Thursday, August 4, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 4: Auditor General DePasquale: PDE Provided More Than $2.5M in Questionable Lease Reimbursements to 9 Charter Schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 4, 2016:
Auditor General DePasquale: PDE Provided More Than $2.5M in Questionable Lease Reimbursements to 9 Charter Schools

"What we found in some of our audits is that the same people who own and operate charter schools, they themselves create separate legal entities to own the buildings and lease them to charter schools," DePasquale said.”
Charter school payments draw scrutiny from Pa. auditor
Inquirer by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: AUGUST 4, 2016  1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's fiscal watchdog on Wednesday questioned millions of public dollars paid to charter school landlords and called for the state to monitor such lease payments more closely.  At a Capitol news conference, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale highlighted more than $2.5 million in lease reimbursements to nine charter schools, including the Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County, the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County, and School Lane Charter School in Bucks County.  Without offering details, DePasquale said his office found ties between the schools and their property owners that could contradict state guidelines that deem buildings owned by a charter school ineligible for lease reimbursement. 

DePasquale: Education department was wrong to pay millions to charter schools for lease reimbursements
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 03, 2016 at 4:50 PM, updated August 03, 2016 at 6:33 PM
* This post was updated to include the Department of Education responses.  
Nine charter schools collected $2.5 million for lease reimbursements from the state that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale claims were improper and should be paid back.  This issue arose in an audit his department released on Wednesday about Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County, but DePasquale said at a Capitol news conference the same issue has come up in nearly third of the 40 charter school audits his office has done since he took office in 2013.  The state Department of Education's guidelines adopted in 2002 state that a charter school is not eligible for lease reimbursements if they own the building, DePasquale said. His auditors dug into records and property deeds to identify the owners of buildings that charter schools occupy and found common names.

Pennsylvania auditor general questions Propel Schools lease reimbursements
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, 5:27 p.m.
A potential conflict of interest between Propel Schools and its landlord puts four of the system's charter schools among those that collected more than $2.5 million in “questionable” lease reimbursements from the state, the state auditor general said Wednesday.  An audit shows Propel collected $376,921 for Propel Homestead, Propel Montour, Propel East and Propel McKeesport between December 2010 and April 2016, even though a bond document filed by the landlord lists Propel founder and executive director Jeremy Resnick as the landlord's contact person, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.  Pennsylvania Department of Education policy states that buildings owned by charter schools are not eligible for lease reimbursement.  “The problem is that PDE makes no effort to verify ownership of the buildings or look for conflicts of interest between the school and related parties,” DePasquale said in a statement. “They simply write a check for whatever amount the charter school submits. That is a disservice to Pennsylvania students and taxpayers.”

Auditor General DePasquale Says PDE Provided More Than $2.5 Million in Questionable Lease Reimbursements to 9 Charter Schools
Press Release August 03 2016 - Latest audit shows PDE paid nearly $400,000 to Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County 
HARRISBURG (Aug. 3, 2016) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said an audit of the Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County is another example of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) diverting millions of dollars from classrooms to the bank accounts of some charter school operators.   The audit of the Propel Charter School System, which covered December 2010 to April 2016, questioned the $376,921 lease reimbursement provided by PDE because of potential conflicts of interest and related-party transactions between the landlord and the charter school.  “The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s own guidelines for the lease reimbursement are clear that buildings owned by the charter school are not eligible,” DePasquale said. “The problem is that PDE makes no effort to verify ownership of the buildings or look for conflicts of interest between the school and related parties. They simply write a check for whatever amount the charter school submits. That is a disservice to Pennsylvania students and taxpayers.  “Given that PDE has the authority to approve the lease reimbursements, they also have the authority to claw-back the funds if there is any indication that the charter school actually owns the buildings through related parties,” he said. 

F&M Poll: Hillary 49% Trump 38%
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor August 4, 2016
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a significant lead over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.  That’s one of the findings of today’s Franklin and Marshall poll. F&M found Clinton received the support of 49% of likely voters. Trump, on the other hand, got just 38%.
When the question was posed to registered voters, Clinton’s lead stood at 48% to 35%.

'I have no plans to vote' for Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent says: Wednesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 03, 2016 at 7:21 AM, updated August 03, 2016 at 7:27 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Most of Pennsylvania's Republican Congressional delegation are backing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.  But don't count U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. R-15th District, among them,  
In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday,Dent, whose district includes part of the midstate, ran down his reasons to host Steve Kornacki.  The Lehigh Valley Republican has long been on the fence about Trump. This is about as explicit as he's gotten so far.  "I have no plans of making an endorsement or voting for the nominee," Dent said, "mainly because of all the incendiary comments and I could go and list them all from John McCain and the POWs to the Muslims and the Hispanics ... to women, David Duke and now the Khan family situation."

