Thursday, November 3, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 3: Follow the Money: 2016 School Privatization Contributions by Vahan Gureghian

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup November 3, 2016
Follow the Money: 2016 School Privatization Contributions by Vahan Gureghian

Follow the Money: 2016 School Privatization Contributions by Vahan Gureghian
Source: Pennsylvania Department of State Campaign Finance Website

Corr, Michael Friends of
Lewis, Harry Jr. Committee to Elect
Regan, Mike for Senate
White, Martina Friends of
Rafferty, John Friends of
Delaware Co Rep Finance Com
Delaware Co Rep Finance Com
Delaware Co Rep Finance Com
Reed, Dave Friends of
Springfield Rep Party
Mensch, Bob Friends of
Quinn, Chris Friends of
Rafferty, John Friends of
Rafferty, John Friends of
Scarnati, Joseph Friends of
Build PA PAC
Charlton, Alexander Friends of
Cheltenham Twp Rep Org


Blogger note: Mr. Gureghian is the principle of Charter School Management Company which has been under contract to run the state’s largest brick and mortar charter, Chester Community Charter School, for several years.  He was Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor and served on the Corbett Administration’s Education Transition Team.

A protracted right-to-know lawsuit regarding how tax dollars were being spent by his charter management company petered out after several years.  A couple years ago he purchased two beachfront lots in Palm Beach Florida for $28 million and now has a new home for sale there for $74 million.

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: Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11
Keystone State Education Coalition

After 108 years - World Series: Here’s How the Chicago Cubs Won Game 7
CLEVELAND — Throughout more than a century of baseball in America, where teams have risen to championship heights and fallen to miserable lows several times over, and where cities have lost teams, gained them and lost them again, there was always the Chicago Cubs and their futility.  Sometimes the Cubs were good. More often they were just bad. But since 1908, they had not done what so many other teams had, not even through fluke or plain luck.  The United States fought two world wars, the Soviet Union grew to dominance and then imploded, diseases were wiped off the earth and technology took us from newfangled automobiles to moon rockets and beyond — and still the Cubs could not win a World Series.  Their fans trudged in and out of Wrigley Field thousands of times over the years and came to believe the team was cursed.  But 2016 was the 108th year after their last title, and a baseball is sewn together with 108 stitches. This had to be the year.  It was.

Graduation rates are improving - so should our commitment to education:
PennLive Op-Ed By Ryan Riley on November 02, 2016 at 1:00 PM, updated November 02, 2016 at 2:41 PM
Ryan Riley is president and state director of Communities In Schools of Pennsylvania, which works to keep students in school and to encourage them not to drop out.
The increase in graduation rate calls for an increase in the standard of education for students.  With graduation a handful of months away, high school seniors are preparing themselves for their turn to walk in a cap and gown to receive their diploma.  What has been an issue for many high schoolers in the past can now be a light at the end of the tunnel to know that the nationwide high school graduate rate has hit a new record of 83.2 percent, which is four points greater than the 2010-2011 school year.  This is the highest the graduation rate has ever been in the country, and marks a huge achievement for educators, state facilitators and the students themselves.  Schools should take a great deal of pride in the fact that the graduation rates have increased, as this shows promise for continued improvement. However, our jobs are not done yet.

RFA report details depth of inequality in PA education
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 2, 2016 — 3:04pm
Pennsylvania is having it both ways when it comes to creating and tolerating educational inequity. And neither way is good.  Not only are its schools among the most segregated in the nation, but its funding disparities between wealthy and poor districts are among the widest. At least some highly segregated states, like New Jersey, make an effort to direct more funds to its poorest districts. But not Pennsylvania. The state neither does anything to mitigate intense segregation by race and income, nor does it try to compensate by making sure that districts with high concentrations of poverty and students of color have sufficient funds to educate them adequately.  Now, data from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection has provided more detail about just how wide the gaps are in educational opportunity between privileged, mostly White, students and low-income students of color in the Commonwealth.

