Wednesday, October 19, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 19: Only 22% of PA's 168 charters attained SPP scores above 70. The majority scored in the 40's & 50's

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 19, 2016
Only 22% of PA's 168 charter schools attained SPP scores above 70. The majority scored in the 40's & 50's



Legislative Alert – Please Call Your Legislators Today Asking Them to Oppose HB530, the Charter School Expansion Bill

Please ask your colleagues to do the same.  Bill could be fast-tracked today and run through the legislature in as little as 48 hours.

House Members Contact info:
Senate Members Contact info:

Pennsylvania has the worst charter school law in the country and it is long overdue for renewal, especially to address fraud, waste and abuse and a total lack of transparency by charter management companies.  HB530 does absolutely nothing to address those concerns.  It would allow for unregulated expansion of charter schools with less accountability for taxpayer dollars while also diluting existing authorizer oversight

Don't be fooled by House Bill 530, so called charter reform legislation.  The legislation could be considered by the House Rules committee at any time and shortly afterward receive a vote by the entire house. We need to stop this bill by educating representatives on its numerous sections that remove accountability and oversight of charter schools.   Click here for a full explanation of the bill and an action alert you can send. https://www.psba.org/2016/10/house-bill-530-not-charter-school-reform/


House Bill 530 is Not Charter School Reform
Let’s stop pretending — The need for meaningful charter school reform is urgent, but that reform is NOT contained in House Bill 530.
PSBA Website October 10, 2016
House Bill 530 is not a genuine effort to improve the quality of education that our children receive, and it does little to provide real change in the way charter schools are operated, funded or held accountable. Instead, it enables the expansion of charter schools with less accountability and oversight, and actually dilutes existing powers of oversight. Language purported to set tighter rules for financial transparency and accountability contains provisions that are already required.  House Bill 530 simply perpetuates and expands the system of privatized public schools. Here’s why:

House Ready to Vote on Charter School Expansion Bill

“Only 22% of PA's 168 charter schools attained SPP scores above 70. The majority scored in the 40's & 50's”
Seven interesting observations about the 2016 school report cards
Jan Murphy at Penn Live October 18, 2016
Only 22% of PA's 168 charter schools attained SPP scores above 70. The majority scored in the 40's & 50's

"When you have the larger management companies running a broad chunk of schools, we view that as a major issue," he said. "If you were not allowed to find out the salary of your school district superintendent, what would be the outcry in your district?...There would be pitchforks at that meeting. In many of the management companies, we don't even get to see the salaries let alone the costs."… DePasquale says the report validates his view that the state's charter law is badly in need of revision — especially because it leaves these management organizations outside the purview of right-to-know laws and allows them to forgo audits.”
Federal report on charter schools elicits more calls to revise Pa. law
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY OCTOBER 17, 2016
Some charter schools operate like islands — day-to-day they run independently of any higher or centralized power.  Others contract with a management organization — sometimes part of a big network, sometimes not. Sometimes for-profit, sometimes not.  It's these charter management organizations, or CMOs, that have been criticized recently by the Office of the Inspector General inside the U.S. Department of Education.  In a September report, the OIG warned that CMOs pose a "significant risk" to both taxpayer dollars and performance expectations.  The report studied 33 CMOs in six states and found that two-thirds were cause for concern, with internal weaknesses that put federal tax dollars at risk.   Pennsylvania was one of the states investigated, and the report echoed much of what Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has already flagged about CMOs in the state.
http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/98059-federal-report-on-charter-schools-elicits-more-calls-to-revise-pa-law

Blogger Comment: Real reform of PA public charter schools should focus on eliminating fraud, waste & abuse and the total lack of transparency regarding how tax dollars are spent by charter management companies.  Here are four examples:

Nick Trombetta admits $8 million fraud, PA Cyber Charter August 2016

$6 million fraud Dorothy June Brown, Agora Cyber Charter, Inquirer 2015

K12 Inc. executive compensation, Prior Management Company for Agora Cyber Charter (Agora provided a significant portion of K12’s revenue), Morningstar Executive Compensation

It appears that tax dollars intended for the classrooms of Chester Upland, the poorest district in the state, may have instead been used to purchase beachfront lots and build a $74.5 million mansion.  We can’t confirm that because right to know requests have been steadily ignored. There is virtually no transparency for the use of tax dollars by charter management companies.
The most expensive Palm Beach property listed for sale in the local multiple listing service has also never been lived in: It’s a French-style mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Boulevard, priced at $74.5 million. Listed for sale by Christian Angle Real Estate, the house was built by its Philadelphia-based owners, Vahan and Danielle Gureghian.

Dive Brief: Virtual charters threaten finances in Pennsylvania public schools
Education Dive By Tara García Mathewson | October 17, 2016
School districts in and around Reading, PA, send between $163,615 and $4.5 million to virtual charter schools each year, based on the number of students that attend these alternative schools, and area superintendents are demanding change.  The Reading Eagle reports Lower Marion School District in Chester County spends about $13,000 more per student than Conrad Weiser School District, even though students from both districts attend the same charter school, a key point of contention in the funding debate.  Pennsylvania’s virtual charters are criticized for low student performance, though these schools’ leaders say that is a reflection of the types of students who turn to them — but even the heads of cyber schools say they would approve of a new formula based on actual spending, rather than one that takes into account the home district’s average per-student costs.
·         School districts in and around Reading, PA, send between $163,615 and $4.5 million to virtual charter schools each year, based on the number of students that attend these alternative schools, and area superintendents are demanding change.
·         The Reading Eagle reports Lower Marion School District in Chester County spends about $13,000 more per student than Conrad Weiser School District, even though students from both districts attend the same charter school, a key point of contention in the funding debate.
·         Pennsylvania’s virtual charters are criticized for low student performance, though these schools’ leaders say that is a reflection of the types of students who turn to them — but even the heads of cyber schools say they would approve of a new formula based on actual spending, rather than one that takes into account the home district’s average per-student costs.

