Thursday, April 27, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 27: Chester Upland spends about $16K/yr for each special ed student; has to pay over $40K each to charters

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 27, 2017:
Chester Upland spends about $16K/yr for each special ed student; has to pay over $40K each to charters

RSVP Now! EPLC’s Education Policy Forum – May 4 in Indiana, PA on Governor Wolf’s Proposed Education Budget

Blogger note: We’re working through some email issues.  If you did not get yesterday’s blast recapping the House passage of the charter expansion bill HB97 you can catch up here:
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 26: House passes #HB97 charter reform 108-84; on to the Senate
Keystone State Education Coalition

“Chester Upland spends about $16,000 a year on average for each special ed student in its traditional district schools. But the state's formula has forced it to pay more than $40,000 per student to charters, regardless of the child's level of disability.”
Quirk in Pa. charter law cripples traditional districts while giving charters 'cash cow'
When Delaware County's Chester Upland School District raised taxes last summer for the fourth year in a row, it was just the latest move in a long-running attempt to bring a chronically deficit-ridden district back to financial health.  "We keep asking the state to give us more," said Chester Upland's school board president, Anthony Johnson. "And the board's mindset is, we've got to stand up and do for self, too."  The district is pinning its hopes on an unusual strategy: bringing special education students back to district schools from charters — a move that could cut the district's $7 million dollar deficit by almost a third.  "This year we're coming after the cyber [charter] children. If we can get 50 back, that's over $2 million," Johnson said. "That's revenue. You have to look at it as revenue."  In the tangled world of Pennsylvania public school financing, special education payments to charters are a particularly thorny problem.  The payments are not calculated based on the actual cost of services, which can vary widely depending on a given student's needs. Nor are they based on the actual number of students served.
Instead, payments are calculated by a bafflingly complex formula that treats all districts and disabilities equally. The results can seem absurd, but bust budgets nonetheless.

“Mandated costs have contributed to these expenses. According Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY)’s recent report – “Left Out: The Status of Children in Delaware County”, between 2008 and 2014 school district budgets incurred an 11 percent inflation rate and covered $27.8 million more in state-required pension costs. In response, school districts relied on local property owners to pay more in taxes to sustain educational programs. Although many less wealthy districts imposed significantly higher millage increases than wealthier districts, they were still unable to provide students with the resources needed. Districts made difficult decisions to cut educational programs and increase class sizes to offset rising costs.”
Guest Column: It’s time to invest in schools - and our kids
Delco Times By Douglas Carney and Tomea Sippio-Smith, Times Guest Columnists
POSTED: 04/26/17, 10:19 PM EDT | UPDATED: 3 HRS AGO
Douglas Carney is a 24 year member of the Springfield School Board and a board member of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Tomea Sippio-Smith is the K-12 policy director at PCCY.
By April of each year, many parents throughout southeastern Pennsylvania are budget and event planning experts. Spring break trips have been booked, child care plans for out-of-school days have been arranged, summer camp enrollments have been solidified and vacation requests for spring and possibly summer have been approved. In addition, money has been set aside for spring sports fees, award ceremonies, end-of-year field trips, dances and graduations. As parents pay for the increasing costs of child rearing, they know that if they don’t invest in these events and opportunities, their child will be left out.  Parents are not the only investors, nor the only stakeholders in a child’s success. For 180 days – nearly 50 percent of the year – a child’s potential rests in the hands of a local school. What a child learns there impacts his or her ability to succeed in college or pursue a career and directly effects the strength of the local economy.
Like parents, schools must budget to meet student needs. When schools don’t have adequate funding to meet the needs of their students, children are left out.  In 2015, Delaware County school districts had about $5,000 less per classroom or about $200 less per student than in 2011.
Meanwhile, like the costs of camp, healthcare, and vacations, expenses have gone up.

“Bethlehem Area is looking at paying almost $27 million in charter school tuition and $33 million in employee pension payments.”
Bethlehem Area School District slashes budget deficit to $3 million
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call April 26, 2017
The Bethlehem Area School District has slashed its deficit from almost $13 million to $3 million, but programs such as teaching Spanish for all elementary students will have to be shelved for a balanced budget.  Wednesday the district held a budget workshop to give the school board and public an update on the proposed 2017-18 budget. When budget talks first began in January, the district was facing a $12.5 million deficit. The deficit is now $3 million.  The district closed the deficit by eliminating eight positions — six teachers and two guidance counselors at the elementary level — through attrition. Additionally, some offerings such as elementary Spanish and after-school programs have been shelved.  If the district raised taxes by 3.1 percent, it would bring in $4 million. The district is looking to keep taxes under 3.1 percent, which is the maximum percentage increase for the district set by the state.

