Saturday, July 8, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 8: #HB97 While you're at the beach this weekend charter lobbyists are working hard at the capitol. Take a minute, call your senator

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 8, 2017:
#HB97 While you're at the beach this weekend charter lobbyists are working hard at the capitol. Take a minute, call your senator

Tell your state senator to oppose HB 97 as part of a 2017-2018 budget deal
Education Voters PA July 2017
As lawmakers negotiate a 2017-2018 budget, they will be under pressure from charter school industry lobbyists to make HB 97 part of a deal. 
Please call and email your state senator NOW and ask him/her to oppose HB 97.
·         HB 97 does not address the $100 million (and growing) windfall charters receive each year from the broken special education funding system.
·         HB 97 does nothing to address the continued abysmal academic performance of the state's cyber charter schools -- none of which have met the minimum proficiency standard on the state's school performance profile.
·         HB 97 allows for the expansion of low-performing charter schools that fail to provide students with a quality education.
·         HB 97  limits local school board input on the charter approval process. If approved,  local school board would be prohibited from requesting any additional information -- beyond what's in a state-created application form -- from an organization applying to open a charter school in its school district.
HB 97 fails to address critical funding and academic performance issues that must be fixed in order to strengthen PA's system of public education and help ensure that all students receive a quality public education.

“HB 97 creates gaping new loopholes and inefficiencies while failing to substantially ensure high performing charters can operate with predictability and low performing charters are terminated in a timely manner. Charter school reform is necessary, but HB97 misses the mark.”
PCCY Letter Regarding Charter Bill (House Bill 97) To PA Senate
PCCY July 7, 2017
Dear Senators,
We are writing to you today about House Bill 97 which seeks to amend the charter school law. As advocates for high quality educational options for students, we believe that students should have greater access to high schools, charter or traditional public schools. We agree that the current law is outdated and needs revision, but this bill misses the mark on several fronts. Here are several reasons why:

Blogger note: One of the amendments to HB97 defeated by the Senate Ed Committee would have opened the books of charter management companies to audit.  Vahan and Danielle Gureghian are the principals at Charter School Management Company which is under contract to manage the state’s largest brick and mortar charter, Chester Community Charter School.  They have also been prodigious donors to the GOP.  Under existing charter school law, PA taxpayers know virtually nothing about how tens of millions of tax dollars are spent.  It appears that total lack of transparency will continue.
Priciest Palm Beach house listing drops $5 million to $64.9 million
Even with a new $5 million price cut, a beachfront house at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. remains the priciest property for sale in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. Its new price is $64.9 million.
By Darrell Hofheinz – Palm Beach Daily News Real Estate Writer Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017
End-of-the-season price drops aren’t uncommon in Palm Beach real estate. But when the price is slashed by $5 million and the mansion is new and on the ocean, it still draws attention.  For two years, the never-lived-in house at 1071 North Ocean Blvd. has been the priciest house in Palm Beach’s multiple listing service — and it just saw its price tag drop from $69.9 million to $64.9 million, according to an online search today.  That price is nearly $20 million less than the one it carried when it entered the market in March 2015.
The French Chateau-inspired house — with a bowling alley among its features — was first listed for sale while it was still in construction. It underwent subsequent price reductions after failing to attract a buyer. With its stylized H-shape, the house occupies a 2-acre double lot with 242 feet.
Even with the price cut, the eight-bedroom, 35,993-square-foot house still leads the entries in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, the search showed. It is also the most-expensive MLS-listed property in Palm Beach County.  Broker Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate, meanwhile, has represented the house on North Ocean Boulevard since it entered the market. His clients are greater Philadelphia-based owners Vahan and Danielle Gureghian, who originally planned the mansion as a custom home for themselves.

Mr. Trombetta who founded PA Cyber, the state’s largest cyber charter, is awaiting sentencing on tax fraud charges.  It is considerable harder to buy an airplane, a Florida condo and homes for your mother and girlfriend when there are nine pairs of elected eyes approving payments and reviewing check registers.
PA Cyber condo deal in Florida defies math
$933,000 home sold for $10 now on market for $875,000
A Florida condominium bought last year by the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School's founder for $933,000, and then sold to a business created by one of the school's former executives for just $10, is back on the market, real estate agents said Thursday.  The four-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom house passed in December from PA Cyber CEO Nick Trombetta to Palatine Development LLC. That Ohio-based firm was created by former PA Cyber technology director Brett Geibel, who left the school in 2007 for a series of positions with direct or indirect vendors of the school.
A Palatine campus in Calcutta, Ohio, was the scene in July of one of several searches by FBI and IRS agents, all part of a federal grand jury investigation believed to focus on former or current executives of PA Cyber.  It's not clear if the condo deal is part of the probe. Federal prosecutors would not comment Thursday. But the transactions surrounding the property in Bonita Springs defy normal primary school math.

