Friday, November 17, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 17: Cyber charters are failed experiment; @PADeptofEd hearing on Monday for new cyber charter.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 17, 2017:
Cyber charters are failed experiment; @PADeptofEd hearing on Monday for new cyber charter.

Do you have newly elected board members? Have them send their email addresses to sign up for the PA Ed Policy Roundup.

Have them register for PSBA’s new school director training sessions to be held throughout the state in December and January.
An additional session has been scheduled in southeastern PA on Saturday, January 6th in the Haverford School District.

In the “National Study of Online Charter Schools,” Stanford University found that cyber charter students received the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of instruction in reading than their peers in traditional schools. The small minority of students who succeed in cyber schools, according to the data, are self-motivated, with strong parental involvement. Unfortunately, for-profit companies like K-12, Inc., focus their marketing and aggressive recruitment efforts on students and families who do not fit that model, ultimately harming those students whom they claim to help.
Cyber charters are failed experiment
Detroit News by Paula Herbart Published 11:11 p.m. ET Nov. 14, 2017
Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association.
If an experiment fails, the reasonable response is to end it and try something different. Not so regarding cyber charter schools, based on the actions of lawmakers who continue to fully fund these schools in the face of mounting evidence that they are a spectacular failure at improving academic achievement. In 2009, Michigan began a small pilot program with for-profit, cyber charters. In 2012, long before sufficient data was available to assess the pilot’s success, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature expanded the number of cyber charters. Now, after years of experience and investment, we know that was a mistake. In recent rankings, the Michigan Virtual Academy was at the 3rd percentile in academic performance — 97 percent of Michigan schools performed better. Michigan Virtual Academy is operated by K-12, Inc., the largest player in the for-profit cyber charter industry. A study by the RAND Corp. and New York University released earlier this year showed that online-only schools tend to attract and harm our most vulnerable students. The study found that Ohio students with low test scores who attend cyber charter schools fell even further behind. High achieving students perform better, but still achieve lower results than they would have if they had enrolled in traditional schools.

Blogger note: Along with Pearson, K12, Inc. wrote and heavily lobbied for the enabling legislation for cyber charters.  We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that millions of tax dollars from all 500 PA school districts (none of whom ever authorized a cyber charter) will continue to flow unimpeded to K12, Inc. corporate salaries and bonuses
Morningstar: K12, Inc (LRN) Executive Compensation

Blogger note: over one year later, still no action on cyber charter reform.  The only significant updates to this piece are that now not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the five years (instead of three) that the SPP has been in effect, and we have spent another $463,584 on cyber charter tuition for 2016.
Reprise Aug. 18, 2016: How can we improve the performance and accountability of Pennsylvania cyber charters?
The notebook  Commentary by Lawrence A. Feinberg August 18, 2016 — 10:04am
If it sometimes seems as if “tuition-free” cyber charter ads are running non-stop, consider that in just one year, tax dollars paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter, just one of Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charters. And far from being tuition-free, total cyber tuition paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively. Those commercials were very effective, especially if you were an executive at K12 Inc., a for-profit company contracted to manage the cyber school. According to Agora’s 2013 IRS tax filing, it paid $69.5 million that year to K12 Inc. According to Morningstar, total executive compensation at K12 in 2013 was $21.37 million. What the ads don’t tell you is, first, that they are paid for with your school tax dollars instead of that money being spent in classrooms and, second, that academic performance at every one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has been consistently dismal. The Pennsylvania Department of Education considers a score of 70 to be passing on its School Performance Profile (SPP). Agora’s score for 2013 was 48.3, for 2014, it was 42.4, and the 2015 score was 46.4. In fact, not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the three years that the SPP has been in effect.