Stop suspending elementary-age pupils, advocates ask Philly schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: APRIL 27, 2017 — 5:00 AM EDT
The Philadelphia School District should permanently prohibit out-of-school suspensions of children through fifth grade, a group of child advocates says, contending the district currently uses exclusion from school at “alarming rates” for its littlest learners.  A coalition of advocates wrote to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and the School Reform Commission this week asking for the policy change, saying excluding children from school is inappropriate punishment for misbehavior. The district last year halted most suspensions for kindergartners.  Citing the “continuous harm that suspensions cause our youngest learners -- who are disproportionately students of color and students with disabilities -- and their families,” the coalition, including the Education Law Center, Youth United for Change, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Councilwoman Helen Gym, and Parents United for Public Education, called on officials to act in a letter dated Monday.  For years, schools adopted zero-tolerance policies, using suspensions for a variety of offenses from violence to lesser misbehavior. But the tide has been turning against such practices in many districts.  Most suspensions are for conduct violations, not violent offenses.

Philly's Memphis Street Academy Charter School in jeopardy?
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: APRIL 26, 2017 — 5:07 PM EDT
The Philadelphia School District staff has recommended cutting ties with another charter school.
The district’s charter office said Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones,  a formerly troubled district school in Kensington, should not be given a new five-year operating agreement, primarily because of poor academic performance.  The report containing the recommendation of nonrenewal was posted on the charter office's website late Tuesday.
Memphis Academy has 860 students in grades five through eight. For the last five years it has been managed by American Paradigm Schools, a Philadelphia-based educational management organization that has four charters in the city.  Under American Paradigm, test scores did not improve the first year, the charter office said. And although reading scores improved by 7 percentage points over the first two years, they declined by 7 percentage points in math during the same period.  The office said Memphis Street Academy did not meet the standard "for academic success" for former district schools that have converted to charters as part of the district's Renaissance program.

Court orders reinstatement of another city principal fired as part of cheating scandal
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 26, 2017 — 5:07pm
Commonwealth Court has ordered the reinstatement of another principal who was fired in the wake of a cheating scandal that swept through Philadelphia schools.  Marla Travis-Curtis, who had been principal of Lamberton, was terminated by the School District in January 2014. That was after a statistical analysis of 2009-2011 test booklets by the Pennsylvania Department of Education showed that Lamberton was among 53 Philadelphia schools with a suspicious number of wrong-to-right erasures.  The ruling, handed down Tuesday, upheld the decision of an arbitrator and overturned a trial court that had decided for the District. The arbitrator found that while there was cheating at the school, no evidence existed that Curtis herself participated in it. He ordered a much reduced penalty of a 30-day unpaid suspension and demotion to assistant principal for implementing insufficient testing security procedures and, as the school's top administrator, being ultimately liable for improper conduct by school staff. 

Another Philly principal who was fired for cheating ordered reinstated by court
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: APRIL 26, 2017 — 2:51 PM EDT
Commonwealth Court has ordered another veteran principal who was snared in a cheating scandal reinstated by the Philadelphia School District.  A three-judge panel said there was no evidence that Marla Travis-Curtis, the longtime leader of Lamberton School in Overbrook Park, engaged in cheating on standardized tests, siding with an arbitrator who found that systematic cheating happened at Lamberton, but that Travis-Curtis was not a party to it.  “Although the cheating which occurred at Lamberton is abhorrent and such conduct must be rooted out, the arbitrator found only that Travis-Curtis failed to uncover the cheating and prevent it,” Judge P. Kevin Brobson wrote.  Travis-Curtis was fired by the district in 2014. In 2015, the arbitrator reversed the firing but said she should be demoted to assistant principal. He also ordered that Travis-Curtis receive back pay minus a 30-day suspension.  The Commonwealth Court decision, handed down Tuesday, was the second such rebuke to the Philadelphia school system this month. On April 13, judges reversed the firing of Michelle Burns, formerly the principal of Kensington Urban Education Academy. Burns was principal of Tilden Middle School at a time when the state found cheating there.

