Wednesday, April 10, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 10: SB34/HB526: Legislation would put an end to cyber charter waste | Opinion

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SB34/HB526: Legislation would put an end to cyber charter waste | Opinion

Penn Live Opinion By Dr. Bill Harner Updated 9:19 AM; Today 8:57 AM
Dr. Bill Harner is Superintendent of the Quakertown Community School District. He also is former Acting Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and former Superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District.
The gasoline for America’s economic engine and national security is the quality of its workforce. When the vast majority of our workers are the product of K12 public schools, the quality of public education is the linchpin to sustaining our way of life. Policy development and decision making for K12 public education rests in the hands of 50 state governors and their legislatures. Therefore, it is critical that our elected leaders in Harrisburg provide us with academic standards, direction and resources that get it right! In Pennsylvania, more than $30 billion is spent on K12 public education annually to create a future ready workforce. Though nearly $17 billion comes from local taxpayers, many decisions on how that $30 billion must be spent is made in Harrisburg through unfunded mandates! For special interest groups, getting just a small piece of the total state expenditure is a significant windfall. Where money is involved, politics and self-interest interferes with developing the ultimate education model that is both effective and efficient for students and taxpayers. It also compromises the creation of a future ready workforce. This is the case in the funding of cyber charter schools.

PSBA Legislative Priority Issue: Enact Meaningful Charter School Reforms
PSBA Website April 2019
Cyber charter funding reform
One of the key charter school reform issues is changes to the provisions and requirements for funding of cyber charter schools. The commonwealth is the sole authorizer of cyber charter schools, yet the tuition costs for students attending these schools are borne by school districts. The current funding formula for cyber charter schools is based on school district expenditures with no relationship to the actual instructional costs for regular and special education instruction and services of the students attending the charter school. In 2016-17, school districts paid cyber charter schools more than $463 million. The majority of cyber schools have consistently placed in the bottom 5% for educational performance in the state; further, graduation rates of cyber charters are consistently and substantially below state average. At the same time, a growing number of school districts across the state are now operating successful, high-quality, full-time cyber education programs within their traditional programs that provide flexibility and personalized options as a choice for students and families. Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526 support school districts that provide their own high-performing cyber education programs by removing the financial responsibility for resident students who enroll in cyber charter schools instead of the districts’ programs. PSBA is supporting these bills and will be working on charter reforms during this legislative session.

Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million, $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively. We will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senator Michele Brooks’ school districts in Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren Counties had to send over $13.7 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Links to additional bill information and several resources have been moved to the end of today’s postings

Commodore Perry SD
Conneaut SD
Corry Area SD
Crawford Central SD
Farrell Area SD
Fort LeBoeuf SD
General McLane SD
Greenville Area SD
Grove City Area SD
Hermitage SD
Jamestown Area SD
Lakeview SD
Mercer Area SD
Northwestern  SD
Penncrest SD
Reynolds SD
Sharon City SD
Sharpsville Area SD
Titusville Area SD
Union City Area SD
Warren County SD
Wattsburg Area SD
West Middlesex Area SD
Wilmington Area SD


Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

School leaders in Philly and Pittsburgh frustrated with Corbett-era holdovers on state charter appeals board
A wave of progressive school board members faces off with the state Charter Appeal Board, still filled with appointees of former GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. Local boards are being more assertive about setting stricter standards for charter applications.
The notebook by Greg Windle April 9 — 4:36 pm, 2019
In May 2018, the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia was considering an application to start Philadelphia Hebrew Public Charter School, in the East Falls section of the city. Bonnie Emilius, a parent in the neighborhood with experience sending her children to other charter and private schools, opposed it. She feared that the school would drain students and resources from Thomas Mifflin, the public elementary school in East Falls, which she says has been wonderful for her kids. At one point, Emilius was the board president of a charter school, but she has since soured on the charter sector. “Your child is a dollar sign to charter schools,” said Emilius, who was once with Green Woods Charter School in nearby Roxborough. “They need to keep their enrollment full to meet their budget, and that’s the bottom line. … I’m not against the individual people. I’m against the model of charter schools.” Before the vote, the SRC also seemed skeptical of Hebrew Public Charter’s application. SRC Chair Estelle Richman was concerned about the decision, saying the school was not the type that the city should prioritize, especially in light of the District’s precarious financial position. But, ultimately, she gave her blessing, and the application was approved. “To preserve our control, I will vote to approve this charter,” Richman said. She was referring to the lengthy appeals process in Pennsylvania for charter schools rejected by local boards of education. When the state charter law was passed in 1997, it created a seven-member Charter Appeal Board, known as CAB, that would be the arbiter for charters either initially denied or ordered to close by local districts. For years, the process has given many school board members, like Richman, pause when considering charter applications. Lately, though, with major changes taking place on the boards of the state’s two largest urban districts, a new attitude about the CAB seems to be emerging.

