Tuesday, January 2, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 2nd: Who can say what 20 years of Pa. charter schools have taught us?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition

PA Senate Education Committee Meeting Notice
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 1:00 PM Room 461 Main Capitol
To consider the submission of comments with regard to Pennsylvania's state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, pursuant to Section 126 of the Public School Code
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/cms/index.cfm?chamber=S#01/02/2018

“The charter school movement, at least when it comes to enrollment, has been extremely successful. In Philadelphia alone, there are 84 brick-and-mortar charters educating about 70,000 students. About 30 percent of the school district’s budget goes to charter schools. As for educational performance, that’s a different story. Put simply, there is absolutely no study that shows charter schools have improved student outcomes in Philadelphia.”
Reprise Sept. 2017: Who can say what 20 years of Pa. charter schools have taught us?
by Joel Naroff, FOR THE INQUIRER Updated: SEPTEMBER 15, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Twenty years ago, the Pennsylvania charter school law was signed. Since then, charter schools have been heralded as the savior of the public education system. Have charter schools improved educational attainment and lowered costs, as so many claim? The answer to those questions and just about every other concerning the impact of charter schools is simple: We have absolutely no idea.  And that’s a big problem. So, what are charter schools? They are publicly funded, privately run schools. Their revenues come out of the budgets of their students’ school districts through a state-mandated funding formula. The amount per student is dependent on the funding level of those districts. Charter schools have more freedom in hiring and spending money. The intention was to allow smaller schools to experiment with different ways to educate students and/or concentrate on a specialty, such as science, math, or arts. That was supposed to improve educational outcomes.

You’ve been meaning to figure out what the deal is with charter schools for a long time….
So start off 2018 by reading the most in depth recent series on charter schools in Pennsylvania: "The Charter Effect"
Public Source Series 2017

EITC/OSTC: New federal tax ‘loophole’ could stoke interest in private school donations in Pa.
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent January 1, 2018
Changes to the federal tax code could encourage more Pennsylvania businesses to pump money into K-12 private schools instead of paying state taxes. That’s according to an analysis by the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which says it discovered an expanded loophole in the new law. By cross-referencing federal and state incentives, ITEP concluded that wealthy individuals and high-profit businesses across ten states — including Pennsylvania — may actually make money when they donate to private school scholarship funds. This would seem like welcome news to the Commonwealth’s private schools and a blow to public school advocates. At least in the short term, though, it’s unclear if private schools would receive any benefit, even as their well-to-do benefactors make a handsome profit. Here’s how the loophole works:

Gerrymandering: Judge Says Pennsylvania Election Districts Give Republicans an Edge, but Are Not Illegal
New York Times By TRIP GABRIEL and ALEXANDER BURNS DEC. 29, 2017
A Pennsylvania judge said Friday the state’s Congressional districts were drawn to give Republicans an advantage, but they did not violate the state Constitution, ruling in a high-profile gerrymandering case with the potential to have major consequences on the 2018 midterm elections. Judge P. Kevin Brobson of Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg noted that Republicans hold 13 out of 18 Congressional seats in Pennsylvania, a perennial swing state that has one of the most extensively gerrymandered maps in the country. Nonetheless, the judge said that Democrats who brought suit had failed to articulate a legal “standard” for creating nonpartisan maps. The case now goes to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has agreed to fast-track it. If the court rejects Judge Brobson’s conclusion, it could order new maps drawn in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Pennsylvania is expected to be fiercely fought terrain next year in elections turning on President Trump’s popularity. Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory in the state was the first for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but Republicans are already worried about losing Congressional seats even without new maps. In practical terms, Judge Brobson’s determination — in the form of a finding ordered by the State Supreme Court — is a recommendation, which the high court may affirm or reject. Five of the court’s seven justices are Democrats.