PASA recommends the following changes in charter school law:

*The funding formula for charter school entities must be changed to reflect the actual cost needed to educate students in these alternative environments.

*The cost of special education students attending charter school entities must reflect the actual cost to instruct the students through the IEP process.

*Over-identification of special education students by charter school entities must be addressed.

*Professional educators in charter school entities must meet the same certification requirements as educators in traditional public schools.

*Charter schools must be evaluated by the same measures as traditional public schools to ensure the public can compare the effectiveness of all educational entities supported by public tax dollars.

*Public school districts must have the authority to properly oversee and evaluate charter schools.

*The Charter School Appeal Board must consist of neutral, bi-partisan members that will be objective in the hearing process.

*Billing discrepancies between school districts and charter school entities should be reconciled between the two agencies.  The process of automatic withholding of subsidies from school districts based on a charter school entity claim must cease.

*Charter school entities must display the same level of transparency with their finances that are required of traditional public school districts.

*The enrollment and selection process of charter school entity students must be transparent and free of any form of discrimination.

*More scrutiny and review must be applied to cyber charter school entities as their academic performance is significantly lower than brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional public schools.

School Performance Profile Scores for PA Cyber Charters 2013 -  2016
Source: PA Department of Education website. A score of 70 is considered passing
Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the four years that the SPP has been in effect.
Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.

School Name
21st Century CS
Achievement House CS
ACT Academy Cyber CS
Agora Cyber CS
ASPIRA Bilingual CS
Central PA Digital Learning Fdn CS
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS

Esperanza Cyber CS
PA Cyber CS
PA Distance Learning CS
PA Leadership CS
PA Virtual CS
Solomon CS

Susq-Cyber CS

Pa. lawmakers to work into the weekend to resolve budget
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, Harrisburg Bureau  @AngelasInk
Updated: JULY 7, 2017 — 8:03 PM EDT
Gov. Wolf has until the end of Monday to decide what to do about the nearly $32 billion spending plan the GOP-controlled legislature sent him last week.
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers will return to the Capitol for a rare weekend session as negotiators continue to try for an agreement on how to pay for this year’s nearly $32 billion budget.  Both the House and Senate will convene Saturday as they race to figure out how to raise more than $2 billion in new revenue to cover the biggest budget shortfall since the end of the recession.  Last week, with hours to spare before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled legislature sent Gov. Wolf a $31.99 billion spending bill — lacking the supporting legislation that spells out how to pay for it.

When it comes to state budget, Pennsylvania needs a payment plan
Penn Live Posted July 07, 2017
Pennsylvania's 2017 state budget: The rest of the story
We're now into "the rest of the story," with apologies to iconic radio host Paul Harvey, when it comes to the Pennsylvania $32 billion state budget.  As in, how do we pay for it?  This may interest you because it could make the difference in whether or not there's a need for a major state tax increase in the next year or two; whether the decks are clear for another run at school property tax reform; or who gets what kind of ammunition for key state elections in 2018. Or, just because some the proposals under consideration could really tinker with Pennsylvania's social fabric.  Here's a look at what we know so far, and what we don't.