On Monday the .@PADeptofEd will conduct a hearing to consider an application for a new cyber charter school. The applicant appears to have no verifiable qualifications or experience. You can read their application here:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education Cyber Charter School Application for Commonwealth Education Connections Cyber Charter School 2017
Charter School Application Submitted: September 27, 2017

Cyber Charter School Application; Public Hearing November 20
Pennsylvania Bulletin Saturday, October 14, 2017 NOTICES - DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Department of Education (Department) has scheduled one date for a public hearing regarding a cyber charter school application that was received on or before October 2, 2017. The hearing will be held on November 20, 2017, in Heritage Room A on the lobby level of 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126 at 9 a.m. The hearing pertains to the applicant seeking to operate a cyber charter school beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The purpose of the hearing is to gather information from the applicant about the proposed cyber charter school as well as receive comments from interested individuals regarding the application. The name of the applicant, copies of the application and a listing of the date and time scheduled for the hearing on the application can be viewed on the Department's web site at
For questions regarding this hearing, contact the Division of Charter Schools, (717) 787-9744,

Roll Call Vote on H.R. 1: Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

AASA Statement On House Vote On Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (HR 1)
AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response the House passage of HR 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 227-205:
"AASA is deeply disappointed in the largely partisan vote in the House today. We know the intricacies involved in any legislative vote, and the pressures unique to a tax conversation. Like any budget or funding conversation, tax conversations are filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and today’s vote demonstrates that for 227 members of the House, they have little to no understanding of, or concern for, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. We remain optimistic that this is just the first step in a long process and that subsequent steps will be more deliberate, more transparent, and premised on passing common sense tax policy that works for our country, its people, and its public schools."

Pennsylvania Republicans support GOP tax overhaul as it passes House
Comparing the House and Senate GOP tax plans. 
Morning Call by Laura Olson Contact Reporter Call Washington Bureau November 16, 2017
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Pennsylvania Republicans on Thursday joined nearly all of their GOP colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to advance the chamber’s tax-overhaul proposal, turning the legislative spotlight onto the Senate as GOP leaders aim to hold a similar vote shortly after Thanksgiving. The 227-205 vote came as Democrats pointed to new estimates showing the Senate version of the plan would boost future taxes on lower and middle-income Americans. Those projections, coupled with complaints by some GOP senators about their chamber's proposal, suggest party leaders still face a challenge in crafting a measure that can make it through Congress over solid Democratic opposition.

House passes GOP tax bill, adding pressure to Senate effort
Post-Gazette by ALAN FRAM AND MARCY GORDON Associated Press 2:01 PM NOV 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — Republicans rammed a $1.5 trillion overhaul of business and personal income taxes through the House Thursday, edging toward the code’s biggest rewrite in three decades and the first major legislative triumph for President Donald Trump and the GOP after 10 bumpy months of controlling government. The mostly party-line 227-205 vote masked more ominous problems in the Senate. There, a similar package received a politically awkward verdict from nonpartisan congressional analysts showing it would eventually produce higher taxes for low- and middle-income earners but deep reductions for those better off. The Senate bill was approved late Thursday by the Finance Committee and sent to the full Senate on a party-line 14-12 vote. Like the House measure, it would slash the corporate tax rate and reduce personal income tax rates for many. But it adds a key feature not in the House version: repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance. Elimination of the so-called individual mandate would add an estimated $338 billion in revenue over 10 years that the Senate tax-writers used for other tax cuts.

HR1 Federal Tax Bills Allow Vouchers
League of Women Voters Website Posted on November 17, 2017 by Sue Legg
The tax bills in the U.S. House and Senate have curious twists. According to the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, 529 college savingsaccounts could be used for K12 private school tuition. Send your child to private school and get a tax break.  The U.S. Senate’s tax plan allows a tax deduction as a charitable contribution for private school tuition. A second provision creates tax credits for corporate and individual contributions to state non profits that offer tuition payments for low and middle income families. The drive to get something passed in Congress, anything really, has resulted in a hodge podge of special interests that are certainly not in the public interest.

