Thursday, October 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 13: “There is a growing frustration that charters are unaccountable.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 13, 2016
“There is a growing frustration that charters are unaccountable.”

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

How would your school district fare if lawmakers ramped up the new Pa. funding formula?
The interactive map above allows you to see how each of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts would be affected if lawmakers chose to implement the state's new funding formula more rapidly.  The new formula has been lauded for bringing a measure of rationality and fairness to the state's funding scheme.  For more than two decades, lawmakers divided up education dollars without a student-based method that took into account actual enrollment, poverty, and language fluency.  By now taking these and other factors into account, education advocates favor the new formula for systematically recognizing that districts face different burdens that require varying levels of financial support.

“It has become abundantly clear that systemic changes are needed in how brick and mortar and cyber charters operate in Pennsylvania,” Brewster says.  “There is a growing frustration that charters are unaccountable.”  …”The legislature tried to pass a charter school reform bill (House Bill 530 ) this summer but it had been rewritten into more giveaways to the industry than regulations. For instance, it would have allowed charters to open almost anywhere in the state without approval from local school districts. As such, it lost support.”
State Senator Brewster To Propose Rewriting PA Charter School Law To Hold the Industry Accountable
Gadfly on the Wall Blog October 12, 2016 stevenmsinger 
Pennsylvania’s charter school law is a national disgrace.
It allows charters to defraud the public and provide a substandard education to our children.
Charter school managers pay themselves with taxpayer money for leases on properties they already own. They funnel money through shell companies into their own pockets. Academic achievement at many charters is far below par.  And it’s all legal.  That’s why state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has long called it the “worst charter school law” in the country. But his call for sweeping reforms from the legislature has fallen on mostly deaf ears.  Until now.  State Sen. Jim Brewster is in the early stages of proposing legislation that would ensure charter schools are held as accountable as other public schools.  Specifically it would require these types of schools, which are ostensibly public but privately managed, to be transparent, fiscally solvent and responsible to taxpayers.

"I don't think the public understands that every penny of this tax credit money is money that never makes it into the general fund, and is therefore not available when [lawmakers] sit down to talk about the budget," he said.  Pennsylvania's revenue collections are behind $218.5 million through the first quarter of the current budget year, according to the state Department of Revenue.  Sources in the Democratic wing of the House especially questioned Turzai's push to forgo an additional $75 million in revenue, in this context.”…

“Sixteen other states offer these sorts of credits. More than half require the private schools to take standardized tests in order to provide accountability to taxpayers. Pennsylvania does not.”

“The law in Pennsylvania also allows the scholarship organizations that act as intermediaries to keep 20 percent of the money as an administration fee.  In most other states, it's 10 percent. In Florida, it's 3 percent.”
Top Pa. House Republican touts expanding private school tax credits in visit to Philly
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY OCTOBER 12, 2016 Audio runtime 3:20
Thomas Short loves that his two sons attend St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary school in South Philadelphia.  He says it makes a world of difference for his boys — fearing they would falter in a less structured environment.  Short's perception of the nearby neighborhood public schools is low.  "They're not trying to develop the person as much as just trying to get them through to the next grade," he said. "I don't know why I'm saying that. It's just my opinion. Maybe that's how the public schools used to be back in the day when I went."  Short's family lives on his $1,000 a month disability check. The only way he's able to afford Catholic school tuition is because he takes advantage of a scholarship program that's funded by state tax credits. Tuition for two children normally runs north of $9,000 per year.  With the scholarship, he pays just $1,500.  "Without this, [they're] not going here," he said.  It's these tax credit programs that brought Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to South Philadelphia Wednesday.  "It's really been an important part of allowing school choice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," said Turzai.

PA Constitution Article III, Section 15: Public School Money Not Available to Sectarian Schools:
“No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”
PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 10: PA's “successful EITC program” is successful at circumventing the PA Constitution
Keystone State Education Coalition Monday, October 10, 2016

Turzai wants more tax-credit scholarships for nonpublic schools
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 10:58 PM EDT
After touring St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Point Breeze on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Turzai announced a proposal to expand state scholarship programs that help low-income families afford such schools.  Turzai (R., Allegheny) wants to boost the total corporate tax credits businesses can receive for contributing to scholarship and educational-improvement programs to $250 million in the 2017-18 budget - $75 million more than the current cap.  "It really has been an important part of allowing school choice in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Turzai said.  His proposed legislation, which he said would be introduced this year, would increase the tax credits that businesses can take for contributions to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $50 million and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC) by $25 million.  The proposed EITC increase would be twice the size of the boost the legislature approved in the current budget.