A budget isn't a budget until you can pay for it - get it done, Harrisburg: Editorial
BY PENNLIVE EDITORIAL BOARD Posted on July 7, 2017 at 1:55 PM
Recent Pennsylvania budgets have been worthy of criticism, both for timing and substance. And we've noted both in the past.   This year, we regret to call "shenanigans" once more. Taxpayers should do the same.   One often hears that "we wish government would be run like a business."
There's no business on Earth that would operate as close to the edge as the General Assembly.
Lawmakers have repeatedly found creative ways to kick the fiscal can down the road. And unless something changes, there's no incentive to do things any differently.   In case you missed it, the 2016-17 budget was a "get-along-to go-along" affair, after a most contentious 2015-16 budget process.   Combine a modest increase in spending with an even more modest increase in revenue, much of which was born on the backs of tobacco users, and everyone claimed victory.   
Several days now have been devoted to seeing whether the slots-style games can pass muster in the state Senate.  The increase in spending was so modest, this fiscal year we need to make up a revenue shortfall from last year, add it to a current shortage this year, and find $2 billion.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa talks budget
Inquirer by Karen Langley & Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JULY 7, 2017 — 8:33 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — Legislators began to trickle back into the Capitol, but it remained unclear Friday — a week into the fiscal year — how they would finish paying for the state budget.
The House met for a few hours Friday, but there was no sign of a revenue package on their voting calendar. They, along with the Senate, are scheduled to return to session Saturday.
While negotiators have said they are discussing using some combination of borrowing, gambling expansion and other measures to close last year’s shortfall and pay for the entirety of this year’s budget, on Friday they were saying little. But Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny), took some questions about the talks. Here are excerpts from the conversation, which included his views on proposed slots-style machines called video gaming terminals, commonly called VGTs:

Pennsylvania legislative leaders preparing to place their bets on gambling expansion
Penn Live BY CHARLES THOMPSON Updated on July 7, 2017 at 11:19 PMPosted on July 7, 2017 at 10:48 PM
Elements of a hard-fought compromise package on expanded gambling in Pennsylvania are starting to take shape as lawmakers struggle to complete a plan to pay for a $32 billion state budget.  Legislative leaders, along with Gov. Tom Wolf, are said to be seeking about $700 million in recurring revenues to close out the budget, and all sides have committed to doing that without an increase in the state income tax.  Gambling expansion has significantly slowed the effort, as warring factions have clashed for weeks over how deep to plunge in this next wave of legalization.  By Friday, two tracks appeared to be developing:  One including items that most caucuses and the governor's office are actively working to finalize language on; and a second made up of items that don't yet have a critical mass of support from all players.
Nothing is finalized yet.

“According to Zahorchak, another problem for public schools is the loss of money from students going to charter schools.  At one time, he said, 30 percent of the money lost from a student choosing charter schools was reimbursed by the state to the affected school district. But former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett cut that funding.  “Now your costs went up 30 percent for every child who leaves to go to a cyber or charter school,” Zahorchak said. “The idea of choice could be good. But it should be a quality set of programming. Not just another school for another school’s sake.””
Have charter schools been a blessing or curse?
Johnstown Daily American By CODY McDEVITT Jul 7, 2017
Twenty years after the first charter school law was enacted in Pennsylvania, the question of whether charter schools have hurt or harmed traditional education remains a point of controversy.
The man who was responsible for it continues to think it was a good decision. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who signed the law, spoke about the school’s charter law recently in Harrisburg.  “Two decades later, with nearly 160 charter schools statewide that serve more than 100,000 students, plus a waiting list of tens of thousands more children, it is clear that charter schools are an invaluable asset in public education, particularly when it comes to serving those in poverty,” Ridge said.  But longtime educators in the greater Johnstown area have disputed that notion.  Gerald Zahorchak, the one-time secretary of education of Pennsylvania and former superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District, witnessed what the charter law did during his educational career. He pointed out that prior to the law being signed, there was a concerted effort to consolidate schools to save money.  When charter schools became a thing, he said, the number of schools increased from 500 to 670, which undercut that effort.
“Now we have 670 bank offices and redundancies,” he added. “So from a pure business framework, that is the opposite of consolidation. That’s an expansion of schools.”

PA Cyber CEO tapped for statewide charter school coalition
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Friday, July 7, 2017, 2:03 p.m.
The CEO of one of the state's largest cyber charter schools was appointed to the Leaders Council of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools on Wednesday, reports The Beaver County Times.  The King of Prussia-based coalition advocates for public charter schools across the state.  Brian Hayden, who took the helm as CEO of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in January, joins six other newly elected and re-elected members of the 19-member council. The Beaver County resident was elected to serve on the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Board of Trustees in 2014 and as board president in 2015. He previously served in faculty and administrative roles at the Community College of Beaver County.  Local charter school leaders Wayne Jones, CEO of Penn Hills Charter School in Verona, and Ron Sofo, CEO of City Charter High in Pittsburgh, were also newly elected to the council, according to a statement from Pennsylvania Cyber Charter.

