Wednesday, January 16, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 16: PA Cyber Charters - Plugged in for Profits But Not for Learning

Started in November 2010, 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.

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PA Cyber Charters - Plugged in for Profits But Not for Learning

Signe Wilkerson nails it in this political cartoon…
Pennsylvania Cyber Charters by Signe Wilkinson Updated: January 16, 2019 - 5:00 AM
Plugged in for Profits But Not for Learning

Blogger note: below is a co-sponsorship memo from last year that was introduced by newly appointed House Ed Committee Chairman Curt Sonney (4-Erie). Curious to see whether it might be reintroduced this year…..
PA House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session
“…if a student lives in a school district that offers a full-time cyber education program but still chooses to enroll in a cyber charter school, the student or the student’s parent or guardian must pay the cyber charter school a per-student amount calculated in accordance with the charter school funding formula set forth in the Charter School Law.”

Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters achieved a passing School Performance Profile score of 70 in any of the five years that the SPP was in effect.
Here’s a reminder of what school districts are spending on cyber charter tuition:
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.

@PASchoolsWork: Delaware County Unites for Education; Public Meeting
Delaware County Intermediate Unit 200 Yale Avenue, Morton, PA 19070 Sat, February 2, 2019 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST
by PA Schools Work January 15, 2019
Delaware County students need YOUR support!
Join the DCIU and the PA Schools Work coalition to work together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve.
At the event, you will:
·         Hear stories about how funding affects students and educators across Delaware County
·         Learn how to speak with your local legislators to advocate for the needs of our students
·         Connect on social media and grow your network to influence stakeholders in your community
Let's Unite for education for all of Delaware County's students!
Contact: Theresa Marsden, DCIU Legislative and Communications Specialist, at 610.938.9000 ext. 2058 for more information. Register at the link below:

Blogger note: Pottstown Mercury, West Chester Daily Local and Delco Times are some of the holdings of Digital First Media…
Digital First Media: This obscure company is doing more to destroy a free press in America than Trump | Will Bunch
Will Bunch @will_bunch | Updated: January 15, 2019 - 1:50 PM
The problem really hit home for Dave Krieger — the now-former editorial page editor of the Daily Camera in fast-growing Boulder, Colorado — when a lawyer friend sent in a letter to the editor questioning what was happening at his hometown newspaper. The attorney said he didn’t understand why the price of his subscription was just jacked up 20 percent when the actual paper kept showing up with fewer and fewer pages. Krieger knew exactly why, but at that moment it dawned on him that most citizens in Boulder didn’t know what he knew: That the newspaper’s shrinkage was the direct result of a distant Wall Street hedge fund that — through its investment vehicle with the Orwellian-like dishonest name of Digital First Media — had since 2013 been sucking money in full vampire-squid mode out of the Daily Camera’s newsroom revenue stream. Much of the cash that formerly paid reporters, editors and photojournalists instead went into the pocket of billionaire Randall Smith as Smith added to his collection of multi-million-dollar mansionsaround Palm Beach and the Hamptons (said at one point to be 18 — that’s not a typo — and counting).  “The daily paper is the community’s storyteller,” Krieger, a 60-something veteran of a half-dozen newsrooms, thought to himself, “and we’ve never told this story.” So Krieger sat down to write an editorial pleading for help, and what happened next was truly astounding. Randall Smith read it, saw the error of his ways, sold his mansions, and moved into a modest ranch house as he used the real-estate proceeds to hire a small army of investigative reporters that has begun exposing corporate greed and venal politicians from Key West to Kalamazoo. Ha ha, just kidding ... everything in that last sentence was made up.

