Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 9: Could Performance-Based Funding Help Fix PA Cyber Charters?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 9, 2016:
Could Performance-Based Funding Help Fix PA Cyber Charters?

Blogger note/opinion: Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing School Performance Profile score of 70 in any of the three years that the SPP has been in effect.  Most PA cybers never made adequate yearly progress during the years that No Child Left Behind was in effect.  These results reflect several recent national studies.  While cybers may be great for some kids, overall they have been an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars drawn from all 500 school districts.

“First, policy makers should adopt performance-based funding for e-schools. When students complete courses successfully and demonstrate that they have mastered the expected competencies, e-schools would get paid. This creates incentives for e-schools to focus on what matters most—academic progress—while tempering their appetite for enrollment growth and the dollars tied to it. It would also encourage them to recruit students likely to succeed in an online environment—a form of “cream-skimming” that is not only defensible but, in this case, preferable. At the very least, proficiency-based funding is one way for e-schools to demonstrate that they are successfully delivering the promised instruction to students. That should be appealing to them given the difficulty in defining, tracking, and reporting “attendance” and “class time” at an online school.”
Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?
Education Next By Dara Zeehandelaar and Michael J. Petrilli 08/08/2016
A major development of recent years has been the explosive growth of online learning in K–12 education. Sometimes it takes the form of “blended learning,” with students receiving a mix of online and face-to-face instruction. Students may also learn via web-based resources like the Khan Academy, or by enrolling in distance-learning “independent study” courses. In addition, an increasing number of pupils are taking the plunge into fully online schools: In 2015, an estimated 275,000 students enrolled in full-time virtual charter schools across twenty-five states.  The Internet has obviously opened a new frontier of instructional possibilities. Much less certain is whether such opportunities are actually improving achievement, especially for the types of students who enroll in virtual schools. In Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools, we at Fordham examined this issue using data from our home state of Ohio, where online charter schools (“e-schools”) are a rapidly growing segment of K–12 education. Today they enroll more than thirty-five thousand students, one of the country’s largest populations of full-time online students. Ohio e-school enrollment has grown 60 percent over the last four years, a rate greater than any other type of public school. But even since they launched, e-schools have received negative press for their poor academic performance, high attrition rates, and questionable capacity to educate the types of students who choose them. It’s clearly a sector that needs attention.

“The back-and-forth underscored lingering questions about the explosion of charter schools, their impact on traditional public schools, and the scrutiny they get, or deserve to get.  More than 170 such schools - independently run, but with taxpayer funds - operate statewide, with scores in and around Philadelphia. Charters serve almost 130,000 students in Pennsylvania, and get more than $1 billion in public funding each year.  And while educators, advocates, legislators and even Gov. Wolf have called for reforms, including better accountability and an improved funding system, no such changes have occurred.”
'Old news' or fresh look? Auditor's focus on charter school leases revives issue
Inquirer by Grace Toohey, STAFF WRITER Updated: AUGUST 8, 2016 — 6:18 PM EDT
When Pennsylvania's auditor general released a report last week highlighting what he called a lack of state oversight on millions of dollars in lease reimbursements for charter schools, his message wasn't exactly new.  Some of the data cited by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale mirrored an identical warning he issued in 2013 on the topic.  But that was partially the point.  Three years had passed, DePasquale said, and the state had done nothing to address the issue, possibly paving the way for millions of dollars in wasteful, if not improper, spending. "They have not changed how they go about doing this," he later said in an interview.  Department officials took issue with the auditor's claim that some charter-school landlords had ties to their schools that should preclude them from being reimbursed for leases. They said the schools were operating under the law - but stopped short of defending that law.  "Over the past year, the Department has agreed with the Auditor General's belief that the current law needs revision," a spokesperson for the department told The Inquirer and Daily News in an email Monday. "However, any change to the current charter school law requires legislation."

Editorial: Follow the trail of charter school leases
Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: AUGUST 8, 2016
Whenever the state government pays for leases, it has faced problems with people using state money to lease from themselves.  State legislators often have located their district offices in buildings that they own and have charged the state for rent — one of those remarkable Pennsylvania coincidences in which the politician’s building just happens to be the best location for an office. On the judicial side, there have been many cases where magisterial district judge offices have been placed in the magisterial district judge’s building.  Both practices have been outlawed but the lesson apparently has not been learned by the executive branch.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported last week that the department has paid $2.5 million to charter school operators as reimbursements for rent in buildings that they own.

