Friday, October 7, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 7: THIS PALM BEACH VILLA IS A BARGAIN AT $74.5M

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 7, 2016
THIS PALM BEACH VILLA IS A BARGAIN AT $74.5M


“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.”
The problem with charter school funding
Centre Daily Times BY SUSAN SPICKA OCTOBER 5, 2016 8:30 PM
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 nearly $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 2014-2015, Centre County school districts sent more than $8,422,544 in tuition payments to charter and cyber charter schools.

LUXURY REAL ESTATE: THIS PALM BEACH VILLA IS A BARGAIN AT $74.5M
LUXURY REAL ESTATE OCTOBER 4, 2016
Are you thinking about to invest in the luxury real estate market? If so here is your chance to own one of the most incredible mansions in the United States available to buy right now. And The Most Expensive Homes‘ team is ready to show everything about this mesmerizing Palm Beach Villa. Take a look!  Located at 071 N Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, this brand new Mediterranean-style mansion sits on a very exclusive oceanfront stretch, with 2 acres of land and 242′ of direct ocean frontage, and offering some of the most jaw-dropping ocean views you could even imagine.  This luxurious home has 35,000 square foot of incredible decorations and amenities, and even though it was initially listed at a staggering $84.5 million, while it was still in construction, it’s now for sale at “just” $74.5 million, which might be considered a total bargain by some of the world’s wealthiest people.  The lavish Palm Beach villa is apparently owned by Vahan & Danielle Gureghian, who purchased the land alone for $28.9 million a couple of years ago. The mansion includes a bowling alley, home theater, pub room, as well as an 8 car garage, but the impressive list of amenities could go on forever.  There are also 8 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, and of course, only the best materials and fixtures have been used throughout the home, to make sure everything is as close to perfection as possible.

“The owner is a trust linked to Philadelphia lawyer and charter-school entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian and his lawyer wife, Danielle, who purchased the land last year for $28.9 million.”
BRAND NEW MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE MANSION, PALM BEACH ON SALE FOR JUST $74.5 MILLION
Extravaganzi written by Slamchica October 3, 2016
Now’s your chance to purchase a brand new estate home in a very exclusive oceanfront stretch of Palm Beach, Florida. The recently finished 35,000 square foot Mediterranean mansion had come on the market for a staggering $84.5 million during construction, but it can now be yours for $74.5 million. The palatial residence sits on 2-acres of land with 242′ of direct ocean frontage providing jaw-dropping views from many of the home’s formal rooms.  The listing notes that it includes a bowling alley, home theatre, pub room, an 8 car garage, as well as 8 bedrooms, and 17 bathrooms.

“DePasquale said when they look at the tax records of a school district, “we just go in an audit it,” but the tax records private companies, which have a large influence in charter schools, are not publicly available regardless of the fact that public tax dollars provide the funding.
…“Any adult, whether it’s happening in Chester or not, if they’re stealing money for public gain and not putting that money in the school, there’s a special place in hell for them,” DePasquale said.”
Auditor General: Pa. charter school law is ‘absolute worst’
Delco Times By Rick Kauffman, rkauffman@21st-centurymedia.com@Kauffee_DT on Twitter
POSTED: 10/06/16, 8:54 PM EDT | UPDATED: 34 SECS AGO
BROOKHAVEN >> A visit to Brookhaven by the Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale highlighted some key issues within the charter school laws in Pennsylvania on Thursday.  This comes days after a national audit questioned the allocation of funds within the Chester Community Charter School, which the school on Thursday denied any wrongdoing in a statement, and contested the claims made in a published report.  “The article mistakenly alleges that CCCS made payments to its manager without approval by its Board of Trustees, when in fact all payments from the school were explicitly approved by the board,” read the statement attributed to David Clark, the CEO of CCCS.  Thursday at the Brookhaven Community Center, invited by state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, DePasquale detailed the roadblocks that the Auditor General’s often faces when investigating non-profit charter schools managed by for-profit, private companies.

