Wednesday, October 12, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 12: Follow the Money: Contributions to Students First PAC in 2016

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 12, 2016
Follow the Money: Contributions to Students First PAC in 2016

Blogger note: PA Ed Policy Roundup may be offline until Monday, attending PSBA/PASA School Leadership Conference

We will follow-up with details of where these contributions went in the coming days.
Follow the Money: Contributions to Students First PAC in 2016
PA Department of State Campaign Finance Online Reporting

Contributor        Date                 Amount
Arthur Dantchik 2/2/2016            $33,333.33
                        2/23/2016          $24,000.00
                        3/8/2016            $100,000.00
Jeffrey Yass      2/2/2016            $33,333.33
                        2/23/2016          $24,000.00
                        3/8/2016            $100,000.00
Joel Greenberg  2/2/2016            $33,333.33
                        2/23/2016          $24,000.00
                        3/8/2016            $100,000.00
Total                 $471,999.99

Not familiar with Pennsylvania’s Students First PAC?  Here are links to several previous articles:
Keystone State Education Coalition Sunday, March 25, 2012

Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Keystone State Education Coalition Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

4 charter schools in Pittsburgh receive 5-year renewals
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 12, 2016 12:00 AM
A judge has ordered that four city charter schools be allowed to operate through mid-2021 as a result of a lawsuit they filed against Pittsburgh Public Schools, claiming the school board erred in issuing them a one-year renewal.  Arguing that they would have trouble recruiting students and staff, getting financing and planning long-term, Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School, Manchester Academic Charter School, Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh and Urban Pathways 6-12 Charter School alleged that the school district “misread” a part of state law that allows certain school systems to issue a one-year charter.  At issue was the interpretation of a part of the state school code, which says a “first class” district may renew a charter for one year if members find “insufficient data concerning the charter school’s academic performance to adequately assess the performance.” Philadelphia is the only “first class” district in the state; Pittsburgh Public is a “first class A” district because it serves a city whose population does not exceed 1 million.

Decision day coming for two Aspira charters?
Inquirer by Martha Woodall and Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITERS Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Olney Charter High and John B. Stetson Charter School are supposed to operate independently. But the schools, both managed by Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, share board members with Aspira's three other charters, and a majority of them are appointed by Aspira.  In addition, the schools are entangled in a web of financial transactions, including payments and loans to Aspira, to each other, and to Aspira-related businesses, the Philadelphia School District's charter office says.  For example, Aspira owed Olney $2.52 million in the 2015 fiscal year, and the charter office said it could find no evidence that Olney's board approved the loans or any documents that showed how the money was used.

Schools' lead remediation plan not enough, teachers' union chief says
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The Philadelphia School District is not doing enough for children at 11 city schools where unacceptably high levels of lead were found in the water, the teachers' union president said Tuesday.  Jerry Jordan said the district was warned for years about lead problems, adding that it was "beyond upsetting" to learn of the problems at some schools.  School officials began testing water fountains at 40 schools over the summer. They found one or more fountains at 11 schools with lead concentrations higher than 15 parts per billion.  No problems were noted at 29 other schools that were tested.  The School District strongly defended its protocols.

Chicago teachers avoid a strike and get a new contract
Philadelphia teachers have been working without a contract for more than 1,000 days.
The notebook by Greg Windle October 11, 2016 — 11:14am
Chicago public schools narrowly avoided a teacher strike on Tuesday, thanks to a last-minute agreement with district officials.  Chicago teachers had been working without a contract since November 2014. Chicago Public Schools laid off more than 1,000 staffers before the school year began and laid off 200 more Oct. 3, days after the Chicago Teachers Union announced it would begin a strike on Oct. 11 that would have continued until a new contract was negotiated.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia schools opened their doors for a “walk-in” Oct. 5,  along with more 2,000 other schools around the country. During a walk-in, school buildings are open to the press, and staff are given an opportunity to raise awareness about local education policy issues. Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators said its members pushed for the walk-in as a way to draw media attention to austere school budgets and build solidarity with parents and school communities.  The conditions in Chicago are strikingly similar to those in the Philadelphia School District.

Philadelphia Writing Project's Walk for Literacy will be Sunday
The notebook by Greg Windle October 11, 2016 — 5:17pm
The Philadelphia Writing Project will hold its fourth annual Walk for Literacy on Sunday at Penn Park. The proceeds will be donated to youth writing programs around the city, such as Project Write and the Writing Project's summer writing enrichment camp. The walk will start at 8 a.m. at Shoemaker Green, near the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field.  Entertainment will feature music by Elevate Sound Studios and a performance by a Thomas Jefferson impersonator. “Writing programs for students and teachers are especially important now, when teachers and schools face so many budgetary and testing restrictions,” said Diane Waff, director of the Philadelphia Writing Project. “The funds raised in the Walk for Literacy will help to ensure that as many students as possible take part in engaging, thought-provoking writing instruction.”

Bloggger note: David Shulick was also a member of former Governor Corbett’s education transition team.  Coincidentally, so were members of Students First PAC and Vahan Gureghian
Fattah Jr.'s alternative school boss charged with paying nannies, landscapers with school district funds
Inquirer by Jeremy Roebuck and Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITERS Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The head of a now-defunct for-profit education firm with ties to Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. was charged Tuesday with bilking the cash-strapped Philadelphia School District out of hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for educating some of the district's most troubled children.
In an indictment filed in federal court, prosecutors accused David T. Shulick, former president of the Bala Cynwyd-based Delaware Valley High School Management Corp., of skimming funds from a $2.1 million contract his company held between 2010 and 2012 to run an alternative school in Southwest Philadelphia for students at risk of dropping out.

