Friday, April 14, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 14: HB97: Fast-tracked latest version of PA Charter Reform legislation still would facilitate authorization and expansion of charters without sufficient oversight/approval by locally elected school boards representing the taxpayers who pay for these privately managed schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 14, 2017:
HB97: Fast-tracked latest version of PA Charter Reform legislation still would facilitate authorization and expansion of charters without sufficient oversight/approval by locally elected school boards representing the taxpayers who pay for these privately managed schools

Blogger Opinion: This fast-tracked latest version of PA Charter Reform legislation still would facilitate authorization and expansion of charters without sufficient oversight/approval by locally elected school boards representing the taxpayers who pay for these privately managed schools.

Please review the full analysis of HB97 and reach out to your legislators and ask them to vote “NO” on HB97, which is expected to be reported out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday morning and could go to a full vote in the House shortly after.
PSBA Analysis: Charter Bill: HB97
Excerpts from PSBA Analysis of Charter Reform Bill House Bill 97 (Reese) April 13, 2017
Charter School Appeal Board: The bill expands the state Charter School Appeal Board (CAB) from six to nine members with only one new member (a principal) representing traditional public schools. These changes provide an opportunity for charter school representatives to control the CAB in a majority of cases. 
Charter Terms and Renewals: The bill expands the terms for the initial charter period and renewal terms in a manner that further removes authorizer oversight by eliminating the ability of school districts to review renewed charters annually.
Focus of the Funding Commission: The issues to be considered by Charter School Funding Commission created House Bill 97 go way beyond addressing the most critical need, which is to consider ways to fairly provide relief to the climbing costs and overpayments to charter schools made by school districts. 

DePasquale: Legislature's reserves shouldn't be off-limits to help address budget deficit
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 13, 2017 at 1:14 PM, updated April 13, 2017 at 1:24 PM
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to open up the General Assembly's books and let his auditors conduct an external review of their fiscal operations.  In particular, DePasquale said at a Capitol news conference that he wants to focus attention on the $118.4 million in legislative reserve accounts as a possible way to help lawmakers deal with the projected $2 billion to $3 billion deficit the state could be facing next year.  "In this budget year where the budget that was just passed by the House is looking at every nook and cranny of spending, I don't believe the legislative surplus should be off limits to that as well," he said.

Another View: Why standardized tests are failing Pa. students
Delco Times By Pedro A. Rivera, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 04/13/17, 8:59 PM EDT | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
In classrooms across Pennsylvania, students are engaged in an annual tradition of taking standardized tests; and while these assessments can play an important role in their education, many would agree that the spotlight on tests and scores has overshadowed the great teaching and learning that should be the focus in our schools.
The Department of Education agrees.
Since day one, the Wolf Administration has made education a top priority and has fought to improve public education by championing historic investments in classrooms, honoring our educators, and exploring ways to reduce the emphasis on standardized tests. At the governor’s direction, PDE has crisscrossed the commonwealth working with communities and educational organizations to identify ways to ensure students are prepared to succeed after they graduate. This collaboration has led PDE to offer recommendations to tackle the issue of over-testing.
First, Pennsylvania should stop relying on results from a few point-in-time assessments to evaluate how schools are doing. Results from the PSSAs and Keystone Exams account for up to 90 percent of a school’s School Performance Profile (the state’s current school measurement tool), which is why the department is adopting the Future Ready PA Index as the forward-facing school evaluation tool in the 2018-19 school year.
Future Ready PA would retain some measures from the SPP, but broaden the indicators to weigh how schools are doing at preparing all students for post-graduation success. In addition to test scores, Future Ready will emphasize growth, access to high-quality programs, and follow-up to see how students are doing after graduation.

Court orders reinstatement of Philly principal fired for cheating at her school
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: APRIL 13, 2017 — 7:00 PM EDT
Commonwealth Court on Thursday ruled that the Philadelphia School District wrongfully fired a principal  in connection with the statewide cheating scandal in 2014 and ordered that the district reinstate her.  The three-judge panel agreed with an arbitrator that Michelle Burns, who had been principal of Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia, had failed to uncover cheating and prevent it, but had not engaged in cheating.   “This is going on three years that my life has been turned upside down,” said Burns, 45. “I’m ecstatic.”   Burns, who said she had an unblemished record during her 18 years with the district as a teacher and administrator, noted that the district had presented no witnesses during her termination  hearing who implicated her in cheating at Tilden.

“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.”
Blogger note:  To my knowledge, no legal action has ever been taken regarding the Chester Community Charter School which is operated by Vahan Gureghian, who was Gov. Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.

