Thursday, February 16, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 16: How much does your PA school district spend on charters?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 16, 2017
How much does your PA school district spend on charters?

Do you know how much your PA School District spends on Charter Schools?  Find out here:
Total tuition paid to PA charter schools in 2014-15 was $1.48 billion
Education Voters PA February 2017 using PDE data

“The findings are outlined in a study titled "Student Enrollment Patterns and Achievement in Ohio's Online Charter Schools," published today in the academic journal Educational Researcher. They closely mirror a nationwide 2015 study of cyber charter school performance by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which found that more than two-thirds of the country's 200 or so cyber charters perform worse than comparable traditional schools.”
Online Charter Students in Ohio Perform Far Worse Than Peers, Study Finds
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Benjamin Herold on February 16, 2017 6:55 AM
Students in Ohio's burgeoning full-time online charter schools perform far worse on state assessments than similar students in brick-and-mortar charter and regular schools, according to a new study from researchers at New York University and the RAND Corporation.  The schools, which deliver instruction entirely or primarily via the internet, tend to attract lower-income, lower-performing white students, then fail to provide those children with the supports they need, the study concluded.   "Students in Ohio e-schools are losing anywhere between 75 days and a full school year of learning compared to their peers in traditional public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools," Andrew McEachin, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, said in an interview.  "If kids are in e-schools for a long time, they're likely going to fall very far behind their peers."

Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry
With growing evidence that the nation's cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems, Education Week conducted a months-long investigation into what is happening in this niche sector of K-12 schooling. The result is a deep-dive account of what's wrong with cyber charters. Education Week uncovered exclusive data on how rarely students use the learning software at Colorado’s largest cyber charter, the questionable management practices in online charters, and how lobbying in scores of states helps keep the sector growing.

Blogger commentary:  Take a stand: commit to a plan to fund the formula.
Pennsylvania has the most inequitable funding in the nation when comparing poorer districts to wealthier districts.  Schools that have adequate funding already have well stocked libraries staffed by qualified librarians.  The legislature did a great job developing a fair funding formula for basic education, but until there is a commitment to actually fund it, school boards and administrators in the most underfunded districts will be forced to make painful and substantive choices regarding the use of limited tax dollars, especially in the “test-and-punish” environment we live in.
Guest Column: It’s time to take a stand for school librarians
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” — Walter Cronkite
Delco Times By Rep. Thomas Murt, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 02/15/17, 8:26 PM EST
Rep. Thomas Murt, R-152, represents parts of eastern Montgomery County and northeast Philadelphia. He is a certified teacher in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.S. from Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. from LaSalle University and is a doctoral candidate at Temple University.
Whether you grew up a bookworm or a child who avoided reading, everybody had a favorite book. These books stretched our imaginations, taught us valuable lessons, and helped us to grow in many ways.  Today, the children in the School District of Philadelphia face a crisis. Thousands of these children are being denied the learning opportunities offered through library studies. This is due to the closing and unavailability of school libraries throughout city schools. Most schools have closed their libraries and furloughed their librarians. How can we expect to build a future for our children while denying them something as fundamental as access to quality reading?

Philly announces fate of 11 schools slated for turnaround
WHYY Newsworks by Dale Mezzacappa and Avi Wolfman-Arent February 15, 2017
The School District released its long-awaited plans Wednesday for 11 low-performing schools designated this year for extreme makeovers, and it appears that the interventions will be less disruptive than some school communities initially feared.  Four high schools will see little change until a more detailed plan is developed for all the neighborhood high schools in the city. They are Kensington Health Sciences Academy, Fels, Ben Franklin, and Overbrook.  The seven others will receive up to $1 million each to shore up their academic programs.  For the three schools that will enter the District’s Turnaround Network – Blankenburg, Heston, and John Marshall Elementary Schools – the principal and teachers will be required to reapply for their jobs, and changes will involve replacing at least 20 percent of the faculty members.  That’s a lower percentage than it has been in past years, when the District required schools in its Turnaround Network to replace at least half of their staff.