‘We have to give it a shot’: Redistricting bill passes Senate committee, as reformers call for more work
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison April 10, 2019
A bill that would change the way Pennsylvania draws its political maps got the support of a Senate committee Tuesday, even though lawmakers and activists alike still think it needs some work. Senate Bill 22, introduced by Sens. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, and Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, would amend the state Constitution to create a commission of citizens to draw the boundaries for Pennsylvania’s congressional and state legislative districts. Pennsylvania redraws its maps every 10 years based on updated census data. The next round of redistricting is due to take place in 2021, using data from the 2020 census. Boscola hopes the new redistricting commission could lead that process. The Senate State Government Committee voted 6-4 Tuesday to advance the bill to the Senate floor, where Boscola hopes her colleagues will help draft more detailed rules for selecting the commission members.

PA schools no longer get a single grade. But the state still uses them to rate teachers. Explore the Allegheny County scores.
Public Source by Mary Niederberger | April 4, 2019
The state Department of Education introduced the Future Ready PA Index this school year as the new public vehicle for displaying academic achievement and other measures of a school’s success. The dashboard replaced the School Performance Profiles [SPP] the department had used since 2013 to report overall annual progress and academic achievement in the state’s public schools. The SPPs are still used as a measure of effectiveness for teachers and principals. Gov. Tom Wolf and education department officials lauded the new index at its introduction in November as a fairer way to evaluate schools because it provides multiple measures for assessing schools in contrast with the SPPs, which provides a single score for each school. Among the measures displayed in the index are proficiency rates in English, math and science as well as growth rates — the percent of students who move ahead by one academic year. The index also includes third-grade reading scores, seventh-grade math scores, attendance and graduation rates and the percentage of students passing industry-based standard tests.

Wi-Fi Enabled School Buses A Small Step In Expanding Broadband Access For Rural Pennsylvanians
WESA 90.5 By KATHLEEN J. DAVIS April 9, 2019
McGuffey Middle School in Claysville, Washington County is rolling out three Wi-Fi-enabled school buses to serve kids with long commutes who may not have internet access at home. This is the latest location of Google's Rolling Study Halls initiative, which is currently operating in 16 communities across the country. Last winter, a Pennsylvania State University study found about 11 million people across Pennsylvania don't have access to high-speed broadband, categorized as download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second. That's about 85 percent of Pennsylvania's 12.8 million residents. "If you're a household that doesn't have access to broadband connectivity, you don't have access to this wealth of useful resources, everything from being able to stream Netflix to being able to apply for your next job," said Penn State researcher Sascha Meinrath. "The reality is you can't participate in modern civil social society. You can't even apply for college without broadband connectivity."  Alex Sanchez, the program manager for the Google initiative, said the Wi-Fi equipped buses give kids with long commutes an opportunity to do homework they might not be able to complete at home.

When the ‘homework gap’ hits home: How rural Pa. students learn with limited broadband
Centre Daily Times BY SARAH PAEZ APRIL 10, 2019 08:23 AM

Pennsylvania Influencer Project
Rural Pennsylvania faces a shortage of broadband access, and the digital divide affects education, health care, property values and quality of life in our communities. The Pennsylvania Influencer Project, a multi-part series from the Centre Daily Times and its parent company McClatchy, examines the challenges and potential solutions to the problem.

