Friday, December 16, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 16: Every online school in Indiana that tested students in 2016 received an F grade

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 16, 2016
Every online school in Indiana that tested students in 2016 received an F grade

Lower Merion schools, taxpayer square off in potential landmark case
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU  @AngelasInk Updated: DECEMBER 16, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
HARRISBURG - In a legal battle that could usurp the power of local officials to choose when, and by how much, to raise taxes, a state appellate court is expected to decide soon on a case pitting one of Pennsylvania's wealthiest school districts against some of its taxpayers.  Attorneys for the Lower Merion Area School District faced off in Commonwealth Court on Thursday with Arthur Alan Wolk, a lawyer from Gladwyne, who filed a class-action suit against the district earlier this year.  Wolk claimed, and a Montgomery County Court judge over the summer agreed, that the district misled taxpayers to justify raising taxes above a state-set cap.  The case is being watched closely by parents and taxpayer groups, as well as education officials, who see it as a potential litmus test for who should determine - school officials or the judiciary - how much money is needed to support public education at the local level.  "That would create chaos," Alicia Hickok, who represents Lower Merion school officials, said Thursday when asked about the statewide impact should the district lose the legal battle. "Every decision that a school district made would be subject to anybody going into court and trying to undo it."

If they want to lead, it's time for those 'Two Guys from York' to get serious about our debt: Barry Shutt
PennLive Op-Ed  By Barry Shutt on December 15, 2016 at 10:00 AM, updated December 15, 2016 at 11:48 AM
My name is Barry Shutt. I'm a nobody.   I'm Just an old retired guy who's spent the last two-and-a-half years to draw attention to Pennsylvania's growing pension debt crisis with the hope that someone in Harrisburg would rise up and do something that would address the problem.  In 2014 I was very hopeful.   After watching for most of my adult life, individuals from both sides of the political aisle running for office to "change Harrisburg," but then seeing very little change as they "became Harrisburg," I was hopeful that in 2014 with the election of Two Guys from York, change would finally come.   One drove a Jeep, the other flew around in a helicopter.   Both were multimillionaires, which should have been a good thing because neither needed the positions for which the ran; and neither should therefore be intimidated by party leadership or lobbyists whose campaign dollars control the leadership in Harrisburg, and by extension, the policy agendas which have created and allowed to fester, Pennsylvania's pension crisis.   But I was wrong.  

Views vary on proposed charter school in Wilmerding
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan December 16, 2016 12:00 AM
A public hearing Monday on a plan to open a performing arts charter school in the former Westinghouse Elementary School in Wilmerding drew supporters who said the charter school would provide new opportunities for students as well as opponents who said it would hurt the East Allegheny School District.  Nearly 30 people signed up to speak at the hearing in the East Allegheny High School auditorium, with some leaving before nearly three-hour session was over. Speakers in favor of the plan included former teachers from other districts, a renovator of historic buildings, performing artists and some Wilmerding residents.  Those speaking against it included members of the East Allegheny Education Association, the union representing the school district’s teaches.  The school would be called the Westinghouse Charter School for the Arts and offer six areas of study to students in grades 9-12 — dance, music, theater, literary arts, studio arts and digital arts, said Amelia Brett, an attorney for the group of educators and planners that wants to create the charter school. Students at the charter school would spend half of the day in academic studies and half studying or practicing the arts.

Phila. School District, PHA partner up to reopen Vaux High
by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer Updated: DECEMBER 16, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
North Philadelphia is getting a new high school in 2017, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority has promised millions of dollars to make it happen.  The School Reform Commission on Thursday approved a plan to sell the old Vaux High School to PHA for $2 million. After that, PHA has said, it will commit up to $15 million to renovate the building at 2300 W. Master St. in the city's Sharswood section, and make it available for the School District to reopen Vaux as a neighborhood high school in September, with education company Big Picture Learning as its operator. PHA will also provide the district with $500-per-student subsidies annually.  The new Vaux, which came together after nearly two years of planning, will have social services - a health and dental clinic, emotional and financial counseling, and other offerings - inside the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Kelvin Jeremiah, Housing Authority CEO, said the new Vaux would help transform Sharswood into a "neighborhood of choice." PHA is dedicating more than $500 million to redevelopment in that section of North Philadelphia, which was hit hard by the closings of Vaux and other schools over the last several years. "We and our partners are building hundreds of homes, creating a commercial corridor, and moving our headquarters to the neighborhood, but this innovative school will provide the glue that binds the community together," Jeremiah said in a release.

