Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 8: What is the definition of attendance at PA cyber charter schools?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 8, 2017:

The cold, hard facts. % of women in PA legislature? 18.6%

“The first casualties of this failed exercise government are likely to be state-related universities: Penn State, Temple, Pittsburgh, and Lincoln.  The second casualty will likely be the state’s credit rating. Standard & Poor’s has already issued a warning citing the state’s “eroding financial position.” The credit agency said “there is a significant likelihood that the commonwealth will not enact a structurally balanced budget for fiscal 2018.”
Editorial: Pa. budget act is like watching a clown car headed off a cliff
Editorial by Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: AUGUST 8, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Harrisburg’s latest nonsense started when the feckless, Republican-controlled legislature passed a budget by the June 30 deadline but didn’t say how it was going to pay for it. The lawmakers’ performance has been like watching a bunch of bozos pile into a clown car for a road trip without gassing up.  Gov. Wolf threw up his hands in frustration on July 10 and let the budget become lawwithout his signature. Instead of looking the other way as the legislature sped off, he should have vetoed the document. A spending plan that doesn’t include how to pay the bills is no budget.  The $32 billion “budget” is $2 billion short, but don’t worry. Lawmakers have dreams of plugging the hole with more gambling revenue, fairy dust, and vapor.  The House has the steering wheel as this disaster races toward a fiscal cliff. It met in a rare weekend session in mid-July to discuss revenue possibilities, but Speaker Mike Turzai wouldn’t entertain either raising taxes or cutting spending. He and his hapless crew then flitted off to vacations, exhausted from spinning their wheels.

“Pennsylvania still has one of the most inequitable public school systems in the country, with dangerously low state funding and unfair distribution of that funding. ESSA does not address those major concerns, and it will take political courage in Harrisburg to face up to them.”
Editorial: Making ESSA work: Fixing the flaws of No Child Left Behind
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12:00 AM AUG 8, 2017
The controversial No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002 has been replaced by a new piece of legislation. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) revises many of the policies in the previous law.  What did the nation learn from the experience of No Child Left Behind? We saw that stronger federal oversight of public education doesn’t work well, since education policy is set primarily at the state and local levels. We learned that heavy accountability for math and English scores may lead school districts to cut class time for other subjects, such as history, music, art and languages. Students unfortunately received a narrower, rather than a broader, education under the law.  We also learned that setting arbitrary standards for every school to meet can punish schools and teachers for conditions beyond their control. Those standards, called Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind, led many schools to be labeled as failing. Florida became famous for labeling all of its public schools with letter grades from A to F, grades which were based on questionable data and standards.  Above all, what the nation learned is that we relied far too much on standardized testing to measure the progress of individual students and their schools.

“How each of Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools tracks attendance varies greatly — from 21st Century Cyber Charter School, where a point system equates to hours it should take students to complete an assignment, to Commonwealth Charter Academy, where attendance is calculated by when students log in along with their participation and contact made with teachers.”
Public Source By Stephanie Hacke AUG. 7, 2017 PART OF THE SERIES The Charter Effect|
This series will expose and explain the data and records behind the charter schools operating in Allegheny County.
If Johnny attended 21st Century Cyber Charter School, he would be required to submit his work at least once a week to be considered present for five days of school — even if he did all of his assignments in two days.  At PA Virtual Charter, Johnny would be required to log in to the school’s online learning management system each day. There, he could attend live classes and be monitored through a webcam on his computer. The school would track how long he viewed each assignment, as well as the time it took him to complete each task.  Both systems for tracking attendance at cyber charter schools are OK in Pennsylvania because state regulations place the responsibility on the cybers to determine how they track attendance. Cyber charter schools have the freedom to create their own attendance policies — which are approved as a part of the application process — and then simply report back to the state with measures that show they’re adhering to them.  “Presumably, definitions of what constitutes attendance and absence would be in such policy, as would how attendance is tracked and/or monitored,” Casey Smith, acting communications director at the Pennsylvania Department of Education [PDE], wrote in an email.

Auditor urges stricter monitoring of charter schools’ building leases
Post Gazette by KAREN LANGLEY Harrisburg Bureau klangley@post-gazette.com 2:30 PM AUG 3, 2016
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog on Wednesday questioned millions of public dollars paid to charter school landlords and called for the state to more closely monitor such lease payments.  At a news conference, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale highlighted more than $2.5 million in lease reimbursements to nine charter schools, including the Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County, the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County and School Lane Charter School in Bucks County.  Without offering details, Mr. DePasquale said his office found ties between the schools and their property owners that could contradict state guidelines that deem buildings owned by a charter school ineligible for lease reimbursement. “What we found in some of our audits is that the same people who own and operate charter schools, they themselves create separate legal entities to own the buildings and lease them to charter schools,” Mr. DePasquale said.