“Two years ago, however, during an April 2011 visit, Corbett was effusive: The school’s test-score success “needs to be reported to all the people of Pennsylvania,” he said, so they could witness school choice in action. At the time, Corbett was under fire for proposing massive cuts to education. ……A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself.”
Reprise 2013: How Pennsylvania Schools Made a Cheating Scandal Disappear
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
City Paper by  Daniel Denvir Posted: Thu, Jul. 18, 2013, 12:00 AM
The odds that 11th-graders at Strawberry Mansion High School would have randomly erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the district. In 2010, principal Lois Powell-Mondesire left Strawberry Mansion; after her departure, test scores dropped sharply.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 5 - 11, 2017
National Center for Fair and Open Testing Submitted by fairtest on April 11, 2017 - 1:31pm 
Aggressive grassroots testing resistance campaigns and a string of assessment reform policy victories highlight a very active week with standardized exam season now underway in many states.

“Kuniholm said concerned Pennsylvanians can help advance the fight to end gerrymandering by asking legislators to support redistricting reform bills SB 22 and HB 722. Calling on township supervisors, borough councils, school boards and county commissioners to pass resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment on how voting district boundaries are created could also help.  It’s important, Fair Districts PA said, to act fast because the next redistricting is just around the corner with the coming 2020 Census.”
Gerrymandering the topic of Pennridge forum
Intelligencer By Chris Ruvo, correspondent April 13, 2017
In a democracy, citizens are supposed to choose who represents them in government.
In Pennsylvania, Carol Kuniholm said Wednesday, an entrenched political class has managed to flip the script, effectively selecting who will vote for them through manipulative mapping of voting district boundaries through a practice known as gerrymandering.  On Wednesday, Kuniholm delivered a presentation on gerrymandering and its detrimental impact on democracy in the state to an audience at Pennridge High School.  “The keystone of cronyism and control in Pennsylvania is gerrymandering,” said Kuniholm, a former youth minister who is co-chair of Fair Districts PA.  Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan statewide coalition that is actively opposing gerrymandering by propelling a grassroots effort to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution so that realignment of voting districts would be performed by an independent citizens commission. Currently, the state Legislature determines the boundaries for congressional and state legislative voting districts. Kuniholm said this is an obvious conflict of interest -- akin to allowing baseball players to reinvent the rules of the game as they go along in a manner that suits them best.

Legislators say they're working on pensions, property taxes
Republican Herald BY PETER E. BORTNER / PUBLISHED: APRIL 13, 2017
POTTSVILLE — Before Pennsylvania can resolve its budget problems, it must devise a workable pension system and reform property taxes, Schuylkill County’s four state legislators said on Wednesday at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee Talk at The Lodge at Sharp Mountain.  “The long-term prospect and the risk ... are very unnerving,” state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, Pottsville, said of the state’s pension situation.  His colleagues, state Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Township, and state Reps. Neal P. Goodman, D-123, Mahanoy City, and Jerry Knowles, R-124, Rush Township, agreed with him that pension reform is necessary.  “We are going to continue to see a lot of programs being squeezed” without such reforms, Argall said.

A worthy investment in children
Improving early childhood education pays dividends down the road
Post Gazette Opinion by LOUIS R. CESTELLO 12:00 AM APR 13, 2017
Louis R. Cestello is PNC regional president for Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The quality of an early education can influence a young child’s success in school and life.
As an individual highly invested in early childhood education, I have witnessed the impact an instructionally rich learning environment can have on preschool students’ development. Research supports the view that high-quality preschool programs necessitate resources and educational experiences that stimulate children’s curiosity and love of learning. A high-quality pre-K classroom — where teachers have access to materials and activities to support their interactions with children — helps to advance students’ cognitive, social and emotional skills.  The early learning environment is especially relevant for at-risk preschool children. At home, many underserved children do not engage in the interactions — conversations and play — that help build vocabulary and the pathways that shape the brain’s ability to organize information. A Stanford University study showed income-based disparities in children’s vocabularies by 18 months of age. By 2 years, children from lower-income households fell six months behind children in higher-income homes with regard to how quickly they process language.

Erie School District trims deficit
Go Erie By Ed Palattella  April 14, 2017
The Erie School District’s projected budget deficit remains a huge challenge, but it has dropped by $500,000.  Due to additional savings this fiscal year, the district administration has reduced the deficit to $9.5 million from $10 million for fiscal 2017-18, which starts July 1.  The district still is hoping to get additional state aid to help eliminate the deficit and improve its buildings and programs. But as it waits on Harrisburg to fashion a statewide budget, due July 1, the district continues to search for more savings and revenue and adjust its budget.  “We always refine it,” Superintendent Jay Badams said.  Badams and the district’s chief financial officer, Brian Polito, explained the reduction of the deficit to $9.5 million at the School Board’s nonvoting study session on Wednesday night.  The board met for four hours to review the five options the administration has developed to reconfigure the district’s schools — the massive cost-savings initiative the district is set to undertake in 2017-18, no matter what the outcome of the request for additional state funding.