“The justices quickly scheduled oral arguments to be held Jan. 17.”
Gerrymandering: No proof congressional map is unconstitutional, judge says
Penn Live By The Associated Press Updated Dec 30; Posted Dec 29
HARRISBURG (AP) -- A Pennsylvania judge says Democratic voters suing to invalidate the current map of Pennsylvania's congressional districts haven't proven that it violates the state constitution by unfairly favoring Republican candidates. Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson, a Republican, issued a 130-page report to the state Supreme Court by Friday's deadline, set by the Democratic-majority high court that ordered the lower court to fast-track hearings and sum up the evidence. The justices quickly scheduled oral arguments to be held Jan. 17. Brobson wrote that the Democratic voters challenging the map had shown that the Legislature's Republican majority leaders used partisan considerations when they drew the plan in 2011, and that it favored Republicans in some of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts.
However, Brobson said the plaintiffs have not spelled out a standard for a court to determine whether the 2011 map "crosses the line between permissible partisan considerations and unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering under the Pennsylvania Constitution."

4-way gubernatorial primary tests GOP’s endorsement mettle
AP News By MARC LEVY Jan 1, 2018
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — For the four Republicans who hope to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s re-election bid next year, the first playoff game before the May 15 primary election will be the state party’s endorsement. That endorsement vote, scheduled for Feb. 10, could determine who stays in the primary race and who gets to brag that they won the endorsement while drawing upon the financial benefits of the party’s backing. Should the party be unable or unwilling to endorse, it would be the first time in 40 years. A looming four-way contest puts the 347 state Republican Party committee members in the sticky position of choosing between two people — York County state Sen. Scott Wagner and state House Speaker Mike Turzai, of suburban Pittsburgh — who have played outsized roles in helping elect Republican lawmakers. “It’s a squeamish situation for some of them,” said Alan Novak, the Republican Party’s chairman from 1996 through 2004. All four candidates, including lawyer Laura Ellsworth and former health care systems consultant Paul Mango, both of suburban Pittsburgh, have told party officials they will run in the primary, with or without the party’s endorsement.

Former Pa. State System chancellor nominated for U.S. Department of Education post
Penn Live By Jan Murphy jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated Dec 30; Posted Dec 30
President Donald Trump has nominated the former chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for the position of assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education. In that position, Frank Brogan, 64, who retired from the helm of the State System on Sept. 1, would serve as the principal adviser to Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on all matters relating to elementary and secondary education. He now awaits confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Brogan joined the U.S. Department of Education in November working as the principal deputy assistant secretary of its Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, while waiting his selection for another post.

“As enrollment grows, so do the profits of  CSMI LLC, a for-profit education management company that operates Chester Community, and was founded and is run by Vahan H. Gureghian, a lawyer, entrepreneur, and major Republican donor.
CSMI’s books are not public – the for-profit firm has never disclosed its profits and won’t discuss its management fee. State records show that Gureghian’s company collected nearly $17 million in taxpayer funds just in 2014-15. At that time, the school had 2,911 students, and CSMI was paid $5,787 for each. At that rate, more than 1,000 additional students from Philadelphia might mean nearly $6 million in new revenue.”
Two-plus hours on a school bus: How a Chester charter taps Philly kids to grow
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: JANUARY 2, 2018 — 5:07 AM EST
Imagine waking your 5-year-old kindergarten student before 5 a.m., walking him to a street corner in the city’s Far Northeast, then watching him board a bus for a 2½-hour ride to a school more than 30 miles away. Then, imagine he endures the same trip in reverse each afternoon. Five days a week. For some parents, it’s not just a bad dream. Such a routine is customary for an increasing number of Philadelphia students enrolled at Chester Community Charter School. Data obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News show that the number of students commuting from Philadelphia to the state’s largest brick-and-mortar charter school — now with four campuses in Delaware County — has exploded from 45 in 2014-15 to 1,131 this year. Chester Community’s growth with Philadelphia students is taking place even as the Philadelphia School District tries to control the expansion and financial costs of the 84 charter schools, with 65,000 students, that operate within its own borders. The district is moving to close those with poor academic records.