When many high school students get home from after-school activities, they open their laptops and start in on the homework they have due the next day. But Logan Snyder, 17, a high school junior living in rural Madisonburg, has had to travel to his mom’s office eight miles away to complete video assignments or sit in McDonald’s to download online textbooks and large files he needs for school. “There’s nothing quick,” he said of his internet connection at home. “I can’t just check my grades quickly. I always have to check if the internet is on or good. I can’t check my email as fast as everyone else.” Snyder is one of almost 340,000 youths in Pennsylvania who do not have access to a reliable broadband connection, according to 2010 American Community Survey responses through the U.S. Census Bureau. Slow broadband speeds or nonexistent connections restrict these students’ ability to complete assignments or put in extra study time, in what the Federal Communications Commission calls the “homework gap.”

Commentary: Stop federal funding of charter schools
Democratic members of Congress recently grilled Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over her budget proposing huge cuts to programs including the Special Olympics while calling for a $60 million hike in spending on charter schools. Some of their questions were prompted by a new report that I co-authored with Network for Public Education Executive Director Carol Burris. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., asked DeVos how she found extra money for charters in a budget "full of cruel cuts to education," especially given the report's findings of "waste and abuse." The report, titled "Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride," found that up to $1 billion awarded by the U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program, in more than 1,000 grants, went to charter schools that never opened or opened for only brief periods before being shut down. In California, the state with the most charter schools, between 2004 and 2014, 306 schools that received direct or indirect federal funding closed or never opened, 111 closed within a year, and 75 never opened at all – a 39 percent failure rate. The cost to taxpayers was more than $108 million. Of the charter schools in Michigan that received federal money, at least 27 never opened. Many more opened and quickly closed, and of the schools that managed to stay open, we found troubling results, including a grant recipient that received $110,000 in federal funds but is actually a Baptist Church.

Senate Approves Martin’s Telepresence Education Proposal to Help Homebound Students
Senator Martin’s Website Posted on Apr 09, 2019
HARRISBURG – Students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning under a bill approved by the Senate today, according to one of the bill’s prime sponsors, Senator Scott Martin (R-13). Senate Bill 144, which was introduced by Martin and Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democrat Leader Jay Costa (D-43), would create a new grant program to help Intermediate Units purchase technology that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology. Martin said the technology includes robotic devices that resemble an i-Pad mounted on a mobile Segway unit that allow real-time communication between students and their classrooms. “I learned more about the need for this technology by working with young people and families affected by childhood cancer. This kind of resource is invaluable in helping these students retain some sense of connection to the outside world and avoid falling behind in their studies,” Martin said. “Bridging the gap between these students and their classmates can make a world of difference.”

At this West Philly charter, elementary schoolers travel as far away as Kenya and China
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: April 10, 2019- 6:09 AM
As seventh graders at the Global Leadership Academy Charter School translated code used by slaves traveling the Underground Railroad — “midnight” meant Detroit, and the “River Jordan” the Ohio — teacher Gregory Wright steered last week’s lesson beyond the classroom. In a few weeks, "you'll be standing on top of the John Roebling Bridge" spanning that river, Wright told students. He added, "Our ancestors didn't have no bridge. They had to risk their lives." In a city where some schools struggle to send students on in-town field trips, the West Philadelphia K-8 charter school has taken students as far as Kenya and China. Starting next month, students at the school and a second Global Leadership charter in Southwest Philadelphia will embark on a series of trips. Fifth graders will spend a night in Washington, while sixth graders will tour Atlanta, Memphis, and Birmingham. In seventh grade, students get passports and head to Canada. Past eighth graders have visited Haiti and the Bahamas; this year, it’s Jamaica. The school’s charter is up for renewal this year, and though it has lagged in academic performance, with an average math proficiency rate of 9 percent in 2017, CEO Naomi Johnson-Booker says she is confident that the School District will decide in its favor.

Editorial: The two sides of the Upper Darby/Clifton school controversy
Delco Times Editorial April 10, 2019
On Sunday's op-ed page Upper Darby School Board member Rachel Mitchell made the case for why the district is looking to build a new middle school in Clifton Heights. No one is arguing the need for the school. Upper Darby has not put up a new building in 50 years, and their existing