Report: Chester charter school CEO wrote $11 million check to himself
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 10/05/16, 6:07 AM EDT
CHESTER >> Federal auditors say several Philadelphia-area schools are examples of schools that are susceptible to fraud, including one where they say a CEO wrote $11 million in checks to himself without board approval.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (http://bit.ly/2d1PkPc ) U.S. Department of Education auditors say the CEO of the management group for an unidentified Chester school wrote checks to himself in 2008-09.  The report says a lawyer for the school reported that the board must now authorize such payments. Auditors say the school couldn’t provide written procedures to support the change.  Auditors say they also found several conflicts of interest examples at a Philadelphia charter school, including in the makeup of the charter’s nine-member school board and in payments the charter made to a vendor associated with the school’s management company.  Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

According to data is from the Pennsylvania Campaign Finance website, Vahan Gureghian made political contributions in 2008 totaling $267,205.93 and in 2009 totaling $330,302.76.  The dates, amounts and recipients of those contributions are detailed in this June 2011 KEYSEC posting.  BTW, from 2007 through 2011, the Chester Community Charter manager made contributions totaling $1,320,653.69
Reprise 2011: Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.blogspot.com/2011/06/follow-money-contributions-by-vahan.html

“A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself. “
Reprise 2013: How Pennsylvania schools erased a cheating scandal
Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
City Paper By Daniel Denvir  |  Published 07/18/2013
CSMI, a management company to which the school, according to a 2012 Inquirer article, pays $16.7 million (more than 41 percent of the charter’s budget), is run by businessman and political powerhouse Vahan Gureghian, Gov. Tom Corbett’s top campaign contributor and a member of his education transition team. The charter enrolls the majority of Chester Upland district’s kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students. In December, the chronically broke Chester Upland district was placed under state control; they had just exited 16 years of state control in 2010. 
Gureghian unsuccessfully sued the Inquirer over a 2008 investigation that examined “whether the school is spending too much of its budget on administration and too little on teaching.” The next year, he sued the 18-year-old proprietor of a blog, Homes of the Rich, for posting a photo of his 10-bedroom, $13.5 million, Main Line mansion. It is surrounded by a moat. So, it appears, is his school.

Governor Wolf Makes Schools That Teach Stop in Pittsburgh
Governor’s Website October 06, 2016
Pittsburgh, PA – As part of his statewide ‘Schools That Teach’ Tour, Governor Tom Wolf visited today with students and staff at Allegheny K-5 School in Pittsburgh. In the 2016-17 budget, Governor secured over $3 million in increased classroom funding for the Pittsburgh School District, making for a total increase of over $6 million to Pittsburgh schools over his first two budgets.  We have made great strides over the last two years in restoring the massive hit schools took due to state budget cuts in 2011, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Governor Wolf said. “The Pittsburgh School District is one of many across the commonwealth that continues to struggle for adequate funding while working hard to provide the best possible education to students.”

Editorial: Pennsylvania civics test proposal gets a failing grade
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board October 6, 2016
THE ISSUE - The Pennsylvania General Assembly is mulling over House Bill 1858 — co-sponsored by Republican state Rep. Bryan Cutler of Peach Bottom — which would require high school students beginning in the 2020-21 academic year to pass a civics test before graduating. The exam would be similar to those taken by immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship. To pass, students would need a score of at least 60 percent.
Many of us have fond memories of civics lessons in school. We watched videos of cartoon characters singing about how each branch of government works or how a bill becomes a law. Admit it: You’re humming the “I’m just a bill” song right now.  But, starting a few years from now, students may not be humming as much as groaning at the mention of civics.  Because as if there wasn't already enough pressure on students today, 46 state representatives have come up with the bright idea to add another high-stakes exam.  We are strongly opposed to this idea. As Conestoga Valley Superintendent Gerald Huesken pointedly asked in Monday’s LNP, “With all the negative backlash that we are testing too much, why is the answer always to add another test?”  Excellent question.

Penn GSE profs examine school funding in Pa.
Penn Current by Lauren Hertzler October 6, 2016
In a recent study, Matthew Steinberg and Rand Quinn, both assistant professors in the Graduate School of Education, explored how low property tax and high property tax districts responded differently to the introduction of statewide school finance reform. 
From 2008 to 2011, Pennsylvania enacted Act 61, an adequacy-based reform that attempted to align per pupil spending for students across the state’s 500 public school districts. It provided additional state aid to districts spending below state-determined adequacy targets. Although the funding ceased earlier than planned with a new gubernatorial administration, Matthew Steinberg and Rand Quinn, both assistant professors at Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) knew the effort was important to study.  “We’re talking about public resources going to public education, so of course it’s of great importance,” says Steinberg. “Obviously resources are scarce, so it’s necessary to understand the implications of a public investment that the state makes and how that improves the opportunities for local school districts.”