Major overhauls ordered at 11 Phila. schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: FEBRUARY 15, 2017 — 3:45 PM EST
Eleven city schools will be overhauled in the fall - some by their own design, and others at the Philadelphia School District’s behest, with staff shakeups, structures imposed by the central office, and additional resources.  “The whole point of this was to really have a method to do some significant improvements in schools,” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday. “We felt like these 11 would require immediate action.”  The schools - Bartram High, Blankenburg, Ben Franklin High, Fels High, Harding, Hartranft, Heston, Kensington Health Sciences Academy, John Marshall, McDaniel and Overbrook High - were chosen because of academic struggles over many years, officials said.

Consolidation of Erie schools discussed again
School Board hears update on possibilities
GoErie By Ed Palattella / February 15, 2017
The Erie School District will be unsure for months about how much additional funding, if any, it will receive from the state in fiscal year 2017-18, which starts July 1. But the district is certain that, no matter what its finances, it will need to consolidate high schools and other schools in the years ahead, possibly as early as 2018-19. The need to consolidate, mainly to save money, came up again on Wednesday night, at the regular meeting of the School Board. Superintendent Jay Badams told the school directors that he has received no solid information from the state on the district's request for $31.8 million in additional annual funding to stay solvent and improve its programs and buildings. Gov. Tom Wolf included no special funding for the district in the proposed 2017-18 state budget he released a week ago, though lawmakers and the governor's office have said they have not forgotten about the district's request.

Two charter school applications withdrawn in Upper Darby
Delco Times by -Kevin Tustin POSTED: 02/15/17, 8:22 PM EST
UPPER DARBY >> A vote to approve two charter schools in the Upper Darby School District Feb. 14 fell through after the applications were withdrawn.  School board President Ken Rucci said no further action would be taken on the Daniel Torres Charter Middle School and Health Careers Academy Charter School after applicant Jim Duffy pulled back his interest last month. Official word of the withdraw did not reach the school board until early this month through the district’s special counsel, Michael Puppio.  The schools were slated to be housed in a 100,000 square foot building Duffy owns at 4 Rockbourne Road in Clifton Heights. Duffy said he withdrew the applications after an unsuccessful attempt to encourage the district to buy the building for $30 million to serve as a school building that would to bring hundreds of students back into the district. Duffy is currently in litigation to have a previously denied school, Creative Edge Academy Charter, be granted a charter through appeal.

Thackston Charter School on notice to correct issues
York Daily Record Angie Mason , amason@ydr.comPublished 7:49 p.m. ET Feb. 15, 2017
Helen Thackston Charter School has the next several months to correct a number of issues identified by the York City School District or else face the possibility of losing its charter.  The York City School Board on Wednesday voted 7-0 to set a series of deadlines for the charter school to accomplish tasks such as completing overdue audits and providing documentation showing how the school is implementing a homeland security program, a part of the school’s charter. Some deadlines are as early as late February, while the latest is in August.  At a previous meeting, an attorney for the school district outlined a number of ways the district says the school is not meeting the requirements of its charter. Thackston officials acknowledged some of the problems and pledged to correct them.  If Thackston does not meet the deadlines as set, the board will consider whether to take steps to revoke or not renew Thackston’s charter, the resolution says.

Which Midstate lawmakers opt out of the state pension system?
By Dennis Owens Published: February 14, 2017, 6:14 pm  Updated: February 14, 2017, 8:41 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There are 253 seats in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. The vast majority of the people who occupy them accept the pension that comes with the job.  Pensions are a legal part of the legislative compensation package. For the longest tenured legislators, those pensions are a pretty sweet deal upon retirement.  But according to paperwork from the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, seven state senators have chosen not to participate in the pension system. Four – John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry), Scott Wagner (York), Scott Martin (Lancaster), Mike Folmer (Lebanon) – are from the Midstate.  In the state House, 25 representatives, nine – Stephen Bloom (Cumberland), Russ Diamond (Lebanon), Kristin Hill (York), Carol Hill-Evans (York), Kate Klunk (York), John Lawrence (Chester/Lancaster), Greg Rothman (Cumberland), Frank Ryan (Lebanon), Paul Schemel (Franklin) – are from this area and have said thanks, but no thanks.