Fear of poverty has some flocking to charters, board president says
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 18, 2016 at 6:18 PM, updated October 18, 2016 at 7:23 PM
Bethlehem Area School District enrollment is up for the first time in a decade, and the district seems to have stemmed the flow of students to charter schools.   Superintendent Joseph Roy noted it is only 102 students, not a huge number for a district enrolling almost 14,000, but it is a good trend.  Bethlehem is entering its second year of full-day kindergarten and the district saw kindergarten enrollment rise over 900 for the first time since 2012.  Overall, 51 more students are enrolled in charter schools this year. But Bethlehem's effort to start its own cyber academy seems to have paid off because 45 fewer students are enrolled in cyber charter schools and many signed up with the district, Roy said.
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2016/10/some_sending_kids_to_charters.html

Pennsylvania high court limits release of home addresses
AP Published: October 18, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's highest court says the right to personal privacy in government records is guaranteed by the state constitution, as it reversed a lower court ruling involving public school employees' home addresses. Tuesday's unanimous Supreme Court ruling came in a seven-year-old Right-to-Know Law case. In the 33-page decision, the justices say the right to informational privacy may not be violated unless outweighed by a public interest favoring disclosure. They sent the case back to the Commonwealth Court, which ruled last year that employees must first have a chance to fight such a request for their information.  The case was prompted by requests to school districts for the names and addresses of all school employees. The state's largest teachers' union sued to stop it and asked the court to declare the information exempt from public access.

Likely new SRC member: Parents deserve school choice
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER Updated: OCTOBER 18, 2016 — 5:43 PM EDT
Estelle B. Richman believes teachers - especially those in struggling neighborhoods - need ample resources, and that parents ought to have choices about where their children attend school. The public servant who was once a licensed school psychologist is well aware of the challenges the School Reform Commission faces.  And, she said, she's up for it.  "We have to convince folks that an investment in education is always worth it," Richman said. "I think we can make a difference."  Richman confirmed to The Inquirer that Gov. Wolf has asked her to fill an open seat on the SRC and that she has accepted. Wolf has not made a formal announcement, but one is expected soon.

Former Khepera Charter administrator files whistle-blower suit
by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 19, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The former chief administrative officer at Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia has filed a whistle-blower suit in federal court alleging he was wrongfully dismissed for speaking out about financial and management practices at the school.  Mukasa Afrika filed his complaint Oct. 7 against Khepera and its board of trustees, chief financial officer, and lawyer.  Afrika, who had held a variety of positions at the K-8 charter since 2006, was promoted to chief administrative officer in July 2014. His annual contract was not renewed for the 2016-17 academic year.  Located at 926 W. Sedgley Ave., Khepera is an African-centered school that has about 370 students.  Afrika alleges that Khepera's board chairman, Richard Isaac, "unilaterally made the decision" to terminate him in retaliation for reporting concerns about the school's governance and finances to the Philadelphia School District's charter school office and other government agencies.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 12 - 18, 2016
Submitted by fairtest on October 18, 2016 - 1:12pm 
With stories from 20 states, this week's news clips demonstrate the growing breadth and depth of the national movement fighting for fewer standardized tests, no high-stakes exams and better assessments. You can have friends and allies sign up for these updates at: http://fairtest.org/weekly-news-signup

Pennsylvania ospreys on their way off threatened species list
State officials propose removing ospreys from the threatened species list.
Michelle Merlin Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call October 18, 2016
Pennsylvania ospreys on their way off threatened species list
Rob Bierregaard is an osprey expert who admits birders created a bit of a bind when it comes to the osprey, a dramatic bird that dives into water and emerges with fish in its talons.  Bierregaard, a research associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University, said ospreys grew to love the tall platforms people erected to encourage their nesting — so much so that they started building nests in cell towers, utility poles and other tall but dangerous man-made structures.  The challenge of keeping ospreys out of hazardous abodes is actually a sign of success, a far cry past decades when the species became nearly extinct because of an insecticide.  After DDT was banned in 1972, Pennsylvania's populations shifted from no longer present in 1979 to endangered in the 1980s to threatened in 1997. A threatened species listing denotes a population that is not quite self-sustaining. Last year, 148 osprey nests were documented in the state. Now, with the population rebounding, state Game Commission officials are considering switching ospreys to the protected species list.


Reminder: November Workshops and Webinar on the New Funding Formula
 PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, the PA Principals Association and PASBO have scheduled nine on-site workshops across the commonwealth and one webcast to provide an in-depth discussion of the new basic education funding formula: how it works, what it measures and why it’s important for Pennsylvania’s school districts. The workshops, funded through a grant from the William Penn Foundation, will be offered at IUs 3, 4, 8, 10, 15, 17, 18, 20 and 24 beginning in November. Click here for workshop dates and details and information about registration. Capacity is limited at all locations, so registration is required and is first come, first served.

Share your interest in volunteering with PSBA
Complete this form to share your interest in volunteering with PSBA

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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