“K12 Inc. and the Baltimore-based Connections Education—the two largest national virtual school management companies—spend millions of dollars on well-connected lobbyists to convince lawmakers to see things their way. …Since 2007, the companies together spent $1.8 million to lobby lawmakers in Pennsylvania”
Outsized Influence: Online Charters Bring Lobbying 'A' Game to States
By Arianna Prothero Education Week Nov. 3, 2016
For five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing.
The school, where students take all of their classes online while at home, had been assigned an "F" grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a "C." That troubled track record had finally made the virtual school of nearly 4,000 students a candidate for state regulators' chopping block. In September, Hoosier Academies representatives appeared before the Indiana board of education to make their case for giving the school another chance. There, they revealed their strategy: the creation of a second virtual school—one to which they had siphoned students who were most behind. Those students, they argued, would get more support and specialized services. Glenda Ritz, the state schools chief in Indiana, bluntly noted that shifting the neediest students would raise the original school's grade and possibly spare it from being shut down. It was another close call for a virtual charter school run by K12 Inc., a national company based in Herndon, Va. K12 Inc. is the country's largest for-profit operator of full-time, online charter schools and runs effective lobbying efforts in more than 20 states, including Indiana, where it has spent nearly $1 million dollars lobbying Indiana lawmakers and donating to their campaigns and political parties since 2007.
Education Week By Benjamin Herold November 3, 2016
To understand how the problems with for-profit management of cyber charters have persisted over time, just look at Pennsylvania. In 2002, the Morning Call newspaper of the Lehigh Valley reported on the "cautionary tale" of a cyber called Einstein Academy Charter. Almost immediately after launching Einstein, founder Mimi Rothschild reportedly contracted with a company called Tutorbots Inc., which she and her husband owned. The school quickly collapsed, but not before passing $2.3 million in taxpayer dollars on to Tutorbots, the Morning Call reported. Fast-forward 14 years, and Pennsylvania papers were reporting that the founder of the 15,000-student PA Cyber Charter had admitted to a similar arrangement, but on a much grander scale. In pleading guilty to federal tax-fraud charges, Nicholas Trombetta acknowledged funneling $8 million in taxpayer funds from the cyber school he led to a network of private companies and organizations that he controlled. Federal prosecutors said Trombetta used the money to buy a Florida condo, houses for his girlfriend and mother, and a $300,000 airplane.
Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry
Here & Now WBUR Boston October 14, 2016 Audio Runtime 05:53
They're not sexy, but they're more important than you realize. Republicans can thank state-level races for their congressional majority.
Reason.com Blog By Eric Boehm Nov. 6, 2016 10:35 am
State legislative elections don't get much attention, even in years when the presidential race isn't the only thing anyone talks about for months on end. But those local races do more than simply determine which lawmakers get a desk in the state capitol. In more ways than one, state legislative races shape the foundation of government—and not only in faraway places like Harrisburg, Springfield, and Raleigh. If Hillary Clinton wins the White House but Republicans hold their majority in the U.S. House (as is likely), it will be in large part because of the victories Republicans have won in state-level races over the past decade. In most states, controlling state legislatures means controlling the ability to redraw congressional districts and giving your own party an electoral advantage before any voters line-up at the polls. The massive advantage that the GOP holds at the state level is something Democrats will have to reverse if they want a realistic shot at winning full control of Congress any time before 2030.
Philadelphia's rate of children in poverty has increased since the Great Recession, despite the city rebounding economically, according to a new report from Public Citizens for Children and Youth. In 2008, roughly 30 percent of children in Philadelphia were living in poverty. By 2014, that rate stood closer to 40 percent. With more than 130,000 children living in poverty, Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of youth in poverty among the country's biggest cities. "There's kind of an American tragedy that's happening right in front of us, but it's hard to see," said Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY. Cooper and other advocates contend the only way to turn around this trend is through meaningful policy change. "Not for one year, three years or five years, but for the next two, three decades, because that's how long it's going to take to ensure that we see that poverty rate moving in the right direction," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
School buildings should be as high-performing as we expect our students to be
Philadelphia Citizen BY HILDERBRAND PELZER III NOV. 04, 2016
Many Philadelphia neighborhood schools struggle with negative reputations because of poor instructional quality and school climate, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. But the most pressing daily challenge that they face is the poor physical condition of their school buildings. Meanwhile, studies have consistently shown that high quality school buildings have a measurable impact on student learning. I once led a high school inside a prison system—and some of the prisons looked and felt better than schools. All over Philadelphia, students go to class in dirty, dilapidated and unhealthy buildings, which the District estimated in February would cost $5 billion to fix. Consider my school, Laura H. Carnell. Carnell was constructed in an earlier era and looks it: long hallways, rectangular classrooms shaped to accommodate rows of desks, a featureless gymnasium, a small cafeteria, narrow stairways, little natural light, and cement campus grounds with little or no grass. The school has outgrown its original learning space because of an increase in the student population. Despite the building engineer’s best efforts, the range of maintenance needs is substantial, including boiler replacement, plumbing repairs, interior painting, and electrical and lighting upgrades.
Narrated by Matt Damon, Backpack Full of Cash explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. This 90-minute documentary takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013–14 school year, into the world of what is now called education “reform.” In Philadelphia and other big cities, public education – starved of resources – hangs in the balance. The filmmakers are part of the team that made the award-winning 4-part PBS series, SCHOOL: The Story of Public Education, narrated by Meryl Streep.
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 6, 2016 //
Ariana Prothero writes in Education Week about the “Outsized Influence” of lobbyists for the virtual charter industry. The virtual or online charter industry is a sham and a fraud. Readers of this blog have read many articles and research studies demonstrating that these “schools” survive by the power of their lobbying and campaign contributions, not because they have any educational value. Studies, even by charter-friendly organizations like CREDO of Stanford, have repeatedly demonstrated that virtual charters have high dropout rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. This doesn’t seem to bother state officials because…well, lobbying and campaign contributions.
Tweet from Philly Mayor’s Office of Education
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(6 Danforth Drive, Easton, PA 18045)
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 @ 9:00 am: Luzerne IU 18
(368 Tioga Ave, Kingston, PA 18704)
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm: Chester County IU 24
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)
Join us for a public forum featuring state, city and civic leaders sponsored by Philadelphia Media Network, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Drexel University's School of Education.
Creese Student Center 3210 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
It's been 15 years since the state took control of Philadelphia's schools and created the School Reform Commission. Since then, the SRC has been a polarizing presence in the city.
With the recent resignation of two members of the commission and the term of a third expiring soon, the future of the SRC and the issue of school governance is once again at the forefront of the civic dialogue. Is the SRC the only model to consider? Should Philadelphia create an elected school board, or should the governing body be controlled by the Mayor? Are there models in other cities that could help us rethink our own school governance? The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Media Network -- owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com, and Drexel University's School of Education are hosting a public forum on this critical issue.
RSVP - Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Register now, and find out more about the panelists and other details at our registration page. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/who-should-run-philadelphias-schools-tickets-28926705555
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at https://www.nsba.org/conference/registration. A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
- NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
- Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
- Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.