Why should Jefferson’s cancer center get property tax exemption, asks suburban school district
Inquirer by Harold Brubaker, Updated: 55 minutes ago
Another Philadelphia-area school district has joined an emerging trend of cash-strapped schools questioning why some highly-profitable organizations should be let off the hook when it comes to paying property taxes. Upper Moreland School District is challenging the property-tax exemption of Jefferson Health’s new Asplundh Cancer Center, arguing that the facility does not meet the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s standard for exemption. The appeal in Montgomery County’s Court of Common Pleas is no guarantee of victory, but it challenges the longstanding tradition of exempting large, profitable health systems from the property tax net. The legal challenge comes at a time when school districts are desperate for more property tax collections as state funding only covers a fraction of their expenses. When Tower Health bought five hospital from the for-profit Community Health Systems Inc. in 2017 for $418 million, school districts in Pottstown, Phoenixville, and elsewhere were not ready to grant a property tax exemptions on the facilities just because their new owner qualified as a nonprofit under the federal law. Those cases are still in court.

“The lawsuit occurs as the Stroudsburg School District and Upper Moreland School District file similar complaints against St. Luke’s University Hospital and Abington-Jefferson Health, respectively.”
Salisbury School District takes LVHN to court over property taxes
The Salisbury School District is challenging Lehigh Valley Hospital's property tax exemption.
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 15, 2019 7:00 p.m.
The Salisbury School District is challenging Lehigh Valley Health Network’s property tax exemption, arguing the hospital system is not a “purely public charity” and should pay its “fair share of property taxes.” The school district filed a complaint in Lehigh County court last week asserting the hospital should pay more than $5 million a year in property taxes. The lawsuit occurs as the Stroudsburg School District and Upper Moreland School District file similar complaints against St. Luke’s University Hospital and Abington-Jefferson Health, respectively. “These major, mega health networks function more like corporations than charities,” said attorney Aaron J. Freiwald, representing Salisbury. Stroudsburg and Upper Moreland. “School districts need money. Mega health care corporations are not paying their fair share.” Nonprofits like Lehigh Valley Hospital, part of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, are typically tax-exempt because of their charitable contributions. Salisbury claims LVHN’s property tax avoidance penalizes all other taxpayers. If LVHN’s hospital property at 1210 South Cedar Crest Blvd., was reassessed, it could result in even more revenue for the district, according to a news release from the attorneys representing Salisbury. “These uncollected revenues could help support core programs and even limit future tax increases,” Superintendent Randy Ziegenfuss said in a statement. The school district raised taxes by 2.4 percent last year.

“The Bethlehem Area School District says it is not receiving what is due to it under the formula, Reynolds said. His resolution cited comments from BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy, who maintains the district is receiving about $23 million less per year than the Basic Education Formula stipulates. During 2018, less than 10 percent of Pennsylvania's total education budget was actually distributed to schools districts based on the application of the funding formula, according to Reynolds' resolution.”
Bethlehem City Council stands up for public education funding
By: Stephen Althouse  Posted: Jan 16, 2019 12:15 AM EST Updated: Jan 16, 2019 04:45 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Saying it provides a "great equalizer" to the unfairness of wealth distribution, Bethlehem City Council approved a resolution urging the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to change how it funds public education. The vote during council's Tuesday night meeting was 7-0. The resolution, sponsored by Councilman J. William Reynolds, urges the state House and Senate to pass legislation to fully implement what is called the Basic Education Formula, or Fair Funding Formula. The formula, signed into law in 2016 by Gov. Tom Wolf, utilizes various factors to ascertain how much money each public school system will receive. Those factors include the percentage of students living in poverty, the current level of district taxation, the number of English language learners and the financial impact of charter schools.

Opinion: All schools and all students need libraries
Dignitaries gathered recently to celebrate a community campaign that opened a long-shuttered school library. What does that say about our priorities and commitment to equity?
The notebook Commentary by Lisa Haver and Deborah Grill January 15 — 4:53 pm, 2019
The opening of a new library this month at Bache-Martin Elementary in Fairmount has been reported as a feel-good story – one about a community pulling together to fund and build something that most students in Philadelphia haven’t seen in years. The occasion was considered so momentous that Mayor Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke, and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans were there to celebrate what the Inquirer headline proclaimed to be a “miracle.” But there is nothing miraculous about communities having to fend for themselves in providing the necessary resources for Philadelphia students. A true miracle would be the District making a commitment to bringing back libraries and librarians in all schools. A “Hunger Games” mentality has seeped into our collective consciousness.  Teachers create GoFundMe accounts for supplies and school trips. Elementary students write letters to local politicians to plead for new playground equipment. High school seniors reach out to community donors to put books and furniture in an underused classroom to create a school library. Movie and sports stars select schools to receive new playgrounds, local politicians and District officials show up for the ribbon-cutting, and the news stories celebrate yet another charitable event, as we witness the continual underfunding of the city’s public schools.  

