Tuesday, October 4, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 4: When .@PACyber CEO can make enough money to buy himself a personal jet…

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 4, 2016
When .@PACyber CEO can make enough money to buy himself a personal jet…


“When the CEO of PA Cyber can make enough money operating a school to buy himself a personal jet, there is a problem with how these schools are being funded.”
'Free' charter schools really aren't free at all: Susan Spicka
PennLive Op-Ed By Susan Spicka on September 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM, updated September 30, 2016 at 3:23 PM
Susan Spicka, of Shippensburg, is the executive director for Education Voters of PA.
Charter schools are a part of Pennsylvania's educational landscape, and high-quality charter schools have a place in the commonwealth.   However, charter schools are not "tuition free," as ubiquitous advertisements may claim.  In fact, school districts send more than $1.5 billion in tuition payments to charter schools each year, significantly reducing the resources available to students who remain in traditional public schools and creating considerable increased costs for taxpayers.   In an environment where resources for schools are extremely limited and where home and business owners are facing increased pressure from property taxes, it is critical that state lawmakers ensure that taxpayer dollars being sent to charter schools are being used to educate children, not to boost the profits of charter school management companies and CEOs.  In addition, lawmakers must ensure that charter schools, which are public schools, are equitably serving all students and not denying access to the most vulnerable children in our communities.  While many charter school operators are good stewards of taxpayer dollars, a recent audit of PA Cyber Charter School by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale highlights how current charter school law fails to protect taxpayers — and hurts students — by allowing charter operators to legally siphon millions of dollars out of classrooms and into their pockets.

Blogger note: Jet planes may be small potatoes…The owners of the management company operating the state’s largest brick and mortar charter school have never responded to court orders for right to know requests.
Owners get more time to finish North End beachfront mansion
Businessman and attorney Vahan Gureghian and his attorney wife, Danielle, have until Aug. 19 to complete the 36,000-square-foot mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. Their 42-month permit was set to expire April 25.
By Aleese Kopf Palm Beach Daily News Staff Writer Posted: 10:45 a.m. Thursday, April 14, 2016
Owners of a North End oceanfront lot received extra time Wednesday to finish construction of their massive French-style estate.  Businessman and attorney Vahan Gureghian and his attorney wife, Danielle, have until Aug. 19 to complete the 36,000-square-foot mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. Their 42-month permit was set to expire April 25.  Hugh Davis of Davis General Contracting said his firm began work in late March 2013 after taking over for a previous contractor who let the site sit vacant for five months.  The Town Council agreed to the extension because there were no objections from neighbors and the operation has run smoothly since the new contractor was hired. “It’s probably one of the best-maintained construction sites in the history of the North End, possibly the entire island,” said Mayor Gail Coniglio. “The movement of traffic has been well-maintained. I drive by it all the time. It is perfectly well-run.”  Attorney Martin Klein, who lives across the street from the construction site, agreed with the mayor but asked the contractor to make sure damaged landscaping is replaced once the project is complete. Davis said “absolutely.”  The property leads the local multiple listing service as the most expensive property for sale in Palm Beach, priced at $74.5 million.

Cyber charters in Pa. struggle on state tests
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Standardized tests continue to pose challenges for students at Pennsylvania's cyber charter schools.  The state Department of Education released test results Thursday that show students at many of the 13 cyber charters operating in 2015-16 were performing far below grade level in both language arts and math.  At 12 of the online charter schools, fewer than 50 percent of students scored advanced or proficient - the benchmark for grade-level performance.  PSSAs are given each year to students in all taxpayer-funded schools in grades three to eight. High school students take Keystone Exams.  At schools where students receive online instruction in their homes, 21st Century Cyber Charter School in Downingtown had the highest scores.  Fifty-seven percent of students scored advanced or proficient in language arts on the PSSA tests; 24 percent did in math.

School Performance Profile Scores for PA Cyber Charters 2013, 2014 and 2015
Keystone State Education Coalition Sunday, August 21, 2016
Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.  Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the three years that the SPP has been in effect.

Philadelphia area economic recovery leaving suburban children in its wake
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF OCTOBER 3, 2016
Sunny census data released last month hides some dark numbers about child poverty in the Philadelphia suburbs.  Thousand more kids in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester counties are living in poverty than at the beginning of the Great Recession, according to a new reportfrom an area child welfare non-profit.  Median household income in Pennsylvania grew more by almost 5 percent in 2015, but that figure doesn't tell the whole story, according to Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.  "Child poverty has continued to be a problem in the suburbs, rising during the recession, dipping a little bit now in 2015, but still there are 7,000 more children in poverty today than in the worst years of the recession," she said.  The advocacy group crunched the most recent numbers from the annual American Community Survey, and it will  rolling out reports on the four suburban counties over the next few weeks.  The first focuses on Delaware County, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported had banner year for income growth in 2015, climbing 7.2 percent.