How Chester Community Charter School got a 9-year deal
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: DECEMBER 22, 2017 — 8:55 AM EST
For years, charter school proponents have been trying to change Pennsylvania law so that operating agreement renewals could be extended from five years to 10. They haven’t succeeded in Harrisburg. But that didn’t deter Chester Community Charter School. One year into Chester Community’s latest five-year agreement, Peter R. Barsz, the court-appointed receiver who oversees the financially distressed Chester Upland School District and wields nearly all the powers of a school board, took the unprecedented step of extending the Delaware County school’s term for five more years to 2026. Barsz contends that the move was designed to protect Chester High School: In return, Chester Community, which already enrolls about 70 percent of the primary grade students in the struggling district, agreed not to open a high school. The decision means staff and parents at the state’s largest bricks-and-mortar charter – already slated to receive more than $55 million in taxpayer funds this school year – won’t have to worry about its fate for nearly a decade, even if its test scores continue to fall far short of state benchmarks.
It also guarantees that CSMI LLC, a for-profit education management company that operates the K-8 school with 4,200 students, will receive millions of dollars in revenue for nine more years.

Teachers spend hundreds from their pockets on school supplies: 'Honestly, there's no choice'
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Kathy Boccella - Staff Writers Updated: JANUARY 1, 2018 — 4:55 PM EST
The art room at Nebinger Elementary in South Philadelphia is a wonderland, stuffed with colorful student work and an abundance of supplies — from paper and pastels to tools for printmaking and sculpting. Every tube of paint, glue gun, and sketchbook is there because teacher Leslie Grace made it happen. In addition to the robust fundraising she does in her free time, Grace spends at least $3,000 of her own money on her classroom every year. She built her art room from a budget of zero. “I want my students to have as many exposures to art as possible, and if I’m spending my own money doing it, that’s just the burden I bear,” said Grace. Art supplies in Nebinger teacher Leslie Grace’s classroom. Teachers often spend hundreds out of their own pockets on school supplies. Teachers have long dipped into their own pockets to fund their classrooms. Across the country, the average educator spends $350 of her or his own money annually on supplies and other items — from apps to enhance their students’ experiences to food and clothes to meet their basic needs, according to Scholastic, the publishing, education, and media company. Teachers in high-needs districts like Philadelphia tend to spend 40 percent more than their peers.

North Allegheny won't switch starting times for elementary, high school students
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO 2:45 PM DEC 29, 2017
The North Allegheny School District will not switch the starting times for elementary and high school students, but it will continue to consider having high school students start later or combining the middle and high school starting times. The district also has decided to continue giving weighted grades in honors and Advanced Placement courses. Switching the elementary and high school starting times and no longer weighting grades were two of the changes being considered to reduce student stress, particularly at the high school. The two items were taken off the table Dec. 13 during discussion of the results of a survey of parents, students and staff on student stress. The online survey was completed by 50 percent of the staff and 25 percent of parents. Of those responding to the survey, 80 percent of parents, 63 percent of students and 70 percent of staff said that high school should start later. But 65 percent of all respondents opposed switching the starting times of the elementary and high school. Such a switch would have elementary school students start at 7:25 a.m. and high school students start at 9 a.m. 
Part of the rationale is that teenagers need to get more sleep.

Thomas Parker: Allentown schools to create culture of success for students
Morning Call Opinion by Thomas Parker December 30, 2017
Thomas Parker is superintendent of the Allentown School District.
The 2018 school year will be a landmark year for the Allentown School District. The school board began a new focus nearly 18 months ago that would mark a significant shift in the trajectory of the district. In response to requests made by school community stakeholders, the board identified a clear need for the district to take steps to become more attuned to the needs of our community, and required that leadership meet those expectations. This mandate has led to the development of the district's strategic framework that will be unveiled in January. This framework represents six months of listening to our most-valued customers — the community. The purpose of this framework is to gain a greater understanding of how we have historically been critical to the fiber of this community, and how we can be innovative in our approach to meet the needs of our students and their families. School district growth that mirrors the rebirth and transformation of the city of Allentown is the goal.