Pennsylvania GOP Congressman Charlie Dent says he’s not voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Morning Call by Laura Olson Contact Reporter Call Washington Bureau August 3, 2016
– U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, who has been among the most critical GOP voices in Congress regarding Donald Trump's candidacy, has joined a small but growing group of Republican elected officials who won't be voting for their party's presidential nominee.   The Allentown legislator said Trump's controversial comments have become "too much" for him to support the Republican atop the general-election ticket, referencing remarks directed at Muslims, Mexicans, veterans, the family members of soldiers killed in action, as well as fellow Republicans.  "It's a bridge too far," Dent told The Morning Call on Wednesday, regarding Trump's tone and pattern of behavior.

Letters: Republican Castille won't vote for Trump
Inquirer Letter by Ron Castille Updated: AUGUST 4, 2016 — 5:51 AM EDT
Ronald D. Castille is former chief justice, Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump just lost my vote ("More outrage on Trump, Khans," Tuesday).  I am a Vietnam veteran, and I survived the war mostly physically intact, except for my missing leg from combat wounds. That would, in most people's minds, meet the definition of "sacrifice."  But an even greater sacrifice is losing a son in combat while serving our nation, as has Khizr Khan, the Muslim immigrant who spoke of the death of his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, at the Democratic National Convention. Ghazala Khan stood by silently while her husband defended their faith and Muslim immigrants.

Want to expand pre-K? Better put it in the right places
The notebook/WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT AUGUST 3, 2016
By the city of Philadelphia’s count, more than 17,000 low- and middle-income kids don’t have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-K. Money from the new soda tax is supposed to help close that gap. But just because there’s more demand than supply doesn’t mean parents will necessarily rush to fill the new seats.  That paradox is rooted in how parents choose pre-K for the kids.  When we think about school choice we often think about the K-12 sector. And in the K-12 space, quality heavily influences the choices parents make. Open up an awesome public school — or at least a school perceived as awesome — and parents will gladly flock to it. If their kids have to travel a little further to attend a better school, so be it. Indeed families often orient their entire lives — where they live, how they commute to work, etc. — around finding the best school for their children.  It’s a safe bet that if the city of Philadelphia opened scads of new high-quality schools, it would have very little trouble filling them.  Pre-K, however, is a different story. To understand why, you have to meet folks like Darlene Williams, who lives in North Kensington.

Pa.'s first charter school serving students with dyslexia set to open
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 4, 2016 12:00 AM
After six years of planning, a challenge in court and a volley of appeals, Brett Marcoux isn’t going to let a paint job or two stand between him and the opening of the state’s first public charter school for children with dyslexia.  “Finally, we're open!” the CEO and president of Provident Charter School told a group of more than 100 school officials, families, dyslexia experts and local leaders, who gathered in a stuffy hallway of the Troy Hill school for an open house and ribbon cutting Wednesday.  The cafeteria is still being cleaned and painted, and other projects are in the works, but the classrooms look ready for the first day Aug. 29. The charter school closed on the former North Catholic High School building in June.  Provident has so far drawn 42 students, some as far away as Butler and Beaver counties. The school initially will be able to enroll up to 96 students and will offer third and fourth grades in the first year with plans to serve second through eighth grades by 2021.

“If more men realized the power of leading a classroom—how it is the most important lever in this fight for social justice and equity, and both challenges and offers uniquely amazing rewards—more highly qualified and gifted Black male educators would sign up to do this nation building.”
Why Black Males Need to Answer the Call and Teach
Education Post Blog by Sharif El-Mekki POSTED MAR. 9, 2016
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia, and he is a principal fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.
Had you asked me 25 years ago—and some people did—if I’d become an educator, I would have said, “No way! Why would I work in a school?”  I knew I wanted to work in some realm of social justice and, at the time, I thought that there were much better, faster and easier ways to make an impact, to tilt the scales of justice back in favor of our youth.  At various times, throughout college and immediately after graduating, I kept thinking, how can I make a difference? How can I serve my community best? What is the revolutionary thing to do?  When I reflect on what led me to make the ultimate decision to become a “Nation Builder” (a teacher), I know that my experience as a student, unbeknownst to me at the time, was one of the main reasons.  My teachers raised Freedom Fighters and determined leaders. We used a pan-African, Freedom School model that raised our consciousness, politicized us and educated us. They armed us not only with academic knowledge, but also instilled a strong and deep-rooted understanding that we were responsible for our communities.