Children Stuck in Recession in Suburban Counties Despite Recovery
Child poverty, lower test scores casts long shadow in Delco, Bucks, Montco and Chester
PCCY Philadelphia (Oct 3, 2016) – While recent headlines tout a national recovery from the Great Recession, more children in four suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia are worse off now than during the depths of the recession, according Public Citizens for Children and Youth. PCCY released the first of four reports on the status of children in Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties, titled, “Left Out: The Status of Children in Delaware County.”

PA Charter Management CEO Not Publicly Accountable for “Sealed” Sexual Harassment Settlement
Huffington Post by Mercedes Schneider  Public school teacher, education activist, PhD 10/02/2016 05:22 pm ET | Updated 1 day ago
A major problem with the charter school slogan, “charter schools are public schools,” is that charter schools are operated by management organizations that are either private businesses or nonprofits. What this means is that charter schools can call themselves “public” because they take public money even as their management orgs can call themselves “private” when they wish to hide information about their administrative practices (and their administrators) from public view.  Moreover, unless the state law specifically details the charter management organization as an entity held responsible, the charter management organization will enjoy almost-guaranteed free rein.  Such is the case of Pennsylvania’s ASPIRA charter management org (see ASPIRA’s 2013 tax form here) and its CEO, Alfredo B. Calderon, who apparently paid another, now-former, ASPIRA exec $350,000 to make a sexual harassment charge go away.

PA Revenue Down $144.9 Million In September, Down $218.5 Million For Fiscal Year
Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates October 3, 2016
Pennsylvania collected $2.6 billion in General Fund revenue in September, which was $144.9 million, or 5.2 percent, less than anticipated, Secretary of Revenue Eileen McNulty reported Monday.   Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $6.6 billion, which is $218.5 million, or 3.2 percent, below estimate.  Sales tax receipts totaled $811.5 million for September, $20.5 million below estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $2.5 billion, which is $72.4 million, or 2.8 percent, less than anticipated.  Personal income tax revenue in September was $1.1 billion, $36.6 million below estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $2.7 billion, which is $54.8 million, or 2 percent, below estimate.

School districts struggle to attract diverse teachers
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, 9:27 p.m.
When Terry Bradford collected her grandchildren from Osborne Elementary School one day, she couldn't help but notice that none of the teachers looked like them.  The only black employee of the school, as far as she could tell, was a cook who worked in the lunch room.  “That just sent a chill for me,” said Bradford, wondering what sort of message that sent to the school's black children. “That is so 1960s.”  As president of the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society, a group that works to preserve local black history, Bradford has been having discussions recently with administrators at the Quaker Valley School District about what can be done to recruit more minority teachers. So far, she said, the district has been receptive.  “We just need to make sure we're going to show them a copy of what the world looks like,” Bradford said about the students.

“Ridley School District Superintendent Lee Ann Wetzel testified against the bill for the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. The test's backers, she said, are ignoring evidence that the state that birthed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is already doing a better-than-average job teaching civics.  Wetzel noted that Pennsylvania students scored 16 points higher than the national average on the U.S. history portion of the SAT. They also perform better than the nation as a whole on Advanced Placement exams for American government and history.”
Want your high school diploma? Pa. lawmakers propose civics test
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 4, 2016 — 1:07 AM EDT
Can you name the current speaker of the U.S. House? Do you know when the Declaration of Independence was adopted? Can you identify our nation's economic system?
If you can answer such elementary civics questions, education experts say, you have the makings of an engaged citizen - equipped to grasp the nuances of the current contentious race for the White House.  But if you draw a blank on these, and 97 more like them, you might be denied a high school diploma in Pennsylvania, starting in 2021.  Under a bill making its way through the state House, high school seniors would have to pass a test on the basics of American government before they could graduate - the same examination given to newly minted citizens by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“With all the negative public backlash that we are testing too much, why is the answer always to add another test?” Gerald Huesken, superintendent at Conestoga Valley, asked Wednesday.
Local educators balk at bill requiring students to pass a civics exam before graduating
Lancaster Online by TOM KNAPP | Staff Writer October 3, 2016
Citing reports that many American citizens are “alarmingly ignorant” of history and government, the state Legislature may require students to pass a civics test before they can graduate.  The test would be like those taken by immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.  House Bill 1858, which was discussed Monday at a joint hearing of two House committes, would require high school students beginning in the 2020-21 academic year to score at least 60 percent on the 100-question test.  “I think far too many of our citizens, students included, lack basic knowledge regarding our nation's history and its governing fundamentals,” Chris Bentz, a social studies teacher at Lancaster Catholic High School, said Thursday.  “In light of the fact naturalized citizens must display some degree of knowledge through the citizenship test I think natural-born citizens should be required to do the same.”  Fourteen states have similar laws, and two national organizations — the Joe Foss Institute and the Civics Education Initiative — hope to see the requirement in place in all states soon.