DN letters: Charters offer students a quality education
Philly Daily News Letter by Tim Eller executive director, Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 7:58 PM EDT
LISA HAVER'S Oct. 3 opinion column, "Charters not really a good choice for parents and kids," is a classic example of teachers' unions and traditional public education establishment organizations fighting to maintain the status quo and protecting the adults in the public education system at the expense of students, who have been forced to attend failing traditional public schools for too long.  If public charter schools are "not really a good choice for parents and kids," as Haver suggests, then why do nearly one-third of Philadelphia's students attend public charter schools, with tens of thousands of students remaining on waiting lists?

School choice vs. civil rights
Intelligencer Opinion By Julian Vasquez Heilig October 12, 2016
Julian Vasquez Heilig is a professor at California State University Sacramento. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.
Make no mistake: There is a civil war going on in the black community.
On one side are charter school operators, foundations run by billionaires and school choice movement leaders who support the private control of public schools as envisioned by economist Milton Friedman in the 1950s. On the other side are parents, students and community members who are demanding true equity and democracy in our public schools.  National civil rights organizations are divided over this issue. The National Urban League, United Negro College Fund and other civil rights groups have aligned themselves with market-based school choice proponents. On the other side, the NAACP has passed three national resolutions critical of charter schools over the past six years. The Black Lives Matter coalition, our nation's newest national civil rights umbrella group, released a platform of policy demands critical of charter schools this past summer.  Both sides claim to be representing the interests of black children who have been left behind. In September, charter school owners and their supporters released a letter saying they represent the interests of tens of thousands of black students and bemoaning the NAACP's most recent resolution criticizing charter schools.

Softening the blow of paying your school tax bill: How'd that work out

Chesco district hears from HS students who want to sleep in
A growing number of districts, including Owen J. Roberts in Chester County, are looking at later high school start times
Inquirer by Mari A. Schaefer, Staff Writer  @MariSchaefer Updated: OCTOBER 12, 2016 — 1:13 PM EDT
A Chester County school district that is looking at changing its schedules to let high school students sleep in has heard from an  area student group  that has been studying the issue.
The student forum from the Chester County Intermediate Unit  "strongly recommended" that the Owen J. Roberts School District officials adopt a later start time,  The Pottstown Mercury reports.  The presentation came on the heels of Superintendent Michael Christian's announcement last month that the district is forming a task force to study the issue.  The student group cited the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. They also noted a survey by the Centers for Disease Control has shown high schools on average start at 7:59 a.m.   They suggested changing to a later start. 

OJR School Board urged to consider later school start times
Daily Local By Nancy March, For Digital First Media POSTED: 10/12/16, 2:26 PM EDT 
SOUTH COVENTRY >> A study group from the Chester County Intermediate Unit student forum Monday night “strongly recommended” that the Owen J. Roberts School District change its scheduling to join a growing movement of later high school start times.  Four students representing the forum’s task force which studied start times in high schools concluded a presentation at the school board committee-of-the-whole meeting with a recommendation to the board to consider changing the high school start time, currently 7:30 a.m., to a later time.  The students cited the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. They also noted a survey by the Centers for Disease Control has shown high schools on average start at 7:59 a.m.  The representatives recited the start times in their schools including Phoenixville, 7:20 a.m.; Coatesville Area, 7:30; West Chester, 7:35, and Unionville-Chadds Ford, which this year created a later start time of 7:45.  Monday night’s presentation came on the heels of OJR Superintendent Michael Christian’s announcement last month that the district is forming a task force to study the issue. Staff, students and parents have been invited to join a discussion regarding the student forum findings and local parent appeals.

Legal battles between Philly school district, teachers union a lesson in excess
The front-page story of the Philadelphia school district’s bitter fight with its teachers union has been couched in raucous rallies, caustic signs, and sideswiping comments at public meetings.  But there is another fight, a legal battle, between the two sides that shows just how bitter and expensive the clash between the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has become.  As the contract stalemate between the district of Philadelphia and its teachers union drags into year four, the sides find themselves locked in a host of pricey courtroom clashes.  The number of cases and the ferocity with which they are being fought surpass anything in recent memory. And these clashes come with a cost. In cases involving the union, the district has spent $1.2 million on outside attorneys, according to numbers released through a right-to-know request.