Local school districts take steps to comply with new anti-hazing law
Daily Local By Linda Stein, on Twitter POSTED: 08/03/16, 6:50 PM EDT | UPDATED: 7 HRS AGO
A new state law aimed at ending hazing that went into effect July 25 extends the consequences of hazing down to seventh- to 12th- graders.  The law was drafted in the wake of an alleged incident at Conestoga High School where football players were accused of sodomizing a freshman player with a broomstick. Previously, the state anti-hazing law applied only to college students not those in secondary schools.  Susan Guerette, a lawyer with the Radnor firm Fisher Phillips who specializes in education law, said the new anti-hazing law applies to both public and private schools. School districts should adopt policies on it and must provide those policies to all coaches, she said. They must also post their policies to their district websites.

School board member input critical to Regional Advisory Committees at the U.S. Department of Education
NSBA Email August 4, 2016
Between now and August 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education is collecting input from stakeholders on the educational and technical assistance needs of states and school districts. The input will form the basis of recommendations on how those needs would most effectively be met in light of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Department established 10 Regional Advisory Committees (RACs) to collect input and formulate recommendations to the Secretary to inform priorities for the Regional Educational Laboratories as part of the Comprehensive Centers program. Further information about the RACs and comprehensive assistance centers is below.  If you would like to provide input to the RACs, you can go to the RAC portal and respond to the 5-question survey by clicking Needs Sensing Survey and identify yourself as a local school board member in question #2.  You are welcome to refer to NSBA’s Legislative Priorities for implementation of ESSA in addition to your own recommendations.   Thank you for ensuring that local school boards have a voice in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Call for charter school moratorium sparks new NAACP school choice clash
RedefinEd By TRAVIS PILLOW On AUGUST 3, 2016
Yesterday, on a morning news broadcast in the nation’s capital, host Roland Martin asked the question: “Is the NAACP out of step with black folks?”  He was grilling Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, about the national civil rights organization’s latest stand against school choice.  In mid-July, the organization’s members approved a resolution that called for restricting the growth of charter schools. They’ve passed resolutions critical of charters before, but the new one, which recently started making the rounds on blogs critical of education reform, goes further. It calls for an outright moratorium “on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.”  The ensuing controversy mirrors recent events in Florida, where educators and black clergy members who support the NAACP have taken issue with its role in a lawsuit challenging a private school choice program* for low-income children.

NAACP May Double Down on Charter School Opposition, Some Civil Rights Allies Strongly Disagree
NAOMI NIX nsnix87
The NAACP may soon have one message for state governments and others looking to expand charter schools in urban communities: don’t.  During its 2016 National Convention last month, the group’s delegates passed a resolution that reaffirmed the association’s opposition to spending public money on charter schools but went a step further by calling for a full moratorium on their “rapid proliferation,”  NAACP interim education director Victor Goode confirmed Tuesday.  Before becoming official policy, the NAACP’s resolution must first be ratified by its national board, scheduled to meet in the fall. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of education leadership and education chair of the NAACP’s California State Conference, is in favor of hitting the pause button.  “I think what the NAACP is saying is we need to stop and take stock,” he said. “It doesn’t say we need to abolish charter schools but we need to reevaluate where we are with charter schools right now.”

At least 11 conservatives in Kansas Legislature lose seats
Pantagraph By JOHN HANNA August3, 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators lost their seats as moderate Republicans made Tuesday's primary election a referendum on the state's budget problems and education funding.  Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, of Nickerson, fell in his south-central Kansas district to Ed Berger, former president of Hutchinson Community College. Bruce's defeat came amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies that appeared to spell trouble for conservatives.  "The way the state has been going, we have so many problems, and we need some changes to be made," said Stanley Prichard, a 46-year-old manufacturing worker from Hutchinson, who voted for Berger in the Republican primary.  Five other conservative senators lost in races that spanned the state. So did five conservative House members, all of them from affluent Kansas City-area suburbs in Johnson County, the state's most populous, where voters have cherished good public schools for decades.
The voting occurred against the backdrop not only of the state's fiscal woes but ongoing legal and political disputes over funding for public schools. The state Supreme Court could rule by the end of the year on whether the Legislature is shorting schools on their state aid by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Supreme Court blocks transgender victory on bathrooms
 Richard Wolf, USA Today 8:10 p.m. EDT August 3, 2016
The Supreme Court sided Wednesday with a Virginia school board opposed to the Obama administration's directive that transgender students be allowed their choice of public bathrooms.  The justices blocked a federal appeals court ruling against the Gloucester County School Board while they consider whether to hear the case. If they do, it would mark the high court's first foray into the issue of transgender rights.  The case was brought by a transgender student, Gavin Grimm, who contested the school district's refusal to let him use the boys' bathroom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in his favor in April but put its ruling on hold so the school board could appeal. The Supreme Court's order keeps the old rules in place.

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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