Consultant's findings on discipline, achievement stun Pittsburgh school board members
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 2, 2016 10:24 PM
A consultant hired by the Pittsburgh Public Schools to help develop its five-year strategic plan presented some grim data about the district Wednesday that board members said stunned them.  A little more than 9 percent of all students were disciplined in the 2014-15 school year, and of those, just over 95 percent were suspended -- about double that of Philadelphia, whose numbers were 4.4 percent and nearly 50 percent, respectively.  But perhaps most alarming was that black students are falling behind academically in the district -- regardless of their economic status.  "We cannot have that continue in this district," school board president Regina Holley said of the latter point. "Even the people of color who have money are still not progressing. This is startling that we're having this kind of conversation in 2016. ... Now you're telling me it's not just poor folks of color, you're telling me it's color, period. African-American people are just not progressing in the district."

State leaders call for more funding for early childhood education
The head of the state’s department of corrections sees two options for the children of incarcerated adults.  The children could end up being successful, at a campus like Marywood University, or be under his watch as an inmate.  On Wednesday, joined by the Department of Human Services secretary, corrections Secretary John Wetzel highlighted the importance of early childhood education and the difference it can make for some of the state’s most vulnerable children.  “We want to set these kids up to be successful human beings,” Mr. Wetzel said during an event at Marywood. “I hope we have the courage to do the right thing.”

Governor Wolf Pledges Ambitious Early Childhood Education Plan
Governor’s website November 02, 2016 By: Jeffrey Sheridan, Press Secretary
Yesterday, Governor Wolf joined U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Representative Dwight Evans, and other early childhood education advocates to discuss Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s fight for funding to ensure children have access to pre-kindergarten education.  At the event, Governor Wolf talked about his continued push for greater investment in Pre-K Counts and Head Start, two commonwealth-administered programs, and the governorpledged to introduce an “ambitious” early childhood education plan in the 2017-2018 budget.

Pelosi touts Philadelphia's pre-K plan
"Something great is happening in Philadelphia when it comes to universal pre-K for our children," Pelosi said.
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer November2, 2016
Philadelphia's new pre-K program is a model for the country, House Minority LeaderNancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Tuesday at a meeting with local providers and elected officials who stressed the need for more state and federal funding to further grow the initiative.  "Something great is happening in Philadelphia when it comes to universal pre-K for our children," Pelosi said at a roundtable event hosted by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth. "I hope that you'll be able to get enough resources to make it available to all."  Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, and State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) attended the roundtable along with about 50 audience members to discuss how local, state and federal partners can get more 3- and 4-year-olds into quality pre-K classrooms.

Pelosi praises Philly pre-K expansion as bold step forward [photos]
Top U.S. House Democrat Nancy Pelosi showered praise on Philadelphia’s pre-K expansion during a Tuesday visit, and stumped for similar action at the federal level.
Pelosi spoke alongside other heavy hitters such as Gov. Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, Pennsylvania state Rep. Dwight Evans, and School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite during a pre-K roundtable hosted by Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the United Way.  Her message to Philadelphia was simple:  You’ve got our attention.
“Something great is happening in Philadelphia when it comes to pre-K,” she said, referring to the city’s planned addition of 6,500 quality pre-K slots over the next five years.
Pelosi’s pitch seemed as geared toward fiscal conservatives as it was to the liberal politicians in the room. Echoing logic often used by early childhood advocates, Pelosi said pre-K investment pays for itself because it frees parents to work, increases the intellectual capacity of students, and reduces the eventual likelihood that those same students end up in jail.

Blogger comment:
“Pennsylvania Constitution Section 15: § 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. “

“It is great that there are so many business owners who want to support their local private and religious schools. They can do so by making charitable contributions without diverting public tax dollars. There is no public accountability for either student performance or fiscal transparency regarding the use of these diverted tax dollars. Additionally, the intermediate scholarship organizations that distribute the PA tax credit funds get to keep 20% of the money. In most other states with similar programs they keep just 10%; in Florida it is just 3%.”
Commentary: Expanded tax-credit program good for Philly schoolchildren
Inquirer Opinion By Bryan Carter Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Bryan Carter is the president and CEO of Gesu School.
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) recently announced a proposal to increase funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), programs that help low-income families afford nonpublic schools. This funding increase could have immense benefits for children and families living in Philadelphia.  As the president of Gesu School, the first independent, Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia, I've witnessed firsthand the challenges families face when raising their children in high-poverty environments. For their children, as with any child, the availability of high-quality education is the pathway to a bright future.  A recent poll from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Philadelphians "view education as the top issue facing the city," and that they also "have an extremely low opinion of the performance of the public school system." Knowing this, it is critical that we pursue all means of rectifying the challenges faced by our School District.