“If spending is reined in, that means budget cuts, and the odds are that Republicans would advocate cuts to discretionary spending, the kind that funds the Education Department. That's the line of reasoning—and the worry—of 43 education advocacy groups. In a Tuesday letter to the Senate, those organizations wrote the following:  If tax reform is deficit-financed and adds to the federal debt, as both the budget resolution and the House bill would allow, there will be increased pressure for Congress to curb direct spending for education and all discretionary spending. Already tight appropriations caps have caused Congress to propose to slash funding for important education programs and to resort to cutting Pell Grant carryover funds to maintain yearly education funding.”
Tax Bills' Potential Impact on Federal Education Funding: Big Cuts, or Meh?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 16, 2017 7:41 AM
Over the last week or so, we've highlighted several provisions of the two GOP-backed tax reform proposals in Congress that could specifically impact education. But there's one question we haven't really dealt with yet: Would the tax bills lead to funding cuts at the U.S. Department of Education? As they are currently written, the tax cuts in the House and Senate proposals would be financed with about $1.4 trillion in deficit spending over the next decade. In other words, they're not "deficit neutral" as that term is traditionally understood, and would add to the national debt, although Republicans argue that this leaves out "dynamic scoring" of the budget, in which tax cuts spur economic growth and ultimately boost tax revenue. However, if those tax cuts become law and they do increase the national debt, it could factor into long-running from Republicans in Congress that the national debt must be reined in. (There's a separate argument to be had about whether approving tax cuts that add to the debt and then cutting spending to reduce the debt is sound policy, but let's leave that aside.)

Next year's Pa. budget projected to have $1 billion hole
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 17, 2017 5:22 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania is already on track to have a significant budget gap next year.
A study from the Independent Fiscal Office shows lawmakers will likely need to come up with about a billion dollars to keep the books balanced. They only just finished this year's budget, four months behind schedule. It was mostly filled with borrowing, expected revenue from a gambling expansion, and a number of internal fund transfers. Much of the money isn't recurring, and that's a big reason why the IFO is predicting the state will have to find more cash next year. "The reason you see the potential shortfall recurring in the out-years is in part because of the tailing-off of that revenue package," IFO Deputy Director Mark Ryan said. If nothing changes, the imbalance is likely to grow to $1.8 billion the year after next, and then to more than $2 billion.

IFO Projects Deficits Each Year Over Next 5 Years Starting With Nearly $1 Billion In FY 2018-19
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates NOVEMBER 16, 2017
The Independent Fiscal Office Thursday issued its Five Year Economic and Budget Outlook report which projects Pennsylvania’s General Fund budget will run a deficit starting at nearly $1 billion in FY 2018-19 rising to over $2.1 billion in FY 2022-23.  Specifically, the IFO projects deficits of $988 million in FY 2018-19; $1.865 billion in FY 2019-20; $1.774 billion in FY 2020-21; $1.784 billion in FY 2021-22; and $2.189 billion in FY 2022-23. (page 66)    The estimates take into account the revenue and borrowing package signed into law on October 30 which IFO said would generate about $2.3 billion in FY 2017-18.

Lawyer: Delay effort used in Pennsylvania redistricting case
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 11/16/17, 4:40 PM EST 
PHILADELPHIA >> A lawyer arguing a lawsuit aimed at forcing a do-over on Pennsylvania’s congressional map says a lawyer for a powerful politician is trying to delay the matter. The matter came to a head Thursday in a federal courthouse in Philadelphia. Earlier this week, Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati tried to have the case filed by 18 Democratic voters moved from the state Supreme Court to federal courts, which are considering other allegations of improper gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. But by Thursday afternoon, other defendants said they didn’t want to move the case. So a judge left it in state court, where it is scheduled to be tried on Dec. 11. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Stanton Jones said Thursday that the attempt to move it was “all gamesmanship.”

Governor Wolf Proposes ‘Computer Science For All’ Standards for PA Schools
Governor Wolf’s Website November 15, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – Last week, on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Education highlighted the importance of making computer science education available to all students in the commonwealth during a State Board of Education meeting and Governor Wolf and the department are urging them to endorse ‘Computer Science for All’ standards.
“Over the next decade, seven in ten new jobs in Pennsylvania will require workers to use computers and new technologies in a constantly changing economy,” Governor Wolf said. “Businesses are growing in Pennsylvania and we know they need skilled workers. We must begin to prepare students now by establishing standards for computer science education in Pennsylvania schools so that our students has the skills necessary for these emerging high-demand jobs that will support middle class families and attract new businesses to commonwealth. I have asked the Department of Education to work closely with the State Board of Education to adopt Computer Science for All standards for Pennsylvania and I will work with the legislature to codify computer science standards into law.”

