Daily Record by YDR editorial board12:02 p.m. EDT July 11, 2016
Gov. Wolf should veto the General Assembly's $18.6 million increase for itself.
Lawmakers love to talk about kitchen table economics. You’ve heard the spiel. Tom and Tina Taxpayer have to sit down at the kitchen table and balance their income and outgo – and the government should have to do the same thing.  OK, but this year our lawmakers passed a budget (more or less on time, yay!) without a detailed plan to pay for it all (boo!).  That led to Gov. Tom Wolf’s vow to let the budget become law without his signature (a political ploy that is becoming, well, his signature) unless lawmakers pass a plan to provide the revenue (read: tax hikes – boo!)  And that led to debates about whether letting the budget become law without the governor’s signature would violate the state Constitution, which mandates a balanced budget with adequate projected revenue. Some argued Mr. Wolf should have to exercise line item vetoes to balance the budget.  Great idea!  Here’s our suggested line item: The General Assembly.

Turnout key in Delco special election for Pa. House seat
Inquirer by Daniel Block, STAFF WRITER Updated: JULY 11, 2016 — 6:39 PM EDT
If past is prologue, Republican Chris Quinn, 44, will win Tuesday's special election for a state House seat in a district that has never elected a Democrat.  "I'm running for state legislature because I think I can balance a budget," says Quinn, who serves on Middletown Township's council. "I think I understand what people are looking for."  But Democrat Diane Cornman-Levy, 55, who runs an educational nonprofit, believes that voters are looking for something new, and thus she stands a good chance of breaking the GOP's hold on the 168th District, which consists of some of Delaware County's wealthier towns.  "I have been knocking on a lot of doors, ... and people want change," she said. "We don't have a government that is appropriately balanced between Democrats and Republicans."  From 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., voters will choose either Quinn or Cornman-Levy to fill the seat, which became vacant in May when Republican Thomas Killion was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in another special election. The winner will serve until January, and regardless of who wins, both candidates will square off again for a two-year term again in November.

“Across the country, the question of how full-time online charters track attendance has suddenly emerged as a flash point. Earlier this week, California's state attorney general announced a multi-million dollar settlement with K12 Inc., the nation's largest operator of cyber charter schools, over issues including questionable student attendance reporting at the California Virtual Academies.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education is also reviewing "irregularities" in attendance reporting at Agora Cyber Charter, an 8,500-student school that until recently was also managed by K12.”
Ohio's Largest Cyber Charter Loses Bid to Block Attendance Audit
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Benjamin Herold on July 11, 2016 9:57 PM
An Ohio judge denied a motion by the state's largest full-time online charter school Monday to block a state audit of its attendance records. Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Superintendent Rick Teeters warned the review could ultimately lead to the closure of the 15,000-student school, long under scrutiny by media and state officials for its poor performance.  "Without court intervention, these underhanded procedural changes would severely limit our ability to provide a quality school experience. In fact, they would likely force us and other e-schools to close our doors altogether," Teeters said in a statement shared with supporters via social media.  At issue are potentially tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding. Based on a preliminary review of the school's enrollment and attendance records in May, education department officials believe the school may have significantly overcharged the state. The review found that many students were logged in to the school's system for far less than the recommended five hours per day.

Watch Here: EPLC’s July 2016 “Focus on Education” TV Show Featuring Two Guests – 1) Jim Buckheit of the PA Assoc. of School Administrators and 2) Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center
This episode of EPLC’s “Focus on Education” TV show initially aired on Sunday, July 10, 2016 on PCN-TV, and featured the following:
Part 1: An interview with Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators on the financial condition of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts and affects on student programs and services caused by large cuts in state funding support over the past five years, the Commonwealth’s status as having the worst K-12 opportunity gap in the U.S., and his impending retirement and the changes he’s seen in Pennsylvania’s public education system during his career.
Part 2: An interview with Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC) on the role of ELC in assuring the rights of persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania, its project addressing the School-to-Prison pipeline, and its role as one of the lead organizations in fighting for changes in K-12 education funding in Pennsylvania over the past ten years.
All EPLC “Focus on Education” TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 7/12/2016

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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