One of Philadelphia's first charter schools will close in June
Oct 31, 2016 Mike Kennedy | American School and University
World Communications Charter School agrees to close rather than contest allegations of poor test scores and other deficiencies.
A charter school that opened in Philadelphia nearly 20 years ago has agreed to close its doors in June rather than fight allegations of poor test scores, declining graduation rates, and other deficiencies.  The Philadelphia Inquirerreports that World Communications Charter School—one of the four original charters that opened in the city in 1997—has agreed to close at the end of the academic year and forgo an appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board.  Marjorie Neff, chair of Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, says the settlement with the school provides plenty of time for students to find schools to attend in 2017-18. World Communications has more than 425 students in grades six to 12.

“The SRC is a five-member panel that was formed in 2001 to oversight the school district after it was taken over by the state. Houstoun, who was appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011, was among the resignations set to occur in the latter part of 2016.  SRC Chairwoman Marjorie Neff’s resignation becomes effective Thursday, and Mayor Jim Kenney will appoint her replacement. Neff is a former principal at Masterman High School.  The remaining SRC members are Sylvia P. Simms, whose term expires in January, as well as Farah Jimenez and William J. Green, whose terms run through 2019.”
Estelle Richman called 'solid fit' in SRC nomination
Phily Trib Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer  Nov 1, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf has officially nominated Estelle Richman, a former head School Reform Commission in replacing Feather Houstoun, who left on Oct. 14.  Superintendent William R. Hite called Wolf’s pick a “terrific choice” for the board overseeing the Philadelphia School District.  “I look forward to working with her to improve learning opportunities for children across the city,” Hite said in an email to The Philadelphia Tribune. “Estelle Richman has a lifetime of experience fighting for and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, and her commitment to improving the lives of our citizens in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth is unmatched.”  Richman retired as senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she handled health and human services issues. At HUD, she also served as chief operating officer and acting deputy secretary.  She served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare from 2003 to 2009, under Gov. Ed Rendell.  In working for the city, Richman held several high-profile positions, including as managing director, director of social services, commissioner of Public Health and deputy commissioner for Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services.

Blogger note: Several years ago I attended a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Philly where Mary Rochford, the Superintendent of Archdiocese Schools at the time, testified that they had lost upwards of 30,000 students to charter schools.
Charters account for more than 30 percent of student enrollment in Philly, Camden
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Thirty-two percent of students in the Philadelphia School District attend charter schools, and the city ranks eighth in the country in the percentage of charter students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  That's a decrease from 2014-15, when 33 percent of the district students were in charters and Philadelphia was seventh nationwide. The changes reflect the closing of a few city charters. Charter enrollment in the city slipped from 64,090 in 2014-15 to 63,520 in the last academic year, while enrollment in district schools grew from 130,660 to 132,180 in that period.

West Shore teachers, district reach tentative agreement
York Daily record Angie Mason , amason@ydr.com2:20 p.m. EDT November 2, 2016
After a more than two-year battle, West Shore School District and its teachers' union have reached a tentative agreement for a new six-year contract, according to a news release.
Both the school board and the union, which represents 576 teachers, counselors, librarians and others, have to vote to ratify the agreement, the release says. The board is expected to vote Nov. 10 and the union should vote Nov. 14.  Details of the agreement could not be provided until it was ratified, said Lauri Lebo, a Pennsylvania State Education Association spokeswoman for the union.