Push for Pa. graduation standard delayed once again
WHYY By Bill Hangley November 16, 2017
When finalizing the state budget last month, Pennsylvania lawmakers inked yet another delay for a plan that would require students to pass standardized tests before graduating high school. That leaves supporters of the Keystone Exams grappling with the prospect that mandated statewide graduation standards are not to be. “It would seem to me that a parent in Norristown and a parent in Johnstown, their kids should know the same things to graduate,” said Donna Cooper, head of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, who as a member of Gov. Ed Rendell’s cabinet was an early champion of the tests. “But we’re reverting to a system where we have 499 school districts with their own requirements for graduation.” The latest delay is good news for supporters of local control, including State Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver), who hopes the exams never become requirements. “It’s not productive for our education system, it’s not productive for our students, and it’s not productive for our educators,” he said.

In historic vote, a divided SRC moves to abolish itself
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Maddie Hanna - Staff Writers Updated: NOVEMBER 16, 2017 — 8:56 PM EST
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission is on its way to extinction.
The state-devised panel, the ruler of the School District for 16 years, voted to dissolve itself Thursday night, declaring that the era of distress for the city’s schools was over. Immediately after the 3-1 vote, shouts, cheers, and chants of “the people united will never be defeated” arose from a raucous crowd that had gathered to witness the moment. SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson said the panel had made tough decisions that p ut the school system on sounder financial and academic footing. “Returning the district to Philadelphia will allow us to build on this progress and stability,” Wilkerson said. “The district is ready for its next phase, and Philadelphia is ready to take ownership of its schools.” The SRC will not be officially dissolved until the state education secretary signs off, and even then won’t cease to exist until June 30, 2018, when a nine-member local board appointed by Mayor Kenney will replace it.

SRC votes to dissolve, taking first step toward local control of schools
The tally was 3-1, with one abstention. The School Reform Commission has governed the District for 16 years. A new Board of Education is expected to start on July 1
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Avi Wolfman-Arent November 16, 2017 — 6:08pm Updated at 9:45 p.m. Nov. 16, 2017
The School Reform Commission will soon be no more.
The city’s political leaders, and SRC members themselves, yielded to years of pressure from activists — which began not long after the contentious 2001 state takeover — to cede the power to run Philadelphia’s schools back to a local Board of Education. The process was set in motion at an SRC meeting this afternoon, when the five-member body approved a resolution voting the commission out of existence. The, vote was 3-1, with one absention.  Chair Joyce Wilkerson and members Estelle Richman and Christopher McGinley voted yes. Bill Green voted no while Farah Jimenez abstained. It occurred at 7:25, nearly three hours after the meeting started.  When the vote was taken, the packed room erupted in a joyful celebration, cell phones held aloft and chants reverberating: “The people, united, will never be divided.” TV cameras also recorded the scene. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers brought AFT president Randi Weingarten to join mark the historic occasion. The Caucus of Working Educators planned an after party at a local bar. Under the expected timeline, the SRC will cease to exist on June 30 and a new nine-member Board of Education will be installed on July 1.

Philadelphia Moves One Step Closer to Return of Local Control of Public Schools
US News/Reuters By David DeKok Nov. 16, 2017, at 9:14 p.m.
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Philadelphia's School Reform Commission (SRC) voted Thursday night to begin steps to dissolve itself, paving the way for a return to city control for the nation’s 8th largest school district after 16 years. Three of the five commissioners voted in favor of dissolution, while one was opposed and one abstained. If approved by the state Secretary of Education, which must happen by December 31st, the district would be turned back to a nine-member school board appointed by Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney with city council approval on July 1 of next year. "It’s clear we have challenges moving forward,” said SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson, referring to a projected five-year deficit of $700 million. “I don’t think any of us believe they will be eliminated by a change of governance. But I support this.” The district serves nearly 200,000 students, about a third of them in charter schools. It employs more than 8,600 teachers and has an annual budget of close to $3 billion.