Susan Wild lands spot on House's Education and Labor panel
Laura Olson Contact Reporter Morning Call Washington Bureau January 15, 2019
Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild has been named to the House Education and Labor Committee, according to an announcement from the House Speaker’s office. The committee post was among several that Wild has said she’s seeking for the two-year congressional session. She said in a statement Tuesday that the position will give her “a powerful platform to fight for working families.” “When I was running for office, I made a promise to fight for an education system that provides Pennsylvania students with the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce, to fight for a strong economy with the good-paying jobs they deserve, and I promised to preserve Social Security so folks who have worked their entire lives can retire with dignity,” Wild said. Her predecessor, Rep. Charlie Dent, had spent much of his tenure on the House Appropriations Committee, where he rose to lead one of the powerful panel’s subcommittees. Rep. Matt Cartwright, whose district had included Easton until this session, also serves on the Appropriations Committee.

National Teacher of the Year Set to Join House Education Committee
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on January 15, 2019 11:50 AM
The 2016 National Teacher of the Year is slated to join the House committee that oversees K-12 education.  U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., will become a member of the House education committee—which Democrats have rechristened from the House Education and Workforce Committee to the House Education and Labor Committee—once the House Democratic Caucus approves recommendations for new committee assignments Tuesday. Hayes won her House seat after an upset win in the Democratic primary last year and her November victory in the general election for an open House seat. Hayes put education at the forefront of her campaign, as our colleague Sarah Schwartz wrote after her November win. Among other things, she campaigned on providing teachers with more resources, more career training, and making college more affordable.  In a subsequent interview with our coworker Madeline Will, Hayes said, "I understand the importance of public education. I know for so many of our children, that's their only option." And she questioned the value of school choice for those children who don't have a parent to help make education decisions. 

Tom Wolf calls for 'hope, empathy, action’ in second term as Pa. governor
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil, Updated: January 15, 2019- 4:53 PM
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf took the oath of office Tuesday for a second term as Pennsylvania government’s chief executive, urging “faith” in the state’s ability to rise above ideological divides to fix problems together while embracing tolerance and diversity.
In his speech outside the state Capitol, the mild-mannered Democrat noted that his administration, working with a Republican-led legislature, was able to achieve major policy changes in the last four years, including legalizing medical marijuana, relaxing the state’s iron grip over alcohol sales, and beginning to rein in public pension costs.

GOP leaders react to Gov. Wolf’s inaugural address with optimism but ‘we’ll see where it goes’
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Jan 15, 3:56 PM; Posted Jan 15, 3:18 PM
Optimism, hope and a feeling of bipartisanship filled the air at the state Capitol following Gov. Tom Wolf’s second inauguration Tuesday. In his address, Wolf cited accomplishments made during his first four-year term through compromise with the GOP-controlled General Assembly. The governor said he wanted that bipartisanship to continue. Republican legislative leaders and others in attendance said they came away inspired and hopeful. “It was a good speech. It was a positive speech,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County. “We’ll have our differences as time goes on. How we handle those differences will define us. Whether we compromise as we did the last two years and get significant things passed as the governor mentioned that we all get a little bit of something, that’ll be positive for Pennsylvania.” He added: “So today’s a day of hope and a positive feeling. We’ll see where it goes from here.”