Small Philly charter school stirs up big charter debate at SRC
When it comes to charter schools in Philadelphia, even the littlest things can draw big attention. That's what happened to a small charter school in Chinatown this week after the school district recommended that its application for a new school be rejected.  The proposed school, dubbed FACT-2, would have served 350 students and been in the same building as the original Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS), a high-performing charter designed to serve immigrant and refugee students.  On Thursday night the city's School Reform Commission opted not to vote on the FACT-2 proposal and instead reconsider a revised application in February. But before that, FACT-2 spent 24 hours as a political football in the bruising fight over charter reform and growth.  The conflict began — or at least picked up steam — after Pennsylvania Republican House Speaker and charter advocate Mike Turzai sent a biting letter to the SRC. Turzai was upset because the district's charter school office (CSO) had recommended that the FACT-2 application be rejected.

SRC offers FACTS school hope of expanding
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: DECEMBER 16, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
After an outcry from the community - and from an influential politician in Harrisburg - the School Reform Commission on Tuesday took off the table a measure that would have denied a new school for a high-performing charter.  Folk-Arts Cultural Treasures Charter (FACTS), a National Blue Ribbon winner, applied last year to open a second school, but the Philadelphia School District's charter staff expressed concerns about the application in recommending denial. That recommendation drew more than 100 supporters to beseech the School Reform Commission to reconsider a school that is a haven for immigrant students and those learning English. And it also drew a sharply worded letter from state House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), who will be key to the district as it enters budget season.  Turzai extolled FACTS's virtues and reminded the SRC of its duty to consider new charters.  The district's concerns about FACTS seemed technical, Turzai wrote, but "really may be designed to just prevent approval of this charter school and a policy of slowing down or preventing the approval of charter schools going forward. We hope that this is not the case, but the decision at hand here raises such a question."

Burning questions on Philly schools
Philly Daily News Opinion Updated: DECEMBER 16, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
WHO SHOULD run Philadelphia's schools? While that's a question that has been asked almost from the moment the state created the School Reform Commission in 2001, the fact is it's an issue the city has struggled with for decades.  Now, with a number of terms on the SRC ended or about to expire, the question has moved to the forefront - helped along by a public forum last week sponsored by Philadelphia Media Network, Public School Notebook and Drexel School of Education. More than 500 registered for the event, which included a presentation by school governance researcher Dr. Kenneth Wong, professor and director of Urban Education Policy Program at Brown University. (Here is a link to his Former school chief Phil Goldsmith provided a brief history of school governance, followed by a panel discussion including City Council President Darrell Clarke; Donna Cooper, executive director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth; Sarah Galbally, secretary of Policy and Planning for Gov. Wolf; Jerry Jordan, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president; Wendell Pritchett, former SRC member and Presidential Professor of Law and Education at University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Robin Roberts, district school parent and organizing member of Parents United for Public Education.

Penn-based partnering with Facebook to expose fake news
Inquirer by Tommy Rowan, STAFF WRITER  @tommyrowan Updated: DECEMBER 15, 2016 — 9:16 PM EST
Facebook on Thursday announced a new partnership with five media sites, including a Philadelphia-based fact-checking organization, to try to curb the spread of fake news across the increasingly influential social media network., founded in 2003 at the Annenberg Public Policy Center  of the University of Pennsylvania, will be one of five independent organizations tasked with helping Facebook users differentiate between legitimate news reports and manufactured posts of misinformation. director Eugene Kiely said in a statement that his organization — whose main objective is to combat deception and confusion in U.S. politics — has spent the last nine years “writing about viral chain emails and fake news about politics.”   “We are pleased to work with Facebook to help combat fake news to the extent that we can,” Kiely said. “We have limited resources, and our primary mission is to fact-check statements made by politicians.”