Listen: Patricia Silveyra and Lidys Rivera Women talk to Kara Newhouse for Women in STEM podcast
LANCASTERONLINE | Staff November 3, 2016
This week education reporter Kara Newhouse speaks with Dr. Patricia Silveyra and Dr. Lidys Rivera about medical research and practice, as well as their experiences as Latina women in STEM. Silveyra is an Assistant Professor at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, where she leads a research group that studies the molecular mechanisms of lung disease in babies and adults.  Rivera received her medical degree in Colombia in 2008. She is currently volunteering as a medical interpreter at Southeast Lancaster Health Services, while she works to obtain her medical license to practice the U.S.

Loosely regulated, charter schools pose fiscal risk
The Hill By Jonathan Pelto, contributor November 01, 2016, 03:46 pm
While the subprime mortgage crisis remains the epitome of what occurs when greed and corruption go unchecked, a growing number of experts and observers are warning that a new economic scandal is taking shape in the United States.  In an article published earlier this month, Business Insider observed: “We just got even more evidence supporting the theory that charter schools are America’s new subprime mortgages.”  The magazine wrote: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the results of a damning audit of the charter school industry which found that charter schools’ relationships with their management organizations pose a significant risk to the aim of the Department of Education.  The findings in the audit, specifically in regard to charter school relationships with CMOs, echo the findings of a 2015 study that warned of an impending bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis one of the authors, Preston C. Green III, told Business Insider.

Fining Teachers for Switching Schools
The American Prospect RACHEL M. COHEN NOVEMBER 3, 2016
Prospect report finds a number of charter schools have non-compete clauses in their contracts, and sue teachers who move to other schools.
Last month, the Massachusetts Teachers Association reported on the story of Matthew Kowalski, a high school history and economics teacher who received a $6,087 bill over the summer from his former employer—a suburban charter school in Malden, Massachusetts. Kowalski had worked at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for seven years, but with three young children and another one on the way, he said he wanted to find a teaching job that would offer something more stable than at-will employment.  Mystic Valley now seeks to collect thousands of dollars in “liquid damages” for Kowalski’s departure. Every spring, the charter school requires its employees to sign one-year contracts for the following school year, but since many new teaching positions don’t open up until May, June, and July, this puts teachers in a tough position if they want to consider looking for alternative jobs. Kowalski signed Mystic Valley’s 2016-2017 contract in April, got a job offer from a traditional public school in May, and gave the charter written and verbal notice by May 20. Mystic Valley then hired Kowalski’s replacement, whom Kowalski trained. Two months later, his $6,000 bill arrived. It didn’t take long for Kowalski to learn there were others who had faced a similar fate. MTA Today reported on another teacher who had worked at Mystic Valley for four years, who was billed $4,900 in “damages” for giving notice over the summer.

Secretary John King: Improve the Quality of Early Education, Not Just Access
Education Week Politics k12 Blog By Alyson Klein on November 2, 2016 9:15 AM
There's been a lot of talk about expanding access to preschool programs—but more must be done to ensure those programs are high quality, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. plans to say in a speech at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education Wednesday.  "Access to a low-quality program is no access at all," King plans to say, according to remarks distributed ahead of his 4 p.m. speech. (You can watch it here.) "It's a false promise. It's a missed opportunity. Well-off parents can pay to send their children to programs of the highest quality. If we don't provide children of lower- and middle-income families with access to quality programs, our work is doing nothing to reduce inequity in our society."

ESSA reporting requirements will reveal spending disparities within districts
The new requirements will also give districts a powerful tool for improvement
Education Dive by Tara García Mathewson@TaraGarciaM PUBLISHED Nov. 1, 2016
How much does your school spend, on average, per student?
Most principals and administrators can’t answer that question. But changes brought on by the Every Student Succeeds Act means they will soon have to.  “Starting December 2018, districts receiving Title I funds will have to start accounting for all expenditures at the school level,” said Michael Griffith, school finance strategist for the Education Commission of the States, at a recent conference for education journalists.  ESSA requires states to report per-pupil expenditures for every local education agency and school in the state on annual report cards. But in the vast majority of districts, spending is accounted for at the district level. Average teacher salaries, average per-pupil expenditures — they’re all calculated districtwide.  This provision of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act didn’t get much attention in the debate over its passage, but it will amount to a significant change for many districts all over the country. 