Dinniman appointed minority chair of Senate Education Committee
West Chester Daily Local Digital First Media January 15, 2019
WEST CHESTER—State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, announced that he was reappointed to his leadership role as Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee for the 2019-20 legislative session. This marks the sixth consecutive session that Dinniman, who holds a doctorate in education, has been appointed to the post. “The upcoming legislative session will be a pivotal time for education in the Commonwealth,” Dinniman said. “While we’ve already made important progress in ensuring our schools are safer and reining in the role of standardized testing and graduate requirements, there is much more work to done in these areas, not to mention the importance of achieving equitable funding in public education.” In the fall, the legislature passed Act 158 of 2018, providing alternative pathways to graduation in place of the controversial Keystone Exams and delaying their use until the 2021-2022 school year. In addition, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 322 to study the effectiveness of standardized testing, including the Keystone Exams and SATs, and their use as indicators of student academic achievement, school building performance, and educator effectiveness. In the new legislative session, Dinniman said he plans to bring those efforts full circle by working to replace the Keystones with the SAT to realize a combination of fiscal and educational benefits. “The Keystone should be replaced with a test, like the SAT, that many high school students already take, that is aligned with our curriculum, and that federal government will accept for accountability,” he said. “Furthermore, using the SAT in place of the Keystones will open up college scholarship and post-secondary opportunities to thousands of students who may not be able to access them on their own.” As minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, he will also continue to serve as a member of the state Board of Education, the Pennsylvania State Public School Building Authority, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Facilities Authority and the Education Commission of the States.

Letter: PA Schools Work Advocates for Our Schools Letter by State College AAUW Education Committee on January 15, 2019
Do you know that Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the country in the state share of K-12 education funding? The average state covers 47 percent of school funding costs, but our state contributes only 38 percent, according to the US Census Bureau. In fact, state funding for classroom costs has declined since 2013, falling by $155.3 million. Increases in state education appropriations have not kept pace with rising costs; the funding gap between Pennsylvania's low- and high-wealth districts is the largest such gap in the nation. Local revenues average 56 percent of school funding.   Dependence on local revenue leads to inequities — wealthy districts support their schools much better than economically distressed districts that often have students with the greatest needs. The Campaign for Fair Education Funding successfully pushed for bipartisan enactment of a fair funding formula in 2016. In 2018, many of the Campaign’s partners formed PA Schools Work, a bipartisan advocacy group that is pushing for enactment of the 2016 fair funding formula.

Tamaqua puts gun policy on hold
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 15, 2019
As the Tamaqua Area School District voted to suspend its controversial policy to allow school district staff to carry guns, parents noted a shift in tone toward the Second Amendment rather than school safety. Nick Boyle, the school board member who helped craft what’s known as Policy 705, provided the only vote opposed to pausing the policy’s implementation at a board meeting Tuesday night. Boyle said that while he agreed that it made financial sense to put the measure on hold while two lawsuits wind through the court system, he was distressed by a feeling that the district was under attack by outside interests. Tamaqua’s policy, which would allow district staff to volunteer for training to stop a school shooter, was approved in September and is the first of its kind in the state. In his statement explaining his vote, Boyle said he didn’t believe the board “should allow an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment group from Philadelphia to dictate school board policy.” Boyle said later he was referring to CeaseFirePA, a gun violence prevention organization. CeaseFirePA has not joined the Tamaqua Area Education Association’s lawsuit or the one filed by families in the district. But it has been a vocal opponent of the policy and arranged a press conference two weeks ago to announce the filing of the second lawsuit.