Turns out that if you make it easier for people to register to vote, they will, state data shows
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 08, 2016 at 7:48 AM, updated August 08, 2016 at 8:48 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With doom and gloom elsewhere in the headlines on this eighth day of August, here's a little feel-good story about the power of civic engagement to put a spring in your collective step.  More than 400,000 Pennsylvanians hopped on the Intenetz in the last year to either register to vote or to change their party registration, our pal Tom Fontaine, of The Tribune-Review  reports.  For those of you playing along at home, that's 250k for the former and nearly 200k for the latter, the newspaper noted.

Montgomery County schools make bigger gains than Bucks County in basic education funding
Pennsylvania's new basic education funding formula is boosting school district budgets in eastern Montgomery County by a greater percentage than their counterparts in Bucks County.
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016 6:00 am
Pennsylvania's new basic education funding formula is boosting school district budgets in eastern Montgomery County by a greater percentage than their counterparts in Bucks County.  Overall, eastern Montgomery County schools like Upper Moreland (6.9 percent), Abington (6.7) and North Penn (5.9) benefited from the county's average gain of 4.86 percent for 2016-17.  Bucks' districts, on the other hand, will receive 3.5 percent more overall, the same as the state average. Bensalem (5.1 percent), Central Bucks (5.0) and Pennridge (4.7) were the big winners.  "For more than two decades taxpayers in my school districts have been short-changed by an unfair school funding formula," said state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, of Horsham. "I'm pleased we were finally able to implement this new formula to begin leveling the playing field by funding our schools based on the actual cost to educate our children rather than political considerations."

16 of 17 Lancaster County school districts raise taxes
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Aug 8, 2016
Property owners’ wallets might feel a little lighter this month.  School tax bills went out in July, and they were higher than last year in all but one of Lancaster County’s 17 public districts.  The biggest jump was 7 percent in Penn Manor School District. Cocalico was the only local district that did not raise taxes.  Elsewhere, increases ranged from 1.9 percent in Lampeter-Strasburg to 5.6 percent in the Octorara district. The average increase was 3.1 percent.  Penn Manor’s school board said the dramatic tax hike this year is intended in part to fund an $87 million high school construction project.  Other boards cited rising costs that they don’t control for the rising taxes. Pensions, in particular, have been a sore spot in school budget conversations for several years. For 2016-17, districts must contribute 30 percent of payroll to pensions. Five years ago, the rate was 9 percent.  But the rapid rise should begin to slow next year, and the plateau “does make the budget impact from one year to the next much more manageable,” said Nathan Wertsch, business manager for Warwick School District.

“LERTA is designed to encourage property improvements in deteriorating areas by phasing in any increases in taxes that come with renovations. LERTA allows property owners to continue to pay their base tax bill while the increased taxes are phased in over 10 years.”
Bethlehem school board asks what's to lose with new tax district
Bethlehem is proposing creating a special tax district on the city's north side to encourage property owners to invest in renovations. There are many well-kept homes but also some in decline and they want to stop that slide, city officials say.
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 08, 2016 at 6:13 PM, updated August 08, 2016 at 7:13 PM
Bethlehem Area School Board members are weighing the risks and benefits of agreeing to create a new tax district on the city's north side.   The school board, Bethlehem City Council and Northampton County Council are being asked to support the creation of a new Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance -- LERTA -- district running from Main and Maple streets on the east and west and Liberty High School and Broad streets on the north and south.  Monday night Bethlehem officials pitched the LERTA plans to the school board and asked for member's input to refine the plans. Board members asked questions at the meeting and city officials are expected to return in September to tackle any follow-up questions.