Find out how your legislators voted on key education bills by putting in your zip code to start!
NSBA Congressional Voting Records
The NSBAC Congressional Voting Records provide information about how your U.S. Senators and House of Representatives voted on legislation that is critical to public education. Several crucial education votes took place during the First Session of the 114th Congress, including the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal landmark education law. These key votes reflect the legislative priorities of the National School Boards Association as adopted by the Delegate Assembly.

Clinton, Trump show different goals in education plans
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 02, 2016 at 7:15 AM
Editor's note: PennLive will spend this week detailing the presidential candidates' positions on issues affecting voters' lives, such as equal rights, Obamacare, national security, jobs, taxes, climate change, gun laws and more.
Education hasn't been discussed often during the campaign, but it's an issue that matters to a lot of voters.  Republican Donald Trump wants states to invest in school choice, and DemocratHillary Clinton wants federal dollars to be spent on universal preschool.  Their plans for higher education also vary wildly.  The U.S. has some 50 million K-12 students. Teaching them, preparing them for college and careers, costs taxpayers more than $580 billion a year, or about $11,670 per pupil per year. A better education usually translates into higher earnings.

“In Charter Schools, Vouchers, and the Public Good, I raised similar issues in the context of asking what makes a school "public."  Does a statute that calls a charter school a public school make it so or are there substantive qualities and characteristics that make a school public?  I won't recount that entire discussion here, but I argue that constitutional and democratic accountability, among other things, are a central aspect of what makes a school public.”
New Charter School Controversy Calls Into Question Democratic Accountability and What It Means to Be a Public School
Education Law Prof Blog By Derek Black Wednesday, November 2, 2016
One of Dallas’ oldest and biggest charter schools, A.W. Brown-Fellowship Leadership Academy, is in turmoil.  It started out with an enrollment of 200 students more than a decade ago and now has 2,400, with growth each year.  Some parents are rethinking the school and its governance.  New claims of abuse and/or mistreatment of students have been levied against the school.  Parents claim the school is being non-responsive to concerns.  The problem appears that even if the parents are correct there is nothing they can do about because of the differences between a charter school and a traditional public school.

In Bid to Lift Mass. Charter Cap, Pitched Battle Rages
Education Week By Arianna Prothero October 25, 2016
A simple yes-or-no question being put to Massachusetts voters next month—whether a cap on the number of charter schools allowed to open in the state should be lifted—has turned into a national political battle between charter advocates and those who oppose the publicly funded but independently run schools.  Over $33 million from both the national teachers' unions and out-of-state charter-advocacy groups and individual donors has come pouring into Massachusetts. Both sides have launched expansive campaigns to lobby potential voters door to door to vote their way on the ballot measure, known as Question 2.  How Massachusetts voters come down on the ballot measure could signal future odds for the expansion of charter schools nationally, one education expert said.

PSBA: Transgender Legal Update
PSBA website November 2, 2016
For many years, PSBA has urged its members to work with transgender students and their families to meet the needs of individual students and to provide them with a safe and supportive school environment. In addition to continuous updates on the law, PSBA has provided in depth training and materials on practical ways to accommodate transgender students. However, there are lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania and the United States that still must be decided before we know whether Title IX can be used to protect individuals from discrimination based on gender identity. Some of these cases have been in the news in recent weeks and interim orders have been issued. Links to these orders are found at the end of this article. PSBA will keep members informed about these cases.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 26 - November 1, 2016
Submitted by fairtest on November 1, 2016 - 1:37pm 
From New York to California and Alaska to Florida, here's this week's news from around the U.S. about the surging grassroots assessment reform.  Remember that friends and allies can sign up for these free updates at

Who should run Philadelphia's schools?
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.
Thursday, Dec. 8, 6-7:30 p.m. Drexel University - Behrakis Grand Hall
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, 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.

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

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!

Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference 
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 A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

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