The Monorail salesman and School Discipline in Philadelphia
Learn/Teach Blog by Andrew Saltz December 29, 2017
In his article “Philly Schools Tormented by Decision to Reduce Suspensions”, professional think-tanker Max Eden writes “Perhaps students were staying at home because they were scared to be at school”. The first word is critical. As far as I can tell, Mr. Eden has never spent significant time in a Philadelphia public school. He has never, based on a reading of his resume, spent significant time in any schools other than the one he attended as a child. It’s possible that this has led to the massive errors in his piece. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Mr. Eden’s assessment of discipline is not based in anything but ideology, a platform desperately looking for a voter.   Eden’s piece first posits that Philadelphia schools are soft on discipline, causing a “catastrophe” in classrooms. This is absurd: Philadelphia has so many alternative placement schools it is nearly impossible to keep them straight. Eden sees disruptive students as a plague, and yet remains blind to the thousands of “disruptive” students legally removed from the system.

Philly's new school board: We should be careful what we wish for | Opinion
by Miles Wilson, For Philly.com Updated: DECEMBER 29, 2017 — 9:19 AM EST
Miles Wilson, the President/CEO of EducationWorks, with kindergarten kids in the after school program at Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School.
We have waited a long time for local control of Philly schools, and the decision to abolish the School Reform Commission was a great first step in that process. But when it comes to creating Philly’s new school board, we should remember the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Local control of our public schools is the right thing to do, and Mayor Kenney should be commended for his courage in holding himself accountable for the future of public education in Philadelphia. But if the new school board is stocked with the “usual suspects” of the politically connected, or those who may have the passion but don’t have the right skills to lead the district, then in terms of leadership, we’ll be back in the same situation that led to the state takeover in the first place. It begins with selecting candidates who have the right skill set to oversee a large urban district that is teeming with the problems wrought by grinding poverty and willful financial neglect on the part of the state.

the notebook: Here are the top education stories of 2017
From the dissolution of the SRC to the fair funding lawsuit moving forward, it was an eventful year in #PHLed.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa December 29, 2017 — 3:55pm
As is tradition, the Notebook presents its annual review of the year in education. The top stories here, in no particular order, are a combination of the most important and the most read on our site in 2017.

Curmuducation ICYMI: Year in Review Edition (12/31)
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Sunday, December 31, 2017
Got nothing to do tonight? Ring in the new year with the best of the things you might have missed this year (or just forgotten about). I have slanted this collection toward pieces outside the blogosphere, because you should be reading and sharing my blogroll. Here's a year's worth of in case you missed them...

Sharp decline in high school graduation exams is testing the education system
Washington Post By Jay Mathews Columnist December 31 at 10:28 PM 
In this new year, we are experiencing a drastic change in the way U.S. students are assessed. A national movement led by educators, parents and legislators has greatly cut back high-stakes standardized testing in public schools. Five years ago, 25 states had standardized high school exit exams whose results affected graduation. Now, only 13 states are doing that. A report by the nonprofit FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing has revealed this shift and chronicled efforts to reduce many other kinds of testing. It’s a breathtaking turnabout, but without much celebrating. National dissatisfaction with our schools hasn’t changed much. It is at 52 percent, according to the Gallup Poll, about where it was in 2012 when 25 states had exit tests. That may have something to do with another development even more important to our schools’ futures. In December, the Collaborative for Student Success, in partnership with Bellwether Education Partners, reported on state efforts to install creative programs to boost achievement, as encouraged by the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Those efforts are failing miserably, according to 45 experts (including many teachers) who peered deeply into the state plans required by the new law. “States largely squandered the opportunity . . . to create stronger, more innovative education plans,” the report said. “Most states did not indicate specific steps to improve underperforming schools, nor did they describe concrete, rigorous interventions that underperforming schools should implement.”