WE CAN HANDLE IT
Why Philadelphians can, despite the conventional wisdom, be trusted to elect a competent school board
The Philadelphia Citizen BY JIM SAKSA MAY. 12, 2015
It is election time again in Philadelphia, a season where condescending attitudes over the average voter return with all the regularity of the swallows of Capistrano.  A large subset of Philadelphia’s politicians and media buy into a persistent and pernicious myth that Philly voters are a mix of the indolent, the injudicious and the iniquitous; that many elections are won by buying the right ward leaders and union bosses with job promises, even when they show no promise for city jobs.  It is assumed that voters, universally and always, will do precisely as they’re told by little pieces of paper handed to them by a stranger hanging out next to the polls. There are plenty of bygone reasons for these foregone conclusions about Philly’s sheep-like electorate. But more recent events and a serious look at the assumptions underpinning this viewpoint make it as untenable as it is unattractive.

Unhappy anniversary
It's been two years since the SRC canceled the teachers' contract. It's time to end the standoff.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa October 6, 2016 — 5:14pm
Departing School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff says her worst moment on the beleaguered commission was voting to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.   “Absolutely. That was horrible,” said Neff, a longtime District principal who was once a member of the PFT and whose son is a member now. “What can I say – in hindsight, it was such a different context. It’s easy for me to look back and say we never should have done that. It was horrible, difficult, and painful.”  That vote to cancel the already expired contract occurred exactly two years ago today – Oct. 6, 2014. Since then, the SRC and the PFT have managed to remain locked in combat, with no end in sight to a historic four-year impasse that is shattering teacher morale and making it harder to recruit young talent. It is also depriving teachers, primarily younger ones, of raises that have been earned under the terms of the current agreement as they accumulate experience and degrees.

“Pine-Richland acquired the dubious distinction Thursday of being the first school district in Pennsylvania to be sued for discriminating against transgender students.”
Pine-Richland sued over bathroom policy for transgender students
By Michael A. Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 7, 2016 12:19 AM
Pine-Richland acquired the dubious distinction Thursday of being the first school district in Pennsylvania to be sued for discriminating against transgender students.  Three transgender students filed a federal discrimination lawsuit for the district’s implementation of a “sex-specific” policy requiring students to use restrooms that match the sex they were assigned at birth. As an alternative, transgender students also can use a unisex bathroom or the private bathroom in the nurse’s office.  For years, the district had a practice that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that matched the gender with which they identify, but a school board resolution narrowly passed Sept. 12 supported the new restrictions and the administration implemented them.

Transgender students sue Pennsylvania district restroom rule
Inquirer by JOE MANDAK, The Associated Press Updated: OCTOBER 6, 2016 — 12:56 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Three transgender seniors at a Pennsylvania high school, including the oldest sibling of teen singing star Jackie Evancho, have sued their school district for making them use restrooms corresponding to their biological sex.  The Pine-Richland School District in suburban Pittsburgh wasn't commenting on the federal lawsuit filed Thursday in response to a school board resolution passed last month requiring students to use such restrooms or unisex facilities. Previously, the district had allowed transgender students to use the restroom corresponding to their "gender identity."  The district "attempted to erase their identity" and changed the rule due to "misunderstanding, fear and a lack of empathy," said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, the New York-based attorney who filed the lawsuit. He works for Lambda Legal, a group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,

Soda group suspends payments to dietitians opposing new tax
The American Beverage Association says it is suspending payments to health experts to oppose soda taxes through posts on social media.
Morning Call by Tribune news services October 6, 2016
An industry group that represents Coca-Cola and other drink makers says it is suspending payments to health experts to oppose soda taxes through posts on social media.  The move by the American Beverage Association comes after Coke asked it to review such work. That followed a health advocacy group noting that dietitians were opposing soda taxes on Twitter this week, and asking whether they were paid by Coke. Tweets included disclosures to note the posters were being paid, but didn't specify by whom.  After facing criticism for its work with health experts last year, Coca-Cola had said that it was no longer paying experts for such media work and that it was reviewing its various efforts to be more transparent.