Pennsylvania's lax approach to vaccine exemptions is ill-considered
Lancaster Online Editorial by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD
THE ISSUE: As LNP’s Heather Stauffer reported Monday, exemptions to Pennsylvania immunization requirements rose from 2.3 percent to 3.6 percent of students statewide, and from 8.6 percent to 9.5 percent in Lancaster County. (A parent can claim a student exemption on more than one ground, but there’s no way to discern from the reported numbers if they do, Stauffer noted.) The state’s annual immunization reports cover only kindergarten and seventh-grade students.
Here’s the good news: More students are getting fully vaccinated before the start of school. The grace period for students who were not fully immunized was tightened from eight months to five days — a much-needed change — at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The result? “Statewide, reports show the number of students using the grace period dropping from 24,724 the previous year to 6,531, or from almost 11 percent to 2.5 percent,” Stauffer wrote. “In Lancaster County, the drop was from 2,023 to 359, or from almost 17 percent to 3 percent.” This represents a victory for school administrators, school nurses and, most importantly, for student health. Now the bad news. The World Health Organization reports that vaccine “hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.” Measles, for example, saw a 30 percent increase in cases around the world in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

There’s a new school safety initiative in Pa. How will it affect Centre County schools?
Centre Daily Times BY SARAH PAEZ JANUARY 15, 2019 07:34 PM, UPDATED 11 HOURS 59 MINUTES AGO
A school lockdown is a precautionary measure issued in response to a direct or nearby threat. It requires staff and students to respond quickly and comply with rules. Here’s how it often works. 
An anonymous reporting system for all schools in Pennsylvania called the Safe2Say Something tip line went live Monday, providing a way for students, teachers and community members to report threatening behavior that may endanger an individual or school institution. The S2SS tipline was brought through a partnership with the state’s Office of the Attorney General and Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization that trains students and adults to look for signs of gun violence in order to prevent tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that killed 20 children and six staff members. The new tipline fulfills requirements outlined in Act 44, the school safety and security bill passed by the state Legislature in 2018. State College Area School District is working on implementing the tip line, which allows students and adults to use the S2SS app, website, or a dedicated hotline to report a tip, each of which is reviewed by the S2SS crisis center housed in the Office of Attorney General. The call center will process and refer each tip to the appropriate school crisis teams and law enforcement according to the level of the threat, said SCASD Assistant Superintendent Will Stout.

Is LA teachers strike a sign of things to come in Philly?
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent January 15, 2019
The education world has its eye on Los Angeles this week, where about 30,000 school staff members have gone on strike. The issues at stake in LA — charter growth, class size, teacher pay, lack of support staff including nurses — will sound familiar to those who’ve followed years of clashes between the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. They sure sound familiar to longtime PFT head Jerry Jordan. “What happens in LA is going to happen across the country,” said Jordan. “Things don’t just occur in one urban setting and stop there.” It’s impossible to say if Philly teachers will someday follow in the footsteps of their West Coast counterparts. But the educational earthquake in California is a reminder that Philadelphia school staff now have the option of striking, an option they didn’t have for years. During the 17-year reign of the state-controlled School Reform Commission, state law forbade Philadelphia teachers, and Philadelphia teachers alone, from striking. When the SRC dissolved last year, so did the prohibition against striking.

Charter school teachers join picketers in Los Angeles
Posrt Gazette by CHRISTOPHER WEBER Associated Press JAN 15, 2019 6:22 PM
LOS ANGELES — Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District walked picket lines again Tuesday as administrators urged them to return to classrooms and for their union to return to the bargaining table. “It is by no means a normal day in LA Unified,” Superintendent Austin Beutner acknowledged as the strike by thousands of members of United Teachers Los Angeles entered its second day. “To state the obvious, we need our educators back in our classrooms helping inspire our students,” he said. “The painful truth is we just don’t have enough money to do everything UTLA is asking Los Angeles Unified to do.” The walkout Monday was marked by a plunge in attendance, which cost the district about $25 million because funding is based on how many students come to school, he said. Mr. Beutner urged the teachers to join him in pushing for more funding from the state, which provides 90 percent of the district’s money. “Join me on the bus,” he said. Some charter school teachers joined their public school counterparts on picket lines. Educators with the Accelerated Schools charter network, who are also union members but negotiate their contracts separately — walked off the job Tuesday to demand better working conditions. The action was the first by charter teachers in California, according to UTLA.