Losing Students, Private Schools Try to Change
DECEMBER 29, 2017 TAWNELL HOBBS WALL STREET JOURNAL
Private schools are lowering tuition, ramping up marketing and targeting traditionally underrepresented communities to reverse a national enrollment decline. Enrollment in private schools for grades pre-K to 12, including parochial schools, dropped by 14%—to 6.3 million in 2016 from 7.3 million in 2006, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall school enrollment was nearly flat during that time, with public schools educating 2% more students to reach almost 52 million in 2016, the data shows. Researchers and private-school associations attribute the decline to a host of factors: more affordable Catholic schools have closed; traditional public schools provide better options; families cut their budgets after the 2007 recession; and charter schools and other alternatives have expanded. School voucher programs and tax-credit scholarship programs have spread to just over a dozen states and are believed to have helped private-school enrollment some, but not enough to make up losses dating back years.


Charter School Discussion in Philly Jan 11, 2018 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
PCCY Email December 26, 2017
Serious flaws in Pennsylvania’s charter school law put the quality of charter schools on the back burner.  Join PCCY for a discussion of how other states’ laws are doing a better job and explore what makes sense in Pennsylvania. January 11, 2018 from 8:00 - 9:30 a.m., at the United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 19103
Featured speakers include:
·         Representative James Roebuck (D), PA General Assembly, Democratic Chairman - Education Committee
·         Representative Jordan Harris (D), PA General Assembly
·         Veronica Brooks-Uy, Policy Director, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
·         Sharif El-Mekki, Principal, Mastery Charter Schools
·         Jeff Sparagana, Ed.D, Former Superintendent Pottstown School District
·         Doug Carney, Former Springfield School Board Member (24 years), SVP Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
·         Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
·         Tomea Sippio-Smith, Education Policy Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY)


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 remaining locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School (This session is full)
·         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 michelle.kunkel@psba.org. Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4 - 6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Register Now
Come a day early and attend the Equity Symposium!
Join hundreds of public education advocates on Capitol Hill and help shape the decisions made in Washington D.C. that directly impact our students. At the 2018 Advocacy Institute, you’ll gain insight into the most critical issues affecting public education, sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Whether you are an expert advocator or a novice, attend and experience inspirational keynote speakers and education sessions featuring policymakers, legal experts and policy influencers. All designed to help you advocate for your students and communities.

REGISTER TODAY! ELECTED. ENGAGED. EMPOWERED:
Local School Board Members to Advocate on Capitol Hill in 2018     
NSBA's Advocacy Institute 2018 entitled, "Elected. Engaged. Empowered: Representing the Voice in Public Education," will be held on February 4-6, 2018 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. This conference will convene Members of Congress, national thought-leaders, state association executives and well-known political pundits to provide local school board members with an update on key policy and legal issues impacting public education, and tactics and strategies to enhance their ability to influence the policy-making process and national education debate during their year-round advocacy efforts.
WHAT'S NEW - ADVOCACY INSTITUTE '18?
·         Confirmed National Speaker: Cokie Roberts, Political Commentator for NPR and ABC News
·         NSBA will convene first ever National School Board Town Hall on School Choice
·         Includes General Sessions featuring national policy experts, Members of Congress, "DC Insiders" and local school board members
·         Offers conference attendees "Beginner" and "Advanced" Advocacy breakout sessions
·         NSBA will host a Hill Day Wrap-Up Reception
Click here to register for the Advocacy Institute.  The hotel block will close on Monday, January 15
.
Registration is now open for the 2018 PASA Education Congress! State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018
Don't miss this marquee event for Pennsylvania school leaders at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018.
Learn more by visiting http://www.pasa-net.org/2018edcongress 

SAVE THE DATE for the 2018 PA Educational Leadership Summit - July 29-31 - State College, PA sponsored by the PA Principals Association, PASA, PAMLE and PASCD.  
This year's Summit will be held from July 29-31, 2018 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA.

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.


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