 “Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine joined a walk-in at the K-8 Spring Garden School in Philadelphia, using the opportunity to speak about his running mate Hillary Clinton’s priorities for K-12 education, including providing teachers with stronger professional development, bringing community services into schools to help students with issues from hunger to health care, and bolstering computer science classes and career and technical education.
Kaine’s attendance at the walk-in was the latest evidence of a close relationship between teacher unions — who have been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s approach to standardized testing, charter schools and other issues — and the top of the Democratic ticket.”
Parents and teachers rally for public education funding at schools across the country
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 6 at 1:12 PM 
Parents, teachers and students came together for “walk-ins” at schools across the country  Wednesday morning, rallying for more funding for public education and against harsh discipline policies, overtesting and the expansion of charter schools.  Thousands of people were expected to participate in events at more than 2,000 schools in more than 200 cities, according to the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, which organized the event. The alliance is a coalition of groups including the nation’s two largest teachers unions.

“the Walton Family Foundation in Arkansas has financed nearly every ballot initiative for vouchers since 1993”
When Billionaires Become Educational Experts
“Venture philanthropists” push for the privatization of public education.
American Association of University Professors By Kevin K. Kumashiro May-June 2012
For years, critics have pointed to the decreasing ability of health-care professionals to make decisions and provide services because of the demands of insurance companies and health-management organizations to sustain profits. Health-care decisions are increasingly being made by the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.  So, too, with public education. Current reforms are allowing certain individuals with neither scholarly nor practical expertise in education to exert significant influence over educational policy for communities and children other than their own. They, the millionaires and billionaires from the philanthropic and corporate sectors, are experimenting in urban school districts with educational reform initiatives that are not grounded in sound research and often fail to produce results. And yet, with funding for public education shrinking, the influence of these wealthy reformers is growing.  There is also much profit to be earned from public education. The American educational system today is a $500–600 billion enterprise, funded overwhelmingly by public dollars, with billions of dollars in services and products being outsourced, and with political lobbying groups like the Democrats for Education Reform, financed by hedge-fund millionaires, leading the push to further outsource. 

How 10 mega-donors already helped pour a record $1.1 billion into super PACs
Washington Post By Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy October 5 at 8:04 PM 
Super PACs seeking to influence the 2016 elections have collected more than $1 billion, a record haul driven by jumbo-sized contributions from rich donors on both sides of the aisle.  Just 10 mega-donor individuals and couples contributed nearly 20 percent of the $1.1 billion raised by super PACs by the end of August, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports. The total exceeds the $853 million that super PACs collected in the entire 2012 cycle.  In a reflection of how once-reluctant Democrats have fully embraced the big-money system, the top givers were split roughly equally along party lines, with five Republicans, four Democrats and one independent, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Prop. 59 would put Californians on record against Citizens United
San Francisco Chronicle By Carolyn Lochhead October 5, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2016
California voters are being asked Nov. 8 to push their elected officials to do whatever they can to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that unleashed a torrent of money into politics by allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on political activity. Proposition 59 would have no force of law. Instead, it is a longshot effort to urge Congress to seize back control over election spending by supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling.  The 5-4 Citizens United decision, with the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority, held that corporations and unions have a constitutional right of free speech to spend money for political purposes. The decision allowed these entities, along with other organizations and individuals, to spend unlimited sums on elections, so long as the expenditures were not specifically directed at candidates.  The decision gave rise to super PACs, known technically as independent expenditure-only committees. These can spend unlimited funds to advocate for or against candidates, but they may not give directly to or coordinate with candidates.
Super PACs have dramatically changed modern campaigns, weakening political parties and greatly enhancing the ability of billionaires, particularly, to influence elections.


Want to help strengthen public education in the commonwealth? Join with EdPAC, a political action committee that supports the election of pro-public education leaders to the General Assembly.
Help support the election of pro-public education leaders
Partner with EdPAC - fundraising reception Friday, Oct. 14 from 5-6 p.m. at the 2016 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference
Want to help strengthen public education in the commonwealth? Join with EdPAC, a political action committee that supports the election of pro-public education leaders to the General Assembly. EdPAC will hold a fundraising reception Friday, Oct. 14 from 5-6 p.m. at the 2016 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference. Visit the website to register online and learn more.

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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