“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.

Beaver County school nurses pleased with tightening of state immunizations
Beaver County Times By Daveen Rae Kurutz April 26, 2017
Parents of kindergartners, seventh-graders and seniors should plan a visit to their pediatricians sooner rather than later this summer.  Beginning Aug. 1, students in kindergarten, seventh and 12th grade will have just five days to have complete immunization records on file at their schools. The state Department of Health last month amended its school immunization regulations to eliminate an oft-used eight-month provisional time period that permitted nonimmunized students to attend school, so long as their parents said they would have their required shots in that time period.  Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, children will be barred from attending school if they are not current on their vaccinations within the first five days of the school year. According to the health department, students can still attend classes if they have a physician-signed medical plan that commits them to an immunization schedule.

Unionville school directors approve measure that will give students more sleep
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News POSTED: 04/26/17, 5:20 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Unionville School Board this week approved a measure that pushes school start times back for high school and middle school students by 25 minutes, beginning with the new school year that starts in September.  The district thus becomes the first school district in Chester County to allow more sleep time for students in high school and middle school, heeding pleas from the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatricians.  The vote was 8-1 with School Director Gregg Lindner dissenting. But Lindner said he wasn’t opposed to the idea of delaying start times, but wanted it to go into effect for the 2018-19 school year to give parents, teachers and businesses more time to adjust for changes in the new schedule.  Classes at Unionville High School and C.F. Patton Middle School will start at 8 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m. in September. And the school day will end at 2:43 p.m. It currently ends at 2:18 p.m.  Elementary classes will start 15 minutes later, and will start at 9:10 a.m. instead of 8:55 a.m. and elementary school classes will end at 3:40 p.m., beginning in September.  “I am hopeful other school districts will follow Unionville-Chadds Ford,” said Jeff Hellrung, school director. “Change is hard. Change can be disruptive. But those who have studied this proposal the most, the benefits to our students are well worth the cost.”

Spring-Ford School District superintendent announces bullying oversight group
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 04/26/17, 12:21 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> As officials in Spring-Ford continue to grapple with how best to respond to a student’s suicide earlier this month — an alleged victim of cyber bullying — the district’s top administrator says he’s putting a plan in place to confront growing criticism of his office.
Superintendent David Goodin has announced the formation of a new administrative oversight commission tasked with ensuring the district’s bullying policies and best practices are applied consistently across the district for all reported cases.  “As a result, my office will receive regular reports of all reported bullying issues and how they were addressed within the district,” Goodin said. “That’s not to say that I will be handling bullying issues. That is to say that issues will still be handled at the building level by our administrators. But I will review those to make sure we’re being consistent. Also if a parent feels a reported bullying situation has not been addressed, I ask that they contact my office and we will review that for them.”

North Allegheny rejects plan to eliminate third-grade orchestra
Post Gazette by SANDY TROZZO 10:57 PM APR 26, 2017
The North Allegheny school board Wednesday unanimously rejected an administrative proposal to eliminate the third-grade strings program.  Administrators suggested beginning all music lessons in fourth grade to save $115,000 a year. The savings would have come by not replacing a retiring orchestra teacher or hiring a half-time teacher because of high interest from current second-graders.  Parents and orchestra students rallied at the work session last week and at Wednesday’s meeting to urge the board to keep the strings program intact.  Tom Kosmala said both of his sons became professional musicians because of the love of music they learned at North Allegheny.  “A solid music education was their path to exciting careers,” said Mr. Kosmala, retired director of music for Pittsburgh Public Schools. “I will not be silent about the NA strings program. Keep it as it is.”

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!

Pennsylvania Education Leadership Summit July 23-25, 2017 Blair County Convention Center - Altoona
A three-day event providing an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together
co-sponsored by PASA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, PASCD and the PA Association for Middle Level Education
**REGISTRATION IS OPEN**Early Bird Registration Ends after April 30!
Keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics, and district team planning and job-alike sessions will provide practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit and utilized at the district level.
Keynote Speakers:
Thomas Murray
, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Kristen Swanson, Director of Learning at Slack and one of the founding members of the Edcamp movement 
Breakout session strands:
*Strategic/Cultural Leadership
*Systems Leadership
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership 
CLICK HERE to access the Summit website for program, hotel and registration information.

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

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