Philly should have an elected school board | Opinion
Inquirer Opinion by Rand Quinn Updated: NOVEMBER 16, 2017 — 6:55 AM EST
Rand Quinn is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.
In declaring the end of the School Reform Commission, Mayor Kenney said, “The people of Philadelphia will finally be able to hold one person accountable for their school system, the mayor.” After 17 years of state control, returning oversight of our schools to a local board appointed by the mayor represents a significant step in the right direction. But here’s a better idea. Philadelphia should have an elected — not appointed — school board, where all members are accountable to the people, not the mayor. Better yet, Philadelphians should elect board members by district, so that residents in every part of the city would have a representative they can hold accountable for the schools in their neighborhood. And even better still, we should ensure that all parents can have a voice in the process.

Darby holds off on vote for Visions Academy charter school building permit
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 11/16/17, 8:35 PM EST | UPDATED: 11 SECS AGO
DARBY borough >> A decision to allow a charter school to move into a vacant building in the borough was tabled after intense discussion and raucous shouting at a council meeting.
Council moved 6-3 to table a vote to grant a non-residential occupancy permit to the Visions Academy Charter School at the site of a now-abandoned, 128,000 square-foot factory at 901 Quarry St. Visions has been operating out of the former St. Philomena Catholic School since it opened in 2015 and eyed a move to Darby to house 700 students in grades kindergarten through sixth. Its initial application to the William Penn School District listed no more than 360 students by the end of its fifth year of operation.

Vision Academy Charter School Evidence of affiliation with the Gulen Movement
Page created April 15, 2017 By CASILIPS - Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools
Companion sites:  A Guide to the Gulen Movement's Activities in the US;   CASILIPS (on Google sites);   CASILIPS (on Weebly)
Vision Academy Charter School is a Gulen charter school in Landsdowne, Pennsylvania that opened in fall 2015.  Evidence of its connection to the Gulen Movement and the nationwide network of Gulen charter schools is provided by the multiple affiliations, both past and present, of the following individuals:
Adem "Adam" Oksuz
·         CEO, Co-founder of Vision Academy Charter School
·         Apple Educational Services (Gulenist corporation contracting to numerous Gulen charter schools in the northeast)
·         CEO, Accord Institute for Education Research  (Gulenist corporation contracting to numerous Gulen charter schools in western states)
·         Daisy Education Corporation (charter holder of Gulen charter schools in Arizona including Sonoran Science Academy)
·         Sonoran Science Academy
Isik "Isaac" Durmus
·         Co-founder, Principal of Vision Academy Charter School
·         Involved with 13th INEPO Competition (Gulenist competition in Turkey)
·         Long Island Amity School (private Gulen school, now closed)
·         Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology  (Gulen charter school in Paterson NJ)
·         Pioneer Academy of Science (private Gulen school in Clifton NJ)
·         Rochester Academy of Science (Gulen charter school in Rochester NY)
·         Truebright Science Academy (Gulen charter school in Philadelphia PA)

“He promises to push for the privatization of liquor and to promote charter schools in struggling school districts, as well as more career and technical training.”
Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai: 'We're lacking a leader in the governor's office'
Inquirer by Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: NOVEMBER 15, 2017 — 7:10 PM
HARRISBURG – Mike Turzai sits down on a stool in the American Dream Diner and politely orders a hot tea. The Republican House Speaker – who just this week announced he’ll run for governor – seems at ease here. It’s a small, old-school style restaurant where the specials on Wednesday are chili with rice and three different kinds of sandwiches that come with a choice of soup or fries. It feels, in many ways, as though it could plop down seamlessly in his home turf of Western Pennsylvania.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 8 - 14, 2017
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on November 14, 2017 - 1:15pm 
Week by week, grassroots assessment reform campaigns grow ever stronger, winning more reductions in standardized exam misuse and overuse by states and cities. Demonstrating the depth of support for the movement,  new governors elected this month in New Jersey and Virginia both advocated an overhaul of high-stakes testing policies.  Remember that past issues of these news updates are archived at:

November School Leader Advocacy Training
PASA, PASBO, PSBA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the PARSS and PAIU are offering five, full-day School Leader Advocacy Training sessions at the following locations:
Friday, November 17 – Westmoreland I.U. 7 (Greensburg)
Take advantage of this great opportunity – at NO cost to you!

Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 10 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·         Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

Save the Date! NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4-6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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