All over the map
More than 1 in 10 students in Philadelphia public schools is learning English. But the District struggles to find a clear vision on how best to educate them.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa October 12, 2016 — 10:44am
Jim Hardy (standing) has taught for almost a decade at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, where 18 percent of the students are classified as English learners. Read about the difference Hardy has made in the classroom and with immigrant students at  The number of English learners, including immigrants, has grown over the last decade to be 12 percent of the enrollment in Philadelphia District schools – more than 1 in 10 students. They and their families speak about 100 languages.  Many are refugees, from countries such as Syria, Sudan, Burma, and El Salvador. More unaccompanied minors arrived in the city this year than two years ago, when the flood of refugee children, mostly from Central America, was in the news, according to agencies that work with them.  Their circumstances and their needs are all over the map. Some are born here into non-English-speaking households. Some are migrant workers who move from place to place. Some are fleeing wars and persecution. Some have spent their entire lives in camps. Some are well-educated in their home country. Some have barely any schooling. Some are immigrants who come here voluntarily, searching for the American dream.

‘Kensington stories’ stick with teacher
Behind Jim Hardy’s anecdotes are students he cares about. Soccer, Spanish, and living in the neighborhood help Hardy reach them.
The notebook by Paul Jablow October 12, 2016 — 11:05am
Kensington Health Sciences Academy teacher Jim Hardy says, "There’s something about the role of a teacher that has great potential to have an impact that goes far beyond the classroom.”  As the “Kensington stories” fill Jim Hardy’s mind and memories,   joy, sorrow, frustration, and satisfaction bump up against each other. For example, he remembers the Arabic-speaking Moroccan high school student who broke down in tears when he couldn’t understand the English instructions to the required PSSA test. And the shy kids, many from other countries, who opened up when Hardy’s soccer leagues offered them a chance to play the game that they knew well as a path into the country they didn’t.    And the spike of happiness when a former student, ecstatic at his summer school grades, saw Hardy three blocks away and sprinted toward him, screaming “Mr. Hardy! Mr. Hardy! I passed! I passed!” And the recent sick feeling he got when he learned that one of his former students had been shot to death. For Hardy, the boundaries have long disappeared between Kensington Health Sciences Academy, where he has taught for almost a decade, and the struggling neighborhood of Kensington where has chosen to live, work, and do what he can to make a difference. “I always wanted to combine teaching and organizing,” said Hardy, as students filtered out of his last-period Spanish class.

Are charter schools truly innovative? The answer can depend on your definition
Boston Globe By James Vaznis GLOBE STAFF  OCTOBER 12, 2016
For decades, charter schools have been billed as “laboratories of innovation,” conjuring up images of teachers and administrators brainstorming and testing cutting-edge instruction that — if proven successful — could deliver salvation to urban education.   But the track record of Massachusetts charter schools on innovation is mixed. While some charters are innovative, others simply strive to build high-quality schools using existing methods and do not necessarily invent new practices.  In the end, charter school practices have been adopted only sporadically in other schools, and many educators in traditional districts say the innovations touted by charters are not really very innovative. Consequently, opponents argue that voters should reject Question 2 on the November ballot, which would authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools.

Test Scores Get Less Emphasis in Final Federal Teacher-Preparation Rules
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on October 12, 2016 11:44 AM Cross-posted from the Teacher Beat blog By Brenda Iasevoli
The U.S. Department of Education today released its long-awaited final rules on teacher preparation. The rules, first proposed in 2014, aim to hold teacher-training programs accountable for the performance of their graduates, and they make it mandatory for states to provide aspiring teachers a way of pre-evaluating programs.  Under the rules, states will be required each year to rate all of its traditional, alternative and distance prep programs as either effective, at-risk, or as low-performing. They will have to provide additional support to programs rated as low-performing.  The annual ratings are to be based on several metrics, such as the number of graduates who get jobs in high-needs schools, how long these graduates stay in the teaching profession, and how effective they are as teachers, judging from classroom observations as well as their students' academic performance.  In a major change from the proposed rules—which were subject to heavy criticism from the field—student learning will not have to be based on test scores or the proxy of teacher evaluations based on student performance; rather, states will have the flexibility to use other measures deemed "relevant to student outcomes" and determine how various components of their systems are weighed.

Obama administration releases long-delayed regulations for teacher-preparation programs
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 12 at 3:11 PM 
The U.S. Education Department published regulations Wednesday governing programs that prepare new K-12 teachers, a long-delayed effort meant to ensure that graduates emerge ready for the nation’s classrooms.  The new regulations, at least five years in the making, require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs within their borders. The ratings aim to serve as a snapshot of how novice educators perform after graduation, offering prospective teachers and school district recruiters a more accurate picture of which programs are successful at producing strong educators and which are not.  Obama administration officials and reform-minded advocacy groups also hope the ratings prod training programs — long criticized as cash cows for universities that produce ill-prepared candidates — to improve.