Polaneczky: A parent's school choice is nobody else's business
Philly Daily News by Ronnie Polaneczky, Daily News Columnist @RonniePhilly Updated: FEBRUARY 15, 2017 5:15 PM
When my daughter graduated from a Philadelphia public high school three years ago, my pride was twinned with relief that the public education system had worked out for my family. My husband and I didn't know what to expect when we sent our only kid off to kindergarten 13 years before. But we hoped for the best. We were in the same position then as many city families are today, as they wait to hear whether the public school they want their kindergartners to attend will have space for them in the fall. My colleague Kristen A. Graham interviewed some of these families for her story this week about Meredith Elementary at  Fifth and Fitzwater. Because so many families have moved into Meredith’s boundary, the school has had to institute a lottery system to determine which little ones will attend the well-regarded but crowded school come September. The children who don’t make the cut will have to learn to tell time and identify shapes elsewhere.

How the contract stalemate could imperil the Andrew Jackson rock band
Music teacher Chris Argerakis says that 15-hour days and no raise in four years could drive him out of the District, as much as he wants to stay. He is becoming more outspoken.
The notebook February 15, 2017 — 1:08pm
Christostomos Argerakis, a music teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School, has a question for both the School Reform Commission and his union’s leadership:  Why aren’t you meeting all day, every day, until you reach a contract agreement?  Argerakis, 46, is one of the victims of the four-year stalemate, unprecedented in the history of the city. During that time teachers like him have seen no raises, nor have they received bumps in pay for accumulating experience and additional coursework, both promised under the terms of the expired pact.  He is also the founder and director of Jackson’s unique and storied rock band, Home, which has garnered significant press attention and is the subject of an upcoming short documentary.  Now, Argerakis is determined to use his visibility to draw attention to the plight of teachers like him in trying to force a settlement. Simply put, he’s not sure how much longer he can go on like this – working extra hours on his own dime rehearsing and playing gigs with his middle school band, giving private drum lessons four nights a week, and teaching a one-credit course at his alma mater, the University of the Arts.

Commentary: Tax credits can work to modernize school buildings
Inquirer Opinion by Dwight Evans February 15, 2017
Dwight Evans is a U.S. congressman representing Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District.
DR. MARTIN Luther King Jr. said truth crushed to Earth will rise. Recently, Philadelphia's school chief issued a facilities report. It showed the average student attends a school built in the year Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson stunned a Yankee Stadium crowd by stealing home during Game 1 of the World Series.  That was 1955. This means our children go to the same aged, rundown K-12 facilities considered functionally obsolete by national standards a generation ago when their parents attended the same dilapidated buildings!  The report puts a price tag on fixing this intolerable situation: $5 billion.  Philly isn't alone. A 1995 federal survey showed the average K-12 facility across America to be similarly obsolete, based on the original construction date. Studies show students forced to attend these structures for their K-12 lifetime lose statistically one educational year.  Both parties promised bipartisan cooperation on a major infrastructure program. Candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton specifically said these investments must include modernizing school facilities.

Bill wants educators to bargain sick days
Philly Trib by Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer Feb 14, 2017
Legislation that would remove mandated sick time and bereavement benefits for educators and leave the elements to be bargained within the educators’ individual school districts could soon go to the Senate.  Senate Bill 229, passed last month after being introduced by Education Chair and Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. (R-Blair County), seeks to provide flexibility to school districts to adequately manage their personal staff. Pennsylvania’s current Public School Code of 1949 — allows employees 10 paid sick days.  The new bill would also propose the elimination of professional employees’ entitlement to sabbatical leave.  Calls to Eichelberger’s office were unsuccessful on Monday, but in his remarks last month Eichelberger stressed the law was not in place for state employees.  “Why would we put this in statute, when no other employee classification has this in statute?” he asked. “We should treat people fairly so that we represent the interests of the children and the taxpayers.”

