Friday, August 12, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 12: From 2009 thru 2015 the .@WaltonFamilyFdn has spent over $1 billion on charter schools; .@GatesFoundation to “Stay the Course”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 12, 2016:
From 2009 thru 2015 the .@WaltonFamilyFdn has spent over $1 billion on charter schools; .@GatesFoundation to “Stay the Course”

PA credit rating gets a (marginal) boost
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 11, 2016 8:55 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's credit rating has improved, though only slightly, with Moody's Investor Service upgrading the commonwealth's financial outlook from negative to stable.
Since 2014, Moody's rating of Pennsylvania's credit has been a relatively mediocre AA3.
Dan Seymour, Moody's lead analyst for Pennsylvania, said that's relatively low for a state.
Pennsylvania, Seymour said, is "not functioning very well politically right now, it's having difficulty passing budgets, it's having difficulties passing new revenues, and it depleted its rainy day funds a long time ago. So Pennsylvania remains what we call a below-average credit quality state."  Since last year's budget impasse, Moody's has also saddled the commonwealth with the designation "negative outlook," which shows financial uncertainty.  But now, Seymour says the outlook's deemed stable.

“On Wednesday that premium fell to 0.62%, according to Thompson-Reuters Municipal Market Data compiled by Alan Schankel, managing director at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia.  Multiply that little 0.03% difference, times the $1.2 billion the state borrowed, times 20 years (the length of the bond issue), and it starts to add up to real money. “
Pa. borrows $1.2 billion
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer  @PhillyJoeD  AUGUST 11, 2016 5:03 PM EDT
Pennsylvania on Wednesday borrowed $1.2 billion by selling general-obligation bonds at a "true interest cost" of 2.75%, says Gov. Tom Wolf's office. (Even when the budget is balanced, states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey routinely borrow money to fund long-term projects.) (Revised and updated)  The sale followed positive comments by the leading credit-rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor's, after the state adopted its 2016-17 budget following months of wrangling between Democrat Wolf and the Republican-run General Assembly. Bank of American-Merrill Lynch underbid five other banks to buy the bonds, which it will resell to investors.  Why do credit ratings matter? Since Pennsylvania's credit rating remains among the worst of any state (only Illinois and New Jersey are lower, according to Moody's), Pa. taxpayers must pay extra to convince investors to buy Pa. bonds.  Before Moody's cancelled its "negative outlook" and S&P reversed its previous warning of a credit downgrade (while warning it could still cut the rating months from now), Pennsylvania debt was pricing at 0.65% above what better-funded, top-rated states like Delaware and Maryland have to pay.

Newsweek's top high schools in Pa. and N.J. for 2016
Inquirer by Emily Babay, Staff writer  @emilybabay Updated: AUGUST 11, 2016 — 5:58 PM EDT
Newsweek's annual list, released Thursday, places 13 Garden State schools in the top 50, but just two from Pennsylvania in that tier. In total, 51 New Jersey and 30 Pennsylvania schools were included in the magazine's list of the nation's 500 best public high schools.  The top public school in the country was Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. While not many Pennsylvania schools were ranked in the list's upper echelon, the Philadelphia suburbs were well-represented on the list as a whole. No schools in Philadelphia made the list.  Newsweek says it evaluated schools based on state standardized test scores, college acceptance and enrollment rates, SAT and ACT participation and performance, dual enrollments, and programs like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.  Here are the Pennsylvania and New Jersey schools that made it into the top 50, as well as other schools in the Philadelphia region that were included in the rankings:

Innovative Arts: We didn't buy newspaper ad seeking charter school students
The new Catasauqua charter school is trying to avoid controversy prior to its fall opening.
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call August 11, 2016
Innovative Arts Charter School probing who authorized newspaper ad
CATASAUQUA — The full-page newspaper ad for a brand new Lehigh Valley charter school was placed and paid for by an as-yet unnamed benefactor, according to the school's chief executive officer.  Loraine Petrillo said the Board of Trustees for Innovative Arts Charter School in Catasauqua determined during Wednesday's board meeting that the money to pay for the ad in the Sunday edition of The Morning Call did not come from the fledgling charter's coffers.  Petrillo said the school is still working to confirm who placed the ad, which came under fire at a Bethlehem Area School District finance committee meeting on Monday.  Petrillo said the chatter from that meeting was the first she'd heard of the advertisement. Though she suspects the person who placed the ad had only the best intentions, Petrillo confessed that the lack of communication became an unwelcome issue.  "Personally, I'm annoyed. I would have liked a heads up," she said. "The person probably did it from the goodness of their heart. They just don't understand how this has to work with schools."