Hopes and problems for Philly's Khepera Charter School
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: AUGUST 7, 2017 — 5:51 PM EDT
Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia, which ended the school year early because of financial problems, insists that it will open for students next month, but it’s facing daunting odds. Its landlord has asked Common Pleas Court to kick the K-8 school out of its building on Sedgley Avenue for unpaid rent.  Teachers complain that the school still owes them wages from the last school year.   And a company that provides special education teachers, substitutes and counselors sued Khepera last week, saying the charter owes it money, too.  General Healthcare Resources Inc., based in Plymouth Meeting, said in a court filing that the school had not made any payments since April and owed the firm about $86,683 for staffing services.  The school’s problems are not new. It’s the only charter school among more than 80 citywide that faces revocation of its charter.

Thackston's issues expose holes in nonprofit oversight
York Dispatch by David Weissman, 505-5431/@DispatchDavid Published 10:27 a.m. ET Aug. 7, 2017 | Updated 7:23 p.m. ET Aug. 7, 2017
State law requires charter schools to operate as nonprofit corporations, but the state provides minimal oversight to ensure these entities actually operate without profit.   Facing revocation of its charter, Helen Thackston Charter School is still registered as an active nonprofit corporation in the state, despite losing its federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  Organizations with 501(c)(3) status are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, according to the federal Internal Revenue Service.  To be eligible, an organization cannot be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests.  Status revoked: Thackston's 501(c)(3) status was automatically revoked in 2016 after the school failed to file a Form 990 with the IRS for three consecutive years.  Form 990, required to be submitted annually to the IRS, provides information about organizations including high-level employee salaries, tax-deductible contributions received and investments.
The York City School Board included Thackston's revoked 501(c)(3) status in its June resolution to proceed with revocation hearings, though state charter-school law does not include anything about maintaining that status.

The charter bump: Philly researcher finds charters boost public schools ... in NYC
When charter schools move into a neighborhood, people often wonder what will happen to the traditional public schools nearby.  Will they founder? Will they close?  How about ... neither?  According to a new study by Temple University professor Sarah Cordes, traditional public schools in New York City actually improved when a charter school set up shop close by.  And the closer the charter, the better the traditional public schools performed. Schools that shared buildings with charters saw the biggest gains.  Be warned, Cordes said, her study shouldn't be used to justify unchecked charter expansion in other cities.  "I would say mapping this onto Philly probably isn't appropriate for a lot of reasons," she said.  For starters, New York has proportionally fewer charter schools. Only about a tenth of the city's public school students are in charters, compared with about a third of Philadelphia students.  Cordes said the results could look "pretty different" in a city where mass charter migration has caused public school districts to downsize.  "It could be that there gets to be a point where the charter sector is so big it becomes harmful," she said.
New York also has better charter oversight than most cities, she said, and a state funding formula that limits damage to traditional public schools from falling enrollment.

“Our legislators will continue to abuse the privilege of drawing boundaries that benefit them until we put an end to it. Urge your elected officials to support PA Senate Bill 22 and PA House Bill 722, which provide commonsense measures to end gerrymandering. Don’t let the people in power undermine the power of your vote!”
LETTER: Urge your elected officials to end gerrymandering
Montgomery News Times Chronicle letter by Sean O’Halloran, Willow Grove Aug 6, 2017
To the Editor: Representative democracies redraw boundaries occasionally to keep up with population changes. Did you know that in Pennsylvania, legislative boundaries are redrawn by the legislators themselves? Unfortunately, this practice allows our politicians to select their voters instead of voters selecting them. This practice is known as gerrymandering; it has gotten out of control in Pennsylvania, and it’s a bipartisan issue.  Don’t believe me? Take a look at the maps compiled by Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan group dedicated to correcting the problem of gerrymandering (www.fairdistrictspa.com). U.S. House District 7 is an especially egregious example, but you can view similarly convoluted districts throughout Pennsylvania. In fact, there’s a good chance you live in a gerrymandered district. The crazy shapes you see when looking at the legislative district maps are due to abuses such as drawing boundaries in the middle of a high concentration of an opposing party’s voters to split their power among several districts. Or, they create geographic tentacles to collect isolated pockets of one’s own party to artificially increase their influence within a district.