Ridge, 49 other top GOP national security officials warn of Trump risk
Inquirer by Thomas Fitzgerald, Political Writer  @tomfitzgerald Updated: AUGUST 8, 2016 — 4:21 PM EDT
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security, joined 49 other senior Republican national security officials Monday in signing a letter that declares Donald Trump would “put at risk our country’s national security and well-being” if elected.  Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history,” the officials said, because he lacks the character, values and experience to serve in the office.  The letter - which was first reported by The New York Times - questions Trump’s knowledge of, and commitment to, the U.S. constitution. It also says the GOP nominee has little understanding of the importance of strategic alliances, or of the democratic values that should undergird foreign policy.  Like Ridge, most of those who signed on to the open letter served in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins explains why she's not voting for Trump
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | cwoodall@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 09, 2016 at 6:45 AM
Susan Collins, a lifelong Republican who represents Maine in the Senate, said she's not supporting her party's presidential nominee, Donald Trump.   In a Washington Post column Monday, Collins said she's "increasingly dismayed" by Trump's continuous insults and lack of apologies.    "Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country," she said.   While Collins conceded the real estate mogul's unscripted speeches enabled him to connect with voters who felt underrepresented in Washington, D.C., she said his rhetoric went too far.   "Rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from showing complete disregard for common decency," she said. 

“Zogby served as education secretary and policy director under Gov. Tom Ridge, education secretary under Gov. Mark Schweiker and budget secretary under Gov. Tom Corbett, all Republicans.”
Adviser to 3 governors charged with assaulting wife outside home
Penn Live By The Associated Press on August 08, 2016 at 6:28 PM
NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. (AP) — A former top adviser to three Pennsylvania governors faces a charge he assaulted his wife at their home outside Harrisburg over the weekend.  The York Dispatch reported Monday that former budget secretary Charles Zogby was charged with misdemeanor simple assault and summary harassment after police found his wife with blood on her face and hands on Saturday night.  The 54-year-old Zogby declined comment in a brief phone interview on Monday.  Police say Zogby's wife alleges he punched her in the face and choked her.

Who Might Be a Clinton Education Secretary?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on August 8, 2016 9:40 AM
Now that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and her running mate, Tim Kaine are officially hitting the campaign trail, it's time to start speculating: Who might her education secretary be if she wins the White House?  It's not too early to ask the question. After all, at this point in 2008, a lot of folks were pretty sure that President Barack Obama was going to choose Arne Duncan, his basketball buddy and the superintendent of Chicago public schools, to run the U.S. Department of Education.  But Democrats we spoke to were far less confident this time around about who is on Clinton's short list, or if she even has one yet. However, because this kind of thing is fun, we couldn't help asking some Democrats to give us their very best speculation, anonymously of course.

Black Organizations Say No -- or at Least, Slow Down -- to Charter Schools
The American Prospect by RACHEL M. COHEN AUGUST 8, 2016
The NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives cast a cold eye on education reform.
At its national convention in July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the nation’s premier civil-rights organizations, passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools. The resolution said, among other things, that charters have contributed to segregation, have used disproportionately high levels of punitive and exclusionary discipline, and pledged that the NAACP will seek to promote stronger investigative bodies to oversee charter school fraud, corruption, and waste. The resolution will not become official policy until the NAACP’s national board convenes later this fall, but it builds on previous resolutions passed in 2010 and 2014 that were also critical of charter schools.  A coalition of more than 50 black-led organizations known as the Movement for Black Lives—aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement—also released a wide-ranging policy platform last week outlining a collective political agenda that the groups had been hammering out since more than 1,000 activists and organizers gathered in Cleveland last summer.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 8/9/2016

StarGazing: Celestrial foursome and the Perseids
Post Gazette By Dan Malerbo Buhl Observatory and Planetarium August 9, 2010 4:00 AM
This week, stargazers can view the annual Perseid meteor shower and see a very young crescent moon join Venus, Mars and Saturn in the west-southwestern sky just after sunset.
On Thursday evening, the thin crescent will sit about 7 degrees below dazzling bright Venus and by Friday evening, the crescent will have moved to about 8 degrees to the left of Venus.  Binoculars will reveal that Mars is about 3 degrees above and to the left of Venus and that Saturn is about 5 degrees to the right of Earth's sister planet.  Among the many nights of the Perseid meteor shower, there is always one night that is best. This year, peak activity will occur in the northeastern sky from about 10 p.m. Thursday until dawn on Friday. Maximum activity with exceptional skies during the Perseids is normally about 50 or 60 meteors per hour. The thin crescent moon will be out of the way early, setting the stage for a potentially spectacular show.

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 https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/   (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 website:www.paschoolleaders.org.

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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