Eyes on the Philly Board of Education: January 17, 2019
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools January 13, 2019   by Karel Kilimnik
Budget Issues
The largest single allotment in the District’s budget goes to the 87 charter schools. Although there are no Action Items on this month’s agenda regarding charters, the Board will consider three new applicants next month. The Board must remember these facts when they decide in February:
·         The District cannot afford any more charters.
·         The Charter School Office is seriously understaffed; it has only 12 staff members to monitor 87 schools.
·         Our review of renewal evaluations shows consistent barriers to enrollment, lack of due process when students are accused of infractions, and expulsion for minor infractions such as uniform violations.
·         Many if not most charters pay rent and management fees to private companies; the Board has no control over those costs.
·         Neither the Board nor the public has access to the financial records of the Real Estate/Management companies which profit from the charter system, thus they have no control over those costs.
·         Administrative salaries and compensation are decided by the boards of the individual charters, not the Board of Education.  Ten charter CEOs, according to the most recent tax information, are paid over $200,000 in salary and compensation–and all of those schools have SPR Achievement ratings which place them in the Intervene category.
·         Charters do not offer “choice” to parents. The charter school chooses its students.
·         The PA Charter School Law has been called one of the worst in the country by many, including PA Auditor General Anthony DePasquale.

Charter school intends to honor Philadanco dance founder
WHYY By Peter Crimmins January 15, 2019
A charter school proposed for West Philadelphia will be named after a pioneer of dance in Philadelphia. If String Theory Schools’ application for another charter school is approved, the facility will be called the Joan Myers Brown Academy. Brown founded the Philadelphia Dance Company, or Philadanco, in 1970. Since then, it has become nationally recognized for training mostly students, primarily African-Americans, in classical dance and ballet. String Theory, which specializes in operating performing arts schools, already has a partnership with Philadanco. And its modern dance instructor, Ali Willingham, trained under Brown. On Tuesday morning, what would have been the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., students at String Theory performed an original choreography by Willingham. Brown, who was there to watch the performance, said she was happy and a little amused that String Theory would honor her by giving its new campus her name.

“The camp is the unlikely U.S. center of a vast network of enterprises Gülen controls across the globe. The cleric, who has tens of thousands of followers, runs a sprawling international conglomerate of newspapers, television stations, and charter schools, more than 2,000 in all, including more than 100 in this country.”
The cleric next door: Pocono neighbors weigh in on Fethullah Gülen, the man Turkey wants back
by Vinny Vella, Updated: January 16, 2019- 5:00 AM
SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — In this rural mountain town, no matter how long ago you moved in, you’re still an outsider. Be it a transplant from New York or Jersey lured by cheap property here in the ‘90s or one of the most wanted men in the Middle East. Fethullah Gülen, the 80-year-old Turkish leader of a religious offshoot of Islam, has lived in exile in this pastoral slice of the Pocono Mountains for two decades. He spends his days praying, writing, and entertaining visitors on a 26-acre property on Mount Eaton Road that previously served as a family-run resort for hunters and a summer camp for Muslim youth from New York.