Philly School District ordered to offer special-ed fix
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 3, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
For all of last school year, special-education teacher vacancies at Mastbaum High School meant freshman Justine Cappetti struggled.  Because some special-ed positions remained open all year, there weren't enough supports to fulfill the terms of her individualized education plan, a legal document crafted for all special-ed students.  As a result, Justine barely passed math. The situation was a weight on the family.  "She was stressed a lot," said Justine's mother, Millie Cappetti.  She wasn't alone.  Lingering teacher vacancies were a real problem in the Philadelphia School District last year, with thousands of students lacking a classroom teacher for a significant part of the term.  In response, the state Department of Education recently ordered the district to provide "compensatory education to remedy the educational loss" suffered by special-education students at Mastbaum and eight other schools citywide. The total cost to the district is yet unknown.

“Can Penn Alexander serve as an example in the Philadelphia School District that can be repeated in other schools? The short answer is no.  Penn Alexander has a special relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, which uses it in part as an on-site laboratory for its graduate students in education. Penn also chips in an additional $1,330 a year for each of the school's 550 students.”
Philly School District should follow Penn Alexander method
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: OCTOBER 3, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
SINCE IT opened in 2001, the Penn Alexander Elementary School in West Philadelphia has gained a reputation as a diverse, high-performing school so popular with parents in the neighborhood that demand for spaces exceeds the supply.  Now, that reputation has been confirmed by the U.S. government. Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education John King awarded Penn Alexander with a 2016 National Blue Ribbon for excellence.  The prestigious award was given to nine other schools in the region as well, including two in Philadelphia: the FACTS Charter School at 10th and Callowhill streets, and St. Mary's Interparochial, a Catholic grade school in Society Hill.  All of the winners-there were 329 nationwide-were cited by King as "shining examples" of how education can and should work.

GROWTH, BUT NOT ACHIEVEMENT
A public school principal argues that consistent student growth—not just achievement—must be counted when judging low-performing schools. Otherwise, there can be no success
Philadelphia Citizen BY HILDERBRAND PELZER III OCT. 04, 2016
Throughout my career, I have managed diverse urban schools with difficult learning environments—including a high school inside a prison. So I was up for the challenge in June, 2012, when the School District approached me to be the principal of Laura H. Carnell School in Oxford Circle.  And it was quite a challenge: Carnell was the largest elementary school in Philadelphia, and one of the largest K-8 schools in the state. When I took over the school’s leadership, enrollment within its three different buildings was nearly 1,800 students. The ethnic makeup was largely African American. The school had an English language learner population of 16 percent, and the special education population was around 10 percent.  It also was one of the lowest-performing schools, with a history of poor academic and organizational performance, and no significant student achievement for decades.

Phoenixville School District eyes ways to close achievement gap
Daily Local By Eric Devlin, edevlin@21st-centurymedia.com@Eric_Devlin on Twitter POSTED: 10/02/16, 6:13 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
PHOENIXVILLE >> It’s an issue school district officials everywhere have been trying to tackle. What is the best way to close the achievement gap among historically underperforming and disadvantaged students?  In Phoenixville, administrators spent the summer focusing their efforts on this very question. They admit more needs to be done to help this group of students and have implemented a strategy they said will do just that.  From constantly checking to make sure students are understanding material at the elementary school level, to challenging students to rise above their potential at the middle and upper level, the hope is to begin seeing positive signs of change. After all, the district’s goal is to prepare and inspire all students, said Phoenixville School District Assistant Superintendent LeRoy Whitehead. “All means all.”

Brentwood teachers union, school board approve new contract
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 3, 2016 1:22 PM
The Brentwood school board and the teachers union have reached agreement on a new contract that includes a pay freeze while allowing for salary step increases two years in a row.  The 90-member Brentwood Education Association, which includes teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, had been working under the terms of the last five-year pact, which expired June 30, 2015.  The new three-year contract is retroactive to July 1, 2015 and ends nearly 17 months of contract negotiations.  In May, teachers staged a large rally outside the school district’s administrative offices to express their frustration with the slow pace of negotiations. The union also had authorized its bargaining committee to set a strike date if the district and faculty failed to reach a new contract.