How Much Does K12 Inc. Spend on Lobbying? Some Shareholders Are Asking
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on December 15, 2016 5:30 PM | No comments
Some shareholders in K12 Inc., the largest for-profit operator of online schools in the country, are calling on the company to disclose how much it spends on lobbying and advertising. Shareholders voted at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday whether to require more transparency from the company. K12 Inc. told the shareholders leading the effort that their proposal failed, but a breakdown of the votes for and against won't be made available for a couple of days.   While virtual schools across the country have struggled with low student achievement and graduation rates, the value of K12 Inc.'s stocks have also been dropping. K12 Inc. has spent at least $10.5 million to hire lobbyists in 21 states, according to over a decade's worth of state lobbying disclosure forms examined by Education Week as part of a recent investigation into the lobbying efforts of for-profit virtual charter school operators. That dollar amount is likely an underestimate—in several states, lobbying expenditures don't have to be reported, or, if they do, the dollar amounts are reported in broad ranges. For a comparison point, Connections Education, which runs fewer schools than K12 Inc., told Education Week it spent $1.3 million on lobbying in 2016 alone.  A 2012 investigation by USA Today found that K12 Inc. spent about $21.5 million on advertising in just the first eight months of that year.

“Hoosier Academies is not alone in its struggle to improve its schools. Every online school in the state that tested students in 2016 — including four charter schools  —received an F grade: Hoosier Academy Virtual, Hoosier Academy-Indianapolis, Insight School of Indiana, Indiana Connections Academy, Indiana Virtual School and Wayne Township’s virtual high school.”
The broken promise of Indiana’s online schools
One in a Chalkbeat series about virtual schools.
When Indiana education officials released school A-F grades this week, only three schools had received F grades for six years in a row.  xdsxTwo were traditional public schools in Gary and Marion County, and the other was Hoosier Academy Virtual Charter school, which does all its teaching and learning online. For the traditional public schools, the sixth straight F marks the first time the state can potentially close the school.  But for charter schools, the limit is set at four, a milestone Hoosier Virtual surpassed almost two years ago. Despite its poor performance, the state has not taken steps to close the school or restrict state funding to its charter authorizer, Ball State University. Hoosier Virtual was told in March 2015 to figure out a plan to improve. But while school officials did that, they came back to the board in August of this year with something unexpected: Hoosier Virtual had opened a new school, transferring 663 of its students there.

How Could Betsy DeVos Use ESSA to Champion School Choice?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 15, 2016 8:43 AM
President-elect Donald Trump and his education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, may not get the giant voucher program they want, at least not right away. But they don't need new legislation to push other forms of school choice.  The year-old Every Student Succeeds Act includes a host of provisions that DeVos and her team could use to promote public school choice, such as virtual learning, and charter schools. It's important to note that almost all of these features are optional for states and districts. They don't have to take advantage of them if they don't want to. Still, if DeVos is confirmed, expect her Education Department to use its new megaphone to highlight these parts of the law, and give states and districts guidance on how to make the most of them. DeVos could do that in much the same way that John B. King Jr., the current education secretary, and his team have put a spotlight on the parts of the law that call on districts to use evidence-based interventions for struggling schools or offer students a well-rounded education, for instance.   So what are likely to be DeVos' favorite parts of the law? Here's a quick rundown:

Alert: @NAACP Holding Charter School Hearings Across Nation
Cloaking Inequity Blog Posted on December 15, 2016 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig in African AmericansCharter Schools // 0 Comments
The NAACP’s most recent national resolution on charter schools has elicited a vigorous discourse about charter schools in the United States. The nation’s largest and oldest civil right organization is also a democratic, community-based organization. The National Board of the NAACP after its vote to support a charter moratorium (See Breaking News: Charter Resolution Ratified by @NAACP National Board) announced the National Task Force for Quality Education on October 15. This new group is charged with studying education quality, “until safeguards are in place to provide better transparency regarding accountability, and to prevent cases of fraud and mismanagement.”  The task force will be taking input from advocates, teachers, parents, and policy experts across the nation. The task force will focus primarily on issues surrounding “inadequate school funding, charter school accountability and its impact on school funding for under-funded districts.”