Philly superintendent Hite vouches for disgraced Chicago schools chief
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: APRIL 13, 2017 — 3:38 PM EDT
Barbara Byrd-Bennett has admitted to using her position as Chicago Public Schools chief to steer lucrative contracts to firms connected to her, with plans of accepting kickbacks for the deals.  Federal prosecutors have urged a judge to sentence her to more than seven years in prison.  Among those who have written to Judge Edward Chang on Byrd-Bennett’s behalf is Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.  The letter is sealed, but public records show that Hite was among 91 people, mostly former colleagues or employees in Chicago and Cleveland, who provided character references.  In an interview, Hite said he did not ask for leniency for Byrd-Bennett. He acknowledges her crime. He said he merely has facts to present as Chang considers Byrd-Bennett’s sentence. (Her attorneys have asked that Chang sentence her to no more than 3½ years in prison.)  Hite first met Byrd-Bennett over a decade ago, when he was a deputy superintendent in Prince George’s County, Md., and she was the schools chief in Cleveland. She became a coach to him, a mentor who provided technical support but, more important, Hite said, encouragement.  “I was a young man that she took under her wing,” Hite said Thursday. “She said, ‘You really should think about pursuing opportunities in district leadership.’ She was a role model for me at a time when I didn’t think I could do this work.”

Study: Music Education in K-12 Promotes Lifelong Engagement With Arts
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog By Jackie Zubrzycki on April 11, 2017 5:33 PM
A new study from the University of Maryland indicates that adults who participated in music education in school in grades K-12 were more likely to attend a musical performance and play an instrument in later life. Education in other artistic disciplines, including theater, was also associated with participation in those disciplines later on in life.   Using information from the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, Kenneth Elpus, an assistant professor of music education and the author of the study, examined how adults who reported studying a given art form in school engage with the arts as adults.   While other researchers have noted that participation in arts education is tied to being active in the arts as an adult, Elpus focused in on who had studied specific disciplines and on just how adults are involved with art later in life.

“Leaders of more than 20 charter school networks signed on to a recent op-ed in USA Today that says they don’t want the money if it comes at the expense of important programs that help students in traditional public schools.”
Trump’s budget boosts funding for school choice. So why are charter school chiefs unhappy about it?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss April 13 at 1:32 PM 
An unexpected thing happened when President Trump recently proposed cutting the Education Department budget by some 14 percent while spending a mountain of new money on charter schools and other school-choice options: Some prominent operators of charter schools announced that they weren’t happy with the plan.  Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, have said their top priority in education is expanding school choice, and Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for a $168 million increase for charter schools, a 50 percent funding increase. It is also possible that the administration will push for the first-ever federal tax credit program that would steer public money into private schools. Such programs exist now in a number of states, and DeVos has repeatedly called a Florida tax-credit program a model for the nation.  [DeVos praises this voucher-like program. Here’s what it means for school reform.]  Under the draft budget, the 14 percent proposed reductions at the Education Department would cut or eliminate grants for, among other things, teacher training, after-school programs, and aid to low-income and minority college students. Trump would spend $1.4 billion on school-choice initiatives, including charters.

With New Data, School Finance is Coming Out of the Dark Ages
Education Next By Marguerite Roza 04/11/2017
Want to know what’s spent per student at a public school near you? Or whether it’s more or less than what’s spent at another school up the road? While it may seem crazy, in most communities you’d need to be a forensic accountant to get answers to such seemingly straightforward questions. That’s because what typically gets tracked and reported in this country is district-level spending. (And even that can take several years to be released to the public.)  But that’s all about to change.  A sleeper provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act—come December 2018—will serve up a motherlode of never-before-available school-level financial data. If we seize the unprecedented opportunity this data offers, we will be better equipped to tackle some of education’s most pressing issues—like the need for greater equity and productivity—and help schools across the country do better for their students.  Backed with bipartisan support, ESSA’s financial transparency clause calls on states to publicly report spending by school starting in the 2017-18 school year—and do so just six months after the school year ends. This wasn’t intended as some compliance thing, where the data get sent to the feds for review and a box gets checked on a form somewhere. The intent was to make spending data public and accessible to communities and school systems, unmasking systemic fiscal inequities among schools in the same district and making it much easier to investigate (and understand) the relationship between school outcomes and school spending.  Bottom line: This data bonanza has the potential to touch school leaders, students, and communities nationwide.

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the fourth annual Advocacy Forum on April 24, 2017, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
“Nothing has more impact for legislators than hearing directly from constituents through events like PSBA’s Advocacy Forum.”
— Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Senate Appropriations Committee chair

PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings coming in May!
Don’t be left in the dark on legislation that affects your district! Learn the latest from your legislators at PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings. Conveniently offered at 10 locations around the state throughout May, this event will provide you with the opportunity to interact face-to-face with key lawmakers from your area. Enjoy refreshments, connect with colleagues, and learn what issues impact you and how you can make a difference. Log in to the Members Area to register today for this FREE event!
  • Monday, May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Parkway West CTC, 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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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