"Among one of the lobby’s biggest donors is Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of CSMI, which manages the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County. According to Follow The Money, Gureghian pumped $336,000 into the campaign coffers of former Gov. Tom Corbett — making him his second largest individual donor over his gubernatorial career.  Gureghian has also donated close to a million to other Pennsylvania politicians and PACs.
Meanwhile, the American Federation for Children, a national organization that supports the growth of charter schools and “school voucher” legislation, has pumped in $3.7 million to Pennsylvania lawmakers. A trio of investors in Montgomery County— Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchik — have donated about $4 million under a PAC dedicated to similar aims."
Reprise Feb 2015: Pa. charter schools buy influence with $10M in donations to politicians
Pottstown Mercury By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, For The Associated Press POSTED: 02/28/15, 1:39 PM EST |
HARRISBURG >> It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.  But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause. In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.  “They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”  In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated — particularly those run by for-profit management companies — so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals. According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

Blogger's note: Originally detailed in an article by Dan Hardy in the Inquirer in June of 2009 now posted on this ACSE website, the legal wrangling over this right to know request has apparently quietly gone away over time. 
Without fiscal transparency PA taxpayers have no way of knowing how their money is being spent.
Reprise June 2009: Charter school appeals to block release of records
Alliance of Charter School Employees website
The Chester Community Charter School has filed a court appeal to a recent Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruling that gave The Inquirer access to a wide range of financial records from the management company that operates the school.  The Chester Community Charter School has filed a court appeal to a recent Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruling that gave The Inquirer access to a wide range of financial records from the management company that operates the school.  The Delaware County school, the state's largest charter, and Charter School Management Inc., a private, for-profit management company, have repeatedly denied requests by the newspaper for details about how millions of dollars in public money were spent and how much the company and its owner, Vahan H. Gureghian, were making.  Because Charter School Management Inc. is a private business that hires all school employees and manages the school's finances, it has been able to keep many aspects of its financial operations secret, in contrast to most charters, which have to disclose more information in nonprofit reports.

EPLC Presents Its 2016 Edward Donley Education Policy Award to Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Throughout her career, Donna Cooper has been a dedicated and effective advocate for public education and Pennsylvania’s children, and one of the most influential voices for effective education policy both in the Commonwealth and nationally.  Since January 2013, Donna has been the Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Greater Philadelphia region’s leading child advocacy organization that influences elected officials by combining useful research, practical solution-oriented policy recommendations with the mobilization of citizens who advance the organization’s work on behalf of children.  For two years before joining PCCY, Donna was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she led the Center’s research on early childhood education and public infrastructure and was a contributing researcher to the Center’s work to reduce the incidence of poverty.  From 2003-2010, Donna served as the Secretary of Policy and Planning for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where she was responsible for the state’s education, public supports, environmental, and healthcare policy.  While in this role, she led the development of the Cover All Kids program which expanded access to affordable healthcare to nearly every child in the state.

PSBA News Release: New partnership gives all Pennsylvania school districts access to cutting-edge data analytics tool
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Eidex LLC that will enable PSBA to provide free use of Eidex Focus, a data analytics tool designed for education, to all PSBA member school districts and Career and Technical Centers (CTCs).  For the next two years, PSBA will provide each member school district and CTC a complimentary initial user license to Eidex Focus. This is a cost savings worth thousands of dollars for each and every school district.  “The PSBA Governing Board believes every school district should be able to garner the power of data. By offering this data platform to all districts, PSBA members will be able to benchmark their data against other districts locally and statewide while developing better financial models – and more,” said Kathy K. Swope, PSBA 2016 president. “This is a significant step forward for education in Pennsylvania – it allows all public schools to adopt a single platform for data analysis.”

Facebook-backed school software shows promise — and raises privacy concerns
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Todd C. Frankel October 11 at 7:02 PM 
Caroline Pollock Bilicki felt uneasy about the new education program introduced this year at her children’s Chicago school.  Summit Basecamp, built with the help of Facebook engineers, was billed as a powerful tool that could reshape how students learn. Dozens of schools nationwide have signed up to use the program, which tailors lessons to individual students using software that tracks their progress.  But it also captures a stream of data, and Bilicki had to sign a consent form for her children to participate, allowing their personal data to be shared with companies such as Facebook and Google. That data, the form said, could include names, email addresses, schoolwork, grades and Internet activity. Summit Basecamp promised to limit its use of the information — barring it from being used, for example, to deliver targeted ads — but Bilicki agonized over whether to sign the form.   “I’m not comfortable with having my kids’ personally identifiable information going to I don’t even know where, to be used for I’m not sure what,” she said.

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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

The Sixth Annual Arts and Education Symposium – October 27, 2016
The 2016 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on October 27 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Arts Education network and EPLC, the Symposium is a Unique Networking and Learning Opportunity for:
·         Arts Educators
·         School Leaders
·         Artists
·         Arts and Culture Community Leaders
·         Arts-related Business Leaders
·         Arts Education Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education
·         Advocates
·         State and Local Policy Leaders
Act 48 Credit is available.
Program and registration information are available here.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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