Blogger note: Have an opinion about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  Call these three senators today.
1. Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Washington, D.C. Phone:(202) 224-4944
2. Senator Toomey's Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4254
Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
3. Senator Casey’s Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833

PHLpreK Now Enrolling!
Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education
Did you know that quality early childhood education sets our children up for success? It reduces the need for special education, raises graduation rates, and narrows the achievement gap. These benefits ripple throughout our schools, neighborhoods, and local economy.
That’s why the City of Philadelphia is expanding free, quality pre-K for 6,500 three- and four-year-olds over the next five years. In fact, the first 2,000 pre-K seats are available now. Families should act fast because classes begin on January 4th at more than 80 locations.
Please help us spread the word. Parents/caregivers can call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak with a trained professional who will help them apply and locate quality pre-K programs nearby.  For more information, visit

Pennsylvania Every Student Succeeds Act Public Tour
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania.  The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing
development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.  Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at
Upcoming Public Events:
Friday, December 16- Philadelphia- 11:00 am- Community College of Philadelphia
 Community College of Philadelphia
 Bonnell Building, Bonnell Auditorium, Room BG-20
 1700 Spring Garden Street  Philadelphia, PA  19130
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown- 5:30 pm- Bucks County Free Library
Bucks County Free Library Quakertown Branch
401 West Mill Street Quakertown, PA  18951
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton- 4:00 pm- Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
3201 Rockwell Avenue Scranton, PA  18508

“The “Success Starts Here” campaign is a multi-year statewide effort to share the positive news about public education through advertising, web, social media, traditional media and word-of-mouth with the goal of raising understanding of the value of public education in Pennsylvania. The campaign is led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, but relies on the support of a wide variety of participating organizations.”
Share Your School’s Story: Success Starts Here Needs You!
Success Starts Here needs you! Show your support by sharing stories, using social media and applying window clings to all of your school buildings. Below are some links to resources to help you help us.
Not sure where to start? This simple tool kit will provide to you everything you need to get involved in the campaign, including ways to work with the media, social media tips, a campaign article to post, downloadable campaign logos, and photo release forms.
We know you have great stories, and it’s easy to share them! Just use our simple form to send your success story to be featured on our website. Help spread the word about how Success Starts Here in today’s public schools.
All school entities have been sent a supply of window clings for school building entrances. Need more? No problem! Just complete the online order form and more will quickly be on their way to you.

PASBO is seeking eager leaders! Ready to serve on the board? Deadline for intent letter is 12/31.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Wanda M. Erb, PRSBA, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.

PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging.  Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time.  Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Part 1
·         Role and responsibilities of the school board director.
·         How to work with PSBA’s member services team.
·         Your role as an advocate for public education.
·         The school board’s role in policy.
(See also: Part 2, Jan. 11Part 3, Jan. 18)
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online:

PSBA Third Annual Board Presidents Day
JAN 28, 2017 • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Nine Locations Statewide
Jan. 28, 2017 (Snow date: Feb. 11, 2017)
Calling all school board presidents, vice-presidents, and superintendents — Join us for the 3rd Annual PSBA Board Presidents Day held at nine convenient locations around the state.
This is a day of meeting fellow board members from your area and taking part in thought-provoking dialogue about the issues every board faces.  PSBA Past President Kathy Swope will start things off with an engaging presentation based on her years as board president at the Lewistown Area School District.  Bring your own scenarios to this event to gain perspective from other districts.  Cost: $109 per person – includes registration, lunch and materials. All-Access Package applies.  Register online by logging in to the Members Area (see the Store/Registration link to view open event registrations,

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2017 -- Jan. 29-31, Washington, D.C.
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.
This event is open to members of the Federal Relations Network. To find out how you can join, contact Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at

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.

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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