In 1 year your tax $ paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter
Blogger note: Here’s another take on charters spending your tax dollars on advertising: In 1 year your tax $ paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter See these board minutes section 4h

Online academy ready to open at Otto Eldred High School
Bradford Era By BARB CLOSE Era Correspondent Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:00 am
ELDRED — Otto-Eldred High School principal, Harley Ramsey announced to the school board Tuesday evening that the online academy that was approved to be established in May of this year, is almost complete.  Currently there are six students enrolled in the online academy and the remaining six seats will be opened to current high school students to take elective courses that are only available online. Seating and space is limited and all interested will be considered. Because the online academy is in its infancy stages, the budget is not very large. Ramsey hopes for a positive outcome this year, in hopes to expand the budget and opportunities to students in the years to come.  Language courses will only be offered online through Rosetta Stone, and will be separate from the online academy. Offering the courses online opens up more opportunity to take other languages besides Spanish.  In new business, Dr. Pam Lenz was a guest during the meeting. Lenz presented a slide show presentation on the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Formula. She explains to the board how their districts percentages are calculated using weighted student count and district adjustments. The funding formula became Act 35 on June 2 and is scheduled to be reviewed every five years.

Penn State College Republicans issue statement on Trump, won’t endorse him
Centre Daily Times BY SHAWN ANNARELLI AUGUST 11, 2016 10:57 PM
Penn State College Republicans did something that was unprecedented until recently — they announced they will not endorse the Republican nominee for president.  Princeton College Republicans and the Harvard Republican Club made the same decision.  The Penn State student group accepted the decision after 72 percent of its members voted not to support Donald Trump. They made the announcement Thursday night on the group’s Facebook page.  This comes after posts on the page like one on Aug. 2 that said “it would be historical ifDonald J. Trump were to win Pennsylvania. It would be the first time since 1988 that a Republican nominee took home the Keystone state.”

Community Schools Spotlight – People, Pride and Passion: A site visit to Donegan Elementary School
Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development By Caitlin Fritz Posted on June 30, 2016
Since our last K-16 Newsletter on community schools, we had the opportunity to take an inspirational field trip to visit a community school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Accompanied by a team from the Mayor’s Office of Education and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, we visited Donegan Elementary, a school located high up on a ridge across from the ghostly remains of Bethlehem Steel. We were greeted by an enthusiastic cohort of school staff, district administrators, the United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley, partners, and even students.  Principal Sonia Vazquez and Community School Coordinator Rosa A. Carides-Hof led us through a spirited community school presentation and tour of their school.  Donegan serves students in South Bethlehem, a neighborhood that is experiencing the lasting impacts of post-industrialization, deep poverty and high rates of family mobility.  Out of the 508 students in grades K-5, 79% are Hispanic, 97% qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 22% are English language learners. There is little no subsidized housing in the neighborhood, making it difficult for many families to stay in the same home, or even in the school catchment area for an extended period of time.  For the past three years, Donegan Elementary has been a part of the United Way of Lehigh Valley’s community school initiative.  The United Way’s model mobilizes financial support from corporate, nonprofit and higher education partners to sponsor a community schools strategy at schools throughout three urban districts (Bethlehem, Allentown, and Easton) and one rural school district (Bangor).

Center On Regional Politics Bulletin Volume 5, Number 1 | Summer 2016
Temple University Center on Regional Politics
The interrelated problems of adequately funding public pensions and public schools continue to weigh on Pennsylvanians, as reports summarized in this bulletin suggest. Both problems reflect what I call the cost of politics. They add up to roughly $3 billion a year that could have been used to improve schools or cut taxes or perhaps both. Our new report on pensions shows that the unfunded liability of our state and municipal plans now exceeds $60 billion. Our new report on fund balances for all 500 school districts shows that most have inadequate reserves to meet emergencies or pay higher pension costs stretching far into the future.

Editorial: End the silence in Upper Darby
Delco Times POSTED: 08/11/16, 10:28 PM EDT | UPDATED: 3 HRS AGO
Richard Dunlap is being paid $196,866 a year to be top dog, the superintendent of schools in the Upper Darby School District.  By all accounts – including glowing performance reviews from the school board – he’s been worth every penny.  Right up until about July 21. That’s when Dunlap mysteriously was placed on paid leave.  Just why that is has become something of a summer drama that could equal anything put on by the district’s famed Summer Stage program.  No one is talking about why Dunlap is off the job. Not the superintendent, not other school officials. And not the school board. You know, the people elected by taxpayers to oversee the district – including its checkbook.  You’d also be hard-pressed to find out any official action taken by the school board to that effect. That’s because no action has yet been taken by the board.

School official in Chesco text-message scandal gets jail for theft
Inquirer by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer Updated: AUGUST 12, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The former athletic director of the Coatesville Area School District was sentenced Thursday to at least two months in prison for stealing $15,000 from the financially struggling school system.  James Donato, who resigned three years ago after school officials discovered racist and sexist text messages about students and staff sent between him and the former superintendent, pleaded guilty to felony theft and conflict of interest charges on June 20. He had been facing 139 misdemeanor and felony charges.  Chester County Judge Thomas G. Gavin sentenced Donato to two to 23 months in prison and five years' probation. Donato, who according to court records moved with his family to a suburb of Raleigh, N.C., must start his sentence by 10 a.m. Monday.