Wyoming Valley West Middle School closed indefinitely due to mold
Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
KINGSTON — The Wyoming Valley West School District has indefinitely closed the middle school to examine and remove mold growing inside and plans to send roughly 1,100 middle school students to the high school to share the Plymouth facility by implementing a split schedule, officials decided Tuesday.  The middle school dismissed students around 3 p.m. Tuesday. Middle school students will not have school today, Thursday and Friday. They will start going to the high school Monday, officials said.

Read the Latest F&M Poll Results
September 28 - October 2, 2016 Franklin & Marshall College Poll
The September 2016 Franklin & Marshall College Poll of Pennsylvania shows that Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 47% to 38% among likely voters. More voters continue to believe Secretary Clinton rather than Mr. Trump has the experience to be president, is better prepared to handle foreign policy issues, and has the character and judgment to be president. Voters are evenly divided on which candidate has the ability to fix the country’s economic problems and which candidate will change government policies to make voters’ lives better. Secretary Clinton’s favorable ratings have rebounded to about where they were after the Democratic Party convention, 47% favorable, while Mr. Trump’s favorable ratings have also returned to their late July level of 32%. Survey indicators from this poll show the candidates’ standing in the post-debate race is similar to where they stood after the political party conventions in late July.
http://www.fandm.edu/fandmpoll

Trump Inspires School Bullying, NEA Says in Home Stretch Campaign Against Him
Education Week By Evie Blad on October 3, 2016 4:49 PM
With a little more than a month to go in the presidential campaigns, the nation's largest teachers' union launched a push Monday to tie Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's "inflammatory rhetoric" to an increase in bullying in America's schools.  The National Education Association's campaign against "The Trump Effect" will include internet and direct mail components targeted at votes in key states. It follows similar statements by the American Federation of Teachers, which joined with the NEA in endorsing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.  But can Trump's statements on the trail—as harsh and unconventional as they may be—be blamed for an increase in bullying? Has there even been an overall increase in bullying? One researcher says it's way too early to tell. More on that in a second.

The Unintended Consequences of Taking a Hard Line on School Discipline
New York Times Retro Report By CLYDE HABERMAN OCT. 2, 2016
Unraveling Zero Tolerance - Over the last 30 years, schools across the country have enacted tough disciplinary policies. Did they go too far?
It did not take long for school safety agents in New York to find their first gun of the new school year. Day 1 had barely begun at a Brooklyn high school last month when the officers stopped a 15-year-old student who had stowed a loaded .22-caliber pistol in his backpack and thought he could pass it through a metal scanner.  In short order, the boy was led away by the police. Also in short order, the city’s Department of Education issued a statement invoking a two-word phrase that has virtually been holy writ in classrooms around the country for the past quarter of a century: “There is zero tolerance for weapons of any kind in schools.”  It is hard to imagine many law-abiding citizens disagreeing that the acceptance level for students carrying guns, knives, drugs or other harmful items should be nonexistent. But the concept of zero tolerance has come to encompass such a broad range of disruptive actions that roughly three million schoolchildren are suspended each year, and several hundred thousand are arrested or given criminal citations. Many students are hauled off to police station houses for antisocial behavior that, a generation or two ago, would have sent them no farther than the principal’s office.


Basic Education Funding workshops coming to your area
PA now has a permanent Basic Education Funding formula. Learn more about how it works, what it measures and why it's important. Workshops sponsored by PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, PA Principals Association and PASBO are coming to an area near you.
Register and see more details and dates here.

EDUCATION LAW CENTER invites you to our ANNUAL CELEBRATION
Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 5:30 PM
The Crystal Tea Room, The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Pepper Hamilton LLP, Signe Wilkinson, Dr. Monique W. Morris
And presenting the ELC PRO BONO AWARD  to Paul Saint-Antoine & Chanda Miller
of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

The Public Interest Law Center invites you to its 2016 Annual Event: “Of the People, By the People, For the People.” Thursday, Oct 6, 2016 at 6:00 PM
FringeArts 140 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Soil Generation, Nicholas Chimicles, and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP
http://www.pubintlaw.org/2016event/

PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM  Wednesday, October 12, 2016  SUBJECT:  EPLC's 2016 Report:  High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania's Workforce and Student Needs
Coffee and Networking - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to Noon   

Technical College High School (Brandywine Campus) - 443 Boot Rd., Downingtown, PA 19335
 RSVP by clicking here. There is no fee, but a RSVP is required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff and network. 
SPEAKERS:
An Overview of the EPLC Report on High School CTE will be presented by:
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By
Dr. Lee Burket, Director, Bureau of Career & Technical Education, PA Department of Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career & Technical Administrators
Dan Fogarty, Director of Workforce Development & COO, Berks County Workforce Development Board
Kirk Williard, Ed.D., Director of Career, Technical & Customized Education, Chester County Intermediate Unit 


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.

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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