Midstate lawmaker pushing property tax elimination, other cost-cutting reforms
ABC27 By Dennis Owens Published: August 7, 2017, 6:24 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) is a fresh face in the state legislature.  But the 66-year-old is a bit more grizzled in life. He spent 41 years in the United States Marine Corps, retiring as a colonel. He did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a certified public accountant who laughs that he’s spent 30 years trying to keep companies out of bankruptcy.  The CPA warns that PA is running out of time to fix its finances.  “That’s two to four years from now before we have to turn this ship completely or the game’s over,” Ryan said from his Capitol office Monday.  The retired Marine colonel has what he calls a financial rescue plan and he’s on a mission to implement it.  “We can fix this, but it requires all of us to be realistic,” he said.

School property tax elimination doesn't mean it's over
York Daily Record by Rick Lee, rlee@ydr.com Published 8:00 a.m. ET Aug. 7, 2017
School districts will still collect property tax to pay off outstanding debt and that will take years
A lot of disgruntled taxpayers may be smiling now over the prospect that their school property taxes could be eliminated.  But, they shouldn't get too excited. Even if a planned voter referendum passes this fall and the Pennsylvania Legislature does away with school taxes, it doesn't mean property owners would stop paying all school taxes immediately.  And a pending Pennsylvania Senate bill -- The Property Tax Independence Act -- calls for increasing personal income and sales taxes as replacement revenue for school districts.  It would allow the districts to continue to levy property taxes for a time -- years in most cases -- toward paying off outstanding debt.   All 15 school districts that are entirely within York County borders carry millions in long-term debt, generally the consequences of loans and bonds for capital improvements. West York's $88.7 million debt, for example, is not expected to be paid in full -- principle and interest -- until 2033.

Are there lingering issues for refugee students at School District of Harrisburg?
Another Central Pennsylvania school district came under fire recently for how it handles enrolling refugees.  Harrisburg School District officials refused admission to two young children in February.  Then, the students were admitted at the behest of attorneys from the American Civil Union Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Community Justice Project, which has offices in Harrisburg, Reading, and Lancaster.   Harrisburg school officials also changed enrollment guidelines — but not in the way advocates had hoped — prompting the ACLU to release a statement last week critical of the school's policies.   ACLU attorney Vic Walczak pointed to the district leaving in place a requirement for prior school records — which refugees often leave behind when fleeing violence in their home country. 

ACLU again threatening Pennsylvania district over refugees
Inquirer by AP Updated: AUGUST 7, 2017 — 8:14 AM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union is again threatening to sue a Pennsylvania school district for allegedly failing to enroll refugees as students.  The ACLU in February sent a warning letter to the Harrisburg Area School District on behalf of four students. The district enrolled the students in March.  But district officials have since said they can't "simply enroll any child for whom enrollment is sought" though they have changed its policy this week. The new rules say the district will consider "extraordinary or other circumstances" that arise inside or outside the United States that could affect a student who wants to enroll.  The ACLU and a companion group, the Community Justice Project, say that's not good enough and that the district should simply guarantee that refugees will be admitted to its schools.

With Pa. as a model, education tax credits may come to federal budget
CatholicPhilly.com By Carol Zimmermann • Catholic News Service • Posted August 7, 2017
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Health care wasn’t the only issue before Congress this summer even though it grabbed most of the headlines. Lawmakers also held budget talks that included proposed cuts to education spending.  In mid-July, members of the House Appropriations Committee voted to advance a bill to cut $2.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Education’s budget primarily through trimming teacher training programs.  And even though two school choice initiatives — $1 billion public school choice program and a $250 million private school choice program — were missing from the education spending bill, that didn’t seem to cause panic among Catholic leaders who have supported school choice initiatives.   That’s because there is a new emphasis in school choice — tax credit scholarship programs — that have been gaining momentum on the state level and getting more bipartisan support than standard school voucher legislation. Catholic leaders, hoping to move on this trend, are optimistic that a federal tax credit scholarship program is not far behind, possibly as part of a broader tax-reform package. Members of the Secretariat of Catholic Education of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and House members over the summer to talk about the potential of such a program.

The U.S. could be free of gerrymandering. Here’s how other countries do redistricting.
Washington Post By Bernard Grofman and German Feierherd August 7 at 6:00 AM
This year, on the first day of its term, the Supreme Court will consider the much-anticipated Gill v. Whitford. That case brings up the hot-button question of whether a state legislature may draw electoral districts that favor one party over another. Gerrymandering, as it’s called, is clearly prohibited if it’s done to dilute the votes of racial groups. But when it comes to partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court, while willing to hear some challenges, has so far been unwilling to declare such a plan to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. A decision on Gill affirming the lower court — or setting a new standard and remanding the case for further review by the lower court — has the potential to change that.  Before the Supreme Court weighs in, let’s look at how other countries redistrict. How does redistricting differ in the United States from elsewhere? Are there lessons for Americans in these varying experiences and procedures?