“Fortunately, federal support for education, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), increased during the period and helped compensate for the drop in state and local support for education.Isaacs adds, “Between 2008 and 2010, federal spending on education increased by more than $370 per child. As a result, total spending on education remained fairly steady at about $8,000 per child in 2008–10.”  The bad news, according to the Kids’ Share 2016 report, is that federal support for education has dropped from a high of $74 billion in 2010 to $41 billion in 2015, a decline of more than 40 percent in the last five years. The Urban Institute explains, “Some decline from the ARRA years was to be expected, but it is notable that federal education spending remains 9 percent lower than in pre-recession 2008.”
Shortchanging Our Children, Our Schools, and Our Future
Voices4Kids by Bruce Lesley, President of @First_Focus & @Campaign4Kids. Child advocate, husband & father of 4. Basketball fanatic. Views expressed are mine alone. #InvestInKids Oct 7
In a new report by the Urban Institute entitled Kids’ Share 2016, the authors found that state and local spending on education declined dramatically during the Great Recession. Co-author Julia Issacs writes, “As the economy turned downward in late 2008, local revenues fell with the drop in property values, and state revenues fell with declines in earning and income.”  In response to the recession, safety net programs like Medicaid provided additional support to a growing number of people living in poverty, including children. However, states cut other areas of their budgets, such as education in order to balance their budgets. According to Isaacs, state and local spending on education dropped by $36 billion from 2008 to 2011 or “by more than $400 per child between 2008 and 2010.”

“You have someone who is contributing millions and millions of dollars to local and statewide political races and who was the former president of the state school board whose stated goal is to end democracy in education. That is deeply disturbing.”
The Battle of Hastings: What’s Behind the Netflix CEO’s Fight to Charterize Public Schools?
Capital and Main Blog by Joel Warner October 12, 2016
Brett Bymaster, a Silicon Valley electrical engineer, was optimistic when Rocketship Education, a non-profit charter school chain, began building its flagship Mateo Sheedy elementary school next to his San Jose home in 2007. He and his family lived in a lower-income community, so he figured the new approach could help local kids. “I didn’t know anything about charter schools, so I thought it was a good thing,” he says.  But the more he learned about Rocketship and charter schools, which receive government funding but operate independently of local school boards, the more concerned he became. He was struck by the school’s cramped quarters: over 600 students on a 1-acre campus, compared to the 9.2 acres per 450 students recommended for elementary schools by the California Department of Education. All those students meant big classes; last year Mateo Sheedy had one teacher for every 34 students, more than themaximum allowed for traditional elementary schools under state law.  The teacher deficit seemed to be compensated for with screen time: Thanks to its so-called “blended learning” approach, Rocketship kindergarteners were spending 80 to 90 minutes a day in front of computers in a school learning lab, nearly the daily maximum screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And when the kids weren’t in front of computers, they seemed to be getting disciplined throughout their extra-long school days. Bymaster says he’d constantly see teachers yelling at students. “It’s a military-style environment,” notes Bymaster, who spearheaded a 2013 lawsuit that caused Rocketship to scrap one of its planned San Jose schools. “It’s really a kill-and-drill kind of school.”

The Frontiers spirit: A mission to Mars is just one big idea today
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board October 13, 2016 12:00 AM
President Barack Obama’s call for a greater public/​private partnership for space exploration in general and a Mars expedition in particular is just beginning to yield the kinds of technological breakthroughs necessary to convince ordinary people that this thing is possible by 2030.  Today, Mr. Obama will be attending the Frontiers Conference held jointly by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Of course, future missions to Mars and the development of the technology and international cooperation necessary to get humans there and back is high on the agenda, but isn’t the only subject of the conference.  The conference will also look at community development, the potential of artificial intelligence in our civic and commercial life, the challenge of climate change and the burgeoning promise of precision health. This is a fundamentally optimistic gathering of some of the greatest minds in academia and the tech field and should generate even more cooperation across institutional lines. This is an exciting time to be a scientist contemplating big, world-changing moves in the coming decades.

Storm forces delay until 8:03 p.m. Sunday of rocket launch that might be visible along the East Coast
Penn Live By Matt Miller | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 12, 2016 at 10:04 AM
A tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean has forced at least a two-day delay in a rocket launch that might be visible to millions of people on the East Coast, including the midstate.  According to, the postponement of the launch of the private cargo ship from Wallops Island, Va., was prompted by Tropical Storm Nicole. The launch had been scheduled for Friday night.  The storm will interfere with a tracking station in Bermuda, so the new tentative time for the launch of the Orbital ATK Cygnus craft is 8:03 p.m. Sunday. If the weather is clear, the rocket should be visible on the southern horizon moments after liftoff as it boosts supplies to the International Space Station. NASA TV will broadcast the launch live starting at 7 p.m. Sunday.

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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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