“Here are the facts: the Gülen Movement operates over 173 taxpayer financed charter schools that enroll 83,000 students in locations in 26 states. Several new schools are opened each year. This makes the group the second largest charter school operator in the nation. In 2017, these schools received an estimated $729,000,000 in tax funds. Additionally, in Texas where the lack of funds for traditional public schools is currently being debated, over $645,000,000 has been issued in state-guaranteed bonds for the 63 charter schools identified as Gülen-affiliated. A significant portion of the funds the Gülen Movement receives are diverted through various means (bid rigging, inflated lease backs, ‘consulting fees,’ mandatory tithing by Turkish H1-B hires, etc.) to the non-educational, political goals of the cult. Followers who have left the Gülen Movement have outlined how significant amount of these tax dollars are kicked back through various methods to Fethullah Gülen and others leaders of the Gülen Movement at its headquarters in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.”
Cloaking Inequity Blog Posted on January 15, 2019 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig
I am glad that Harvard’s EducationNext changed the original language in this piece about the Gulen charter schools and Turkey that incorrectly argued that the NAACP had rescinded its call for a charter school moratorium by stating that it had not been “renewed.” They have now taken that language out of the article online, but they still have not issued a public correction for the misinformation (For more see also: Breaking News: California NAACP calls for investigation of ALL Gülen charters). However, Mark Hall, Director of the Killing Ed film, has several other issues that he feels it’s important to raise with the piece. Are more corrections necessary? I feel compelled to respond to the inaccuracies and the omission of facts in a recent article in EducationNext which may lead your readers to a false conclusion.
The article, Turkey’s Fight Against U.S. Charters,” discusses the network of taxpayer financed charter schools operated by the Gülen Movement, a transnational religious cult originally from Turkey. The title of the article itself is misleading – suggesting that the Government of Turkey is somehow against charter schools in general in the United States. This is untrue; the only schools Turkey is interested in are those founded by members of the Gülen Movement. Many of the established facts about this relatively new and mysterious cult are outlined in my documentary film, “Killing Ed: Charter Schools, Corruption and the Gülen Movement in America” which was released in March, 2016 and independently produced. I first learned of the Gülen Movement in 2005 after witnessing the group’s intense influence on politicians in Texas. When I began production on the film in 2011, not much had been pieced together about how the Gülenists operated in America. However, enough research and factual evidence now exists to connect the cult’s religious and political goals to the lucrative operation of its charter schools in the USA.

‘It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way.’ Why Some Boys Can Keep Up With Girls in School.
A study shows the Asian-American gender academic gap starts later, giving educators insight into how to help boys of all races and pointing to the influence of social pressures.
New York Times By Claire Cain Miller Jan. 15, 2019
Over all, girls outperform boys in school. It starts as early as kindergarten. By the time students reach college, women graduate at a higher rate than men. But there’s an exception. Asian-American boys match the grades of Asian-American girls in elementary school, a new study has found. For them, the gender achievement gap doesn’t appear until adolescence — at which point they start doing worse as a group than Asian-American girls. The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that boys’ underperformance is not because of anything innate to boys. Instead, it seems, it’s largely because of something external: their school environments and peer influences.

Karen Pence, America’s second lady, is teaching at Virginia religious school that bars LGBTQ students and employees
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss January 16 at 12:39 AM
Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Pence and the nation’s second lady, is now teaching art at a local Christian elementary school that reserves the right to reject LGBTQ students and employees, according to documents on its website. The school also asks prospective employees to explain their views of the “creation/evolution” debate, and it has planned field trips for students to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. The museum displays exhibits depicting the world as 6,000 years old — which is the belief of “Young Earth Creationists” — and rejects the scientific theory of evolution, the animating principle of modern biology. An employment agreement posted on its website for applicants spells out the church’s “Statement of Faith,” including: “A husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church. A wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).” The office of the nation’s second lady announced Tuesday that she was taking a part-time job teaching art at the Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia, where she taught for 12 years when Mike Pence served in Congress serving as a representative from Indiana from 2001-2013.

Open Board Positions for 2019 PA Principals Association Election
Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:05 AM
Margaret S. (Peg) Foster, principal, academic affairs, in the Crestwood School District, has been appointed by President Michael Allison to serve as the chairperson of the 2019 PA Principals Association Nominations Committee to oversee the 2019 election. Her committee consists of the following members: Curtis Dimmick, principal in the Northampton Area School District; Jacqueline Clark-Havrilla, principal in the Spring-Ford School District; and Joseph Hanni, vice principal in the Scranton School District.   If you are interested in running for one of the open board positions (shown below) in the 2019 election, please contact Stephanie Kinner at or (717) 732-4999 for an application. Applications must be received in the state office by Friday, February 22, 2019.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
·         Evaluate key finance documents such as budget and audit materials
·         Review and analyze board policies and administrative regulations
·         Build positive board culture by developing strong collaboration skills
Locations and Dates:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College

Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.

NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
Register now
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact

PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the date: PSBA Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg has been scheduled for Monday April 29, 2019

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

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.