Five Big Things at Stake for Educators in GOP's Quest for Tax Reform
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on August 7, 2017 7:23 AM
With the collapse of the Republicans' effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the next big-ticket item on the GOP's agenda is reforming the federal tax code. So how could tax reform impact educators?   Late last month, congressional and Trump administration Republicans released a general set of principles that are guiding the tax reform effort, including the push to ensure the plan reduces tax rates "as much as possible." (Congress last passed comprehensive tax reform in 1986.) We highlighted five items of particular interest for those working in schools below.

PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA Website August 2017
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2017, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 17 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person's name with an asterisk (*).

The deadline to submit cover letter, resume and application is August 25, 2017.
PSBA seeking experienced education leaders: Become an Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for six Advocacy Ambassadors who have been involved in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be an active leader in an assigned section of the state, and is kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA position based on PSBA priorities to accomplish advocacy goals.  PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA, and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local and federal elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities.  This is a 9-month independent contractor position with a monthly stipend and potential renewal for a second year. Successful candidates must commit to the full 9-month contract, agree to fulfill assigned Advocacy Ambassador duties and responsibilities, and actively participate in conference calls and in-person meetings

September 19 @ 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hilton Reading
Berks County Community Foundation
Carol Corbett Burris: Executive Director of the Network for Public Education
Alyson Miles: Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the American Federation for Children
James Paul: Senior Policy Analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation
Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University Sacramento
Karin Mallett: The WFMZ TV anchor and reporter returns as the moderator
School choice has been a hot topic in Berks County, in part due to a lengthy and costly dispute between the Reading School District and I-LEAD Charter School. The topic has also been in the national spotlight as President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have focused on expanding education choice.  With this in mind, a discussion on school choice is being organized as part of Berks County Community Foundation’s Consider It initiative. State Sen. Judy Schwank and Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Leinbach are co-chairs of this nonpartisan program, which is designed to promote thoughtful discussion of divisive local and national issues while maintaining a level of civility among participants.  The next Consider It Dinner will take place Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, 701 Penn St., Reading, Pa. Tickets are available here.  For $10 each, tickets include dinner, the panel discussion, reading material, and an opportunity to participate in the conversation.

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.

Using Minecraft to Imagine a Better World and Build It Together.
Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia
PCCY, the region’s most influential advocacy organization for children, leverages the world’s greatest video game for the year’s most engaging fundraising event for kids. Join us on Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue for a fun, creative and unique gaming opportunity.

Education Law Center’s 2017 Annual Celebration
ELC invites you to join us for our Annual Celebration on September 27 in Philadelphia.
The Annual Celebration will take place this year on September 27, 2017 at The Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. The event begins at 5:30 PM. We anticipate more than 300 legal, corporate, and community supporters joining us for a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner presentation.  Our annual celebrations honor outstanding champions of public education. This proud tradition continues at this year’s event, when together we will salute these deserving honorees:
·         PNC Bank: for the signature philanthropic cause of the PNC Foundation, PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual $350 million, multi-year early education initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life; and its support of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship, which enables new lawyers to pursue careers in public interest law;
·         Joan Mazzotti: for her 16 years of outstanding leadership as the Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures, a college access and success program serving Philadelphia’s low-income, first-generation-to-college students;
·         Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr., PhD: for his invaluable service to ELC, as he rotates out of the chairman position on our Board of Directors. Dr. Campbell is an Arcadia University Associate Professor in the School of Education; and
·         ELC Pro Bono Awardee Richard Shephard of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP: for his exceptional work as pro bono counsel, making lasting contributions to the lives of many vulnerable families.Questions? Contact Tracy Callahan tcallahan@elc-pa.org or 215-238-6970 ext. 308.

STAY WOKE: THE INAUGURAL NATIONAL BLACK MALE EDUCATORS CONVENING; Philadelphia Fri, Oct 13, 2017 4:00 pm  Sun, Oct 15, 2017 7:00pm
TEACHER DIVERSITY WORKS. Increasing the number of Black male educators in our nation’s teacher corps will improve education for all our students, especially for African-American boys.  Today Black men represent only two percent of teachers nationwide. This is a national problem that demands a national response.  Come participate in the inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening to advance policy solutions, learn from one another, and fight for social justice. All are welcome.

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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