Billionaires Ed Policy 1: Walton Family Foundation Grant Reports
Walton Family Foundation Website
See complete lists of Walton Family Foundation annual grantmaking.
·         2015: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2014: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2013: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2012 Grant Report
·         2009 Grant Report

“Gates said the foundation’s main message on teacher evaluation is that state lawmakers must include teachers as they create or refine evaluation systems.  “That’s the biggest lesson learned in this,” she said. “States need to listen to their teachers when they’re designing a teacher evaluation system, and they don’t all have to look alike.”
…Last week, the Movement for Black Lives — a coalition of dozens of black-led organizations, including the Black Lives Matter Network — released a policy platform that decried the Gates Foundation as part of a “systematic attack” on public schools that “strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive.” It called for an effort to invest in, not close, struggling schools serving black children, and it accused education policymakers of listening to unelected philanthropists instead of students, teachers and parents.”
Billionaires Ed Policy 2: Gates Foundation to ‘stay the course’ as it seeks to help shape state education policies
Washington Post By Emma Brown August 11 at 12:46 PM 
CHICAGO — Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years. Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.  “Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”  That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.

Black School Choice Group Pushes Back on NAACP Charter School Moratorium
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on August 9, 2016 10:00 PM | 4 Comments
An African-American pro-charter advocacy group is appealing to leaders of the NAACP to reject a recent resolution from members of the venerable civil rights organization that calls for a moratorium on expanding charter schools.  Citing increased segregation and high rates of exclusionary discipline among other issues, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People voted at the organization's national conference late last month to approve a resolution calling for a ban on new charter schools. The civil rights organization has long held a skeptical view of charters, but this resolution may amount to its strongest opposition to date.   Soon after, Black Lives Matter activists joined a coalition of several civil rights and advocacy groups in releasing an education agenda that also calls for a ban on charters, among other initiatives.  Organized under the Movement for Black Lives, the agenda also targets some of the most powerful philanthropic backers of the charter school sector—the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—for bankrolling what it calls "an international education privatization agenda".

Coffee Break: Principal Sharif El-Mekki on #BlackMaleEducators, #DemsInPhilly, and His Neighborhood Charter School
Education Post by Michael Vaughn POSTED AUG. 10, 2016 IN CHARTER SCHOOLS
Sharif El-Mekki didn’t come to a career in education right away, but the families in his boyhood Philadelphia neighborhood sure are glad he found his way there.  As the principal of a Mastery charter school serving the West Philadelphia neighborhood surrounding its Shoemaker Campus, Sharif has returned home to help lead a school transformation that earned him the opportunity to serve as a principal ambassador with the U.S. Department of Education.

Peter Greene: The Swiftboating of Public Schools
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch August 11, 2016 //
Surely, you remember the negative ads against John Kerry when he ran for President against George W. Bush. Some veterans of the Vietnam War ran a multi-million ad campaign against him, coming close to calling him a traitor.  Interesting that the same advertising group that created the Swiftboat campaign against Kerry is now running the deceptive ad in Massachusetts promoting charter schools as “public schools.”
Peter Greene looks at the controversy and nails the lies.

“But the problem with Gülen schools isn’t that they’re connected to a particular religious movement (although some might object to public funds making their way to any religious institution). The problem is that they participate in a system that gives every incentive to keep their financial dealings under wraps. Charter schools were designed to provide a certain amount of autonomy, and many schools have successfully walked the line between public responsibility and private innovation. But there are vulnerabilities built into the system, and one is a reduced oversight that enables schools to move vast amounts of public funds into private hands. The Gülen movement, with its foreign origins and mysterious leader, may make for a particular intriguing story. But as the saying goes, “Don’t hate the player; hate the game.”
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.”

“Mr. Gülen denies his involvement in the coup, and his many supporters claim that he would be incapable of such a heinous act. His lawyers further speculate that he couldn’t have plotted the coup because he is likely under intense surveillance by intelligence agencies, and as such, they would have known.  However, if one takes a closer look at how he runs his 150 charter schools through dozens of secretive fronts, it is clear that there is a highly-sophisticated organizational capacity hidden beneath the surface.  Seven months ago, my law firm was appointed by the Republic of Turkey to investigate suspected illegal activities by Gülen-linked businesses and schools. What we have found thus far is shocking.”
To Understand Turkey's Alleged Coup Plotter, Look To His U.S. Schools
Guest commentary curated by Forbes Opinion.  
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Forbes GUEST POST WRITTEN BY Robert Amsterdam AUG 11, 2016 @ 04:47 PM
Mr. Amsterdam is the founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP.  Mr. Amsterdam was appointed by the Republic of Turkey to oversee an international investigation into the activities of Fethullah Gülen.
For many, the events of July 15-16 in Turkey seem like something out of a bad action movie. Fighter jets seized by a rogue division of the military strafing the rooftops of the capital and bombing parliament, tanks occupying the Bosphorus bridge, troops taking over TV stations, and tactical units hunting down the president.  It seemed impossible that such an event could take place in a nuclear-armed NATO alliance member of 80 million people. But sadly, this horrific attack on the democratically-elected government was all too real, and the consequences–including some 238 people killed and thousands injured–will likely take years of recovery.  The man identified as responsible - The aftermath of the attempted coup has put a renewed focus on U.S.-Turkey relations, as the man identified as responsible is the secretive Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who oversees a worldwide organization from his mansion in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Turkey has issued a warrant for his arrest and is requesting his extradition from the United States.

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.

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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