Khepera Charter School receives partial payment for July
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: JULY 7, 2017 — 5:14 PM EDT
Staff members at the troubled Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia could get some of the pay they are owed this month.  The Philadelphia School District this week sent the charter school a partial  payment of $172,906 of the nearly $400,000 scheduled for July. The district withheld some of the funds to recover money Khepera owed for failing to make required contributions to the state teachers’ retirement fund.  Last month, teachers and staff  at the charter school received no paychecks after the district withheld Khepera ‘s entire payment of $370,570 for June. The district said the charter owed it more than that amount for missed pension payments.  Under state law, when a charter school fails to make pension payments, the money is deducted from funds the district receives from the state. The district then recovers the money by withholding the amount from charter payments.

Local school districts could get more in state funding for 2017-18 school year than in previous years
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO July 7, 2017
Many local school districts could get more state funding for the 2017-18 school year than they have in previous years.  This comes after several years of some districts only receiving level state funding.  Based on the $32.3 billion state budget passed last week by the Senate, Bald Eagle Area School District would receive $8,202,947 in basic education funding for the 2017-18 school year — a $99,485 increase from last school year, business manager Craig Livergood said.
There could also be a $25,346 increase in special education funding, to bump that total to $1,274,655, Livergood added.  Bellefonte Area could see a $58,806 increase in basic education funding, and State College Area could get $181,492 more this year, according to the districts’ business managers Ken Bean, of BASD, and Randy Brown, of SCASD.  A report from the Pennsylvania State Education Association said state increases in education funding includes $100 million more in basic education, $25 million more in special education funding, $30 million more in pre-kindergarten funding and a restoration of $50 million in previous cuts to school transportation funding.

Why Democrats Should Unite On A Charter School Moratorium
By Jeff Bryant Common Dreams Published on Thursday, July 06, 2017 by Education Opportunity Network
Democrats know that success for their party relies on bringing labor and civil rights advocates together on key issues.  Faced with disastrous Donald Trump, labor and civil rights advocates are rallying in common cause behind health care for all, a living wage for every worker, a tax system where the wealthy pay their fair share, tuition-free college, and an end to senseless, never-ending wars.  Here’s another rallying point labor and civil rights agree on: A moratorium on charter schools.  This week, the nation’s largest labor union, the National Education Association, broke from its cautious regard of charter schools to pass a new policy statement that declares charter schools are a “failed experiment” that has led to a “separate and unequal” sector of schools that are not subject to the same “safeguards and standards” of public schools.  To limit the further expansion of these schools, the NEA wants a moratorium on new charters that aren’t subject to democratic governance and aren’t supportive of the common good in local communities.

Advocacy Groups Issue Toolkit For Schools Navigating Health Care Law And Pending Changes
AASA/ASBO Press Release July 5, 2017
Reston, VA – July 5, 2017 – The Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, in partnership with American Fidelity, unveiled a new resource to help school system leaders understand the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Employer Mandate provision and other regulations of which district officials must be aware.
The toolkit, School Districts and the Future of the Affordable Care Act, was released today as public debate surrounding potential changes in the nation’s healthcare laws continues to escalate. While changes may be on the horizon, the ACA remains the law. “Although the future of the ACA remains unclear, school business managers and other district leaders are in desperate need of guidance to comply with the law as it currently stands,” said ASBO International Executive Director John Musso. “This resource helps K–12 employers do just that by navigating what are often considered confusing and burdensome regulations.”
The toolkit includes summaries of ACA rules, applicable calculation formulas and information on possible strategies for employers to consider when assessing the impact of the Employer Mandate on their organizations, contributions and eligibility.

Gerrymandering: Fair Districts PA Statewide Calendar of Events

Apply Now for EPLC's 2017-2018 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Applications are available now for the 2017-2018 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With more than 500 graduates in its first eighteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants. Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 14-15, 2017 and continues to graduation in June 2018.

The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators.  The 2017 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 15, 2017. The application due date is July 16, 2017 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.

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

Save the Date: PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference October 18-20, Hershey PA

Registration now open for the 67th Annual PASCD Conference  Nov. 12-13 Harrisburg: Sparking Innovation: Personalized Learning, STEM, 4C's
This year's conference will begin on Sunday, November 12th and end on Monday, November 13th. There will also be a free pre-conference on Saturday, November 11th.  You can register for this year's conference online with a credit card payment or have an invoice sent to you.  Click here to register for the conference.

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