Kindergarten literacy scores in Ephrata rise after half-day program revamped
Lancaster Online by ROBYN MEADOWS | LNP Correspondent February 15, 2017
Full-day kindergarten is not coming to Ephrata Area School District yet.
Members of the school board heard a presentation at the Feb. 6 committee meeting from administrators on the state of the half-day program, and how it compares to full-day programs in the county.  “We have a more consistent kindergarten program than it’s ever been,” Superintendent Brian Troop said. “We have been getting the most out of our time. Based on this data, I don’t think it suggests switching to full-day kindergarten for all kids.”  The district revamped its half-day program this fall, adding more support for struggling readers and writing programs. As a result, kindergarten literacy scores have risen.  “We put in some new programs and recalibrated some components,” Troop said.  In 2015, the district launched a six-month study involving a committee of parents and teachers to investigate which kindergarten services could work for district students. They researched and visited other programs, such as full-day and extended-day. The committee came up with four options and said a full-day kindergarten was the best option and improving the existing half-day program was the second-best choice.

Tweet showing chimp as student prompts resignation of school boards association leader
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 15, 2017 at 10:44 AM, updated February 15, 2017 at 11:18 AM
A leader of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association resigned his position on Wednesday following a controversy that arose over an image he posted on his Twitter account tied to a comment about the cost of cyber charter school education.  Mark Miller, a 10-year member of the Centennial School Board in Bucks County, had only taken office as president of the school board association's governing board in January. But he said in an interview with PennLive on Wednesday morning his decision to resign was for personal, business and family reasons.  "It's the right thing to do," said Miller, a self-employed marketing consultant and artist manager who also serves on the board of directors for the national Network for Public Education. Miller had served on PSBA's board for five non-consecutive years.  Without directly mentioning the controversy surrounding Miller's tweet posted Monday about the online public schools that carried an image of a chimpanzee sitting at a computer, the school boards association's governing board issued a joint statement about Miller's sudden resignation, which was accepted on Tuesday afternoon and took effect Wednesday.

OJR faces criticism on school start-time study
Daily Local By Eric Devlin, on Twitter POSTED: 02/15/17, 6:22 PM EST | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
SOUTH COVENTRY >> Cheryl Hertzog thinks the Owen J. Roberts School District isn’t taking the issue of altering school start times as seriously as it should.  Despite holding several meetings studying the issue, which would allow older students to get the extra sleep they need, Hertzog said the district needs to do more to educate the public as to why it should support this potential change.  “My concern is that no one has had any education about the research,” said Hertzog, one of 30 community members tasked with studying the issue. “Parents, guardians, students, nobody is really knowledgeable enough about the (topic) because they don’t have direct education on it.”  The district disagrees, saying it’s tried to provide all relevant information to the community to help it make informed decisions.  OJR is the third district in Chester County to consider altering start times. Unionville-Chadds Ford and Phoenixille districts are also looking at the logistics of changing start times. At this time there are no recommended changes to the 2017-18 school schedule.

Greensburg Salem to switch to alternative-fuel school buses, new transportation company
Trib Live JACOB TIERNEY  | Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, 1:30 p.m.
A new bus fleet powered by liquid propane at Greensburg Salem School District will benefit both the environment and the bottom line, according to district officials.  The school board this week unanimously agreed to a five-year contract with Mt. Pleasant's DMJ Transportation. DMJ will replace Cincinnati-based First Student. Its contract with the district expires May 31.  With DMJ, the district expects to save about $250,000 a year, Business Manager Jim Meyer said. The district budgeted almost $2.8 million for transportation for the 2016-17 school year. It will pay DMJ $275.50 per vehicle per day, compared to $302.22 charged by First Student.

Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms
The Washington Post By Emma Brown February 15 at 5:02 PM 
A policy manifesto from an influential conservative group with ties to the Trump administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urges the dismantling of the Education Department and bringing God into American classrooms.  The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction.  Names of the council’s members are closely held. But the Southern Poverty Law Center published a 2014 membership directory showing that Stephen K. Bannon — now chief White House strategist for President Trump — was a member and that Kellyanne Conway — now counselor to the president — served on the council’s executive committee.  DeVos was not listed as a member, but her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, was namedon the council’s board of governors. Her father-in-law, Amway founder Richard DeVos Sr., twice served as president, most recently from 1990 to 1993. And she and her husband have given money to the council as recently as 2007 through their family foundation, according to federal tax records.  The council’s “Education Reform Report” says it is intended to help DeVos and Trump map a path toward change. The proposal to abolish the department dovetails with the longheld views of many Republicans, and President Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign that the agency could be “largely eliminated.” But Trump has given no sign since taking office that he aims to act on that idea, and DeVos embraced the mission of the department when she took office last week.

Public Education Funding Briefing; Wed, March 8, 2017 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM at United Way Bldg in Philly
Public Interest Law Center email/website February 14, 2017
Amid a contentious confirmation battle in Washington D.C., public education has been front and center in national news. But what is happening at home is just as--if not more--important: Governor Wolf just announced his 2017-2018 budget proposal, including $100 million in new funding for basic education. State legislators are pushing a bill that would eliminate local school taxes by increasing income and sales taxes. And we at the Law Center are waiting on a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as to whether or not our school funding lawsuit can go to trial.   How do all of these things affect Pennsylvania's schools, and the children who rely on them? Come find out!   Join Jennifer Clarke, Michael Churchill and me for one of two briefings on the nuts and bolts of how public education funding works in Pennsylvania and how current proposals and developments could affect students and teachers. (The content of both briefings will be identical.) 
The briefings are free and open to the public, but we ask that you please RSVP. 

NSBAC First 100 Days Campaign #Ed100Days
National School Boards Action Center
There is no time like the present for public education advocates to make their voices heard. Misleading rhetoric coupled with budget cuts and proposals such as private school vouchers that divert essential funding from our public schools are threatening the continued success of our 50 million children in public schools. We need your voice to speak up for public schools now!
The first 100 days in the 115th Congress and the Trump Administration present a great opportunity to make sure our country’s elected leaders are charting an education agenda that supports our greatest and most precious resource -- America’s schoolchildren. And you can make that happen.

New PSBA Winter Town Hall Series coming to your area
Introducing a new and exciting way to get involved and stay connected in a location near you! Join your PSBA Town Hall meeting to hear the latest budget and political updates affecting public education. Enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and networking with fellow school directors. Locations have been selected to minimize travel time. Spend less time in the car and more time learning about issues impacting your schools.
6-6:35 p.m.         Association update from PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains
6:35 -7:15 p.m. Networking Reception
7:15-8 p.m.         Governor’s budget address recap
Monday, February 20     Forbes Road Career and Technology Center, Monroeville
Tuesday, February 21    Venango Technology Center, Oil City
Wednesday, Feb 22       Clearfield County Career and Technical Center, Clearfield
Thursday, February 23   Columbia Montour AVTS, Bloomsburg
Monday, February 27     Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Jamison
Tuesday, February 28    PSBA, Mechanicsburg
Wednesday, March 1     Bedford County Technical Center, Everett
Thursday, March 2         West Side CTC, Kingston

Ron Cowell at EPLC always does a great job with these policy forums.
RSVP Today for a Forum In Your Area! EPLC is Holding Five Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 State Budget Proposal
Forum #1 – Pittsburgh Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Wyndham University Center – 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA 15213
Forum #2 – Harrisburg Area (Enola, PA) Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Capital Area Intermediate Unit – 55 Miller Street (Susquehanna Room), Enola, PA 17025
Forum #3 – Philadelphia Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market Street (5th Floor), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Forum #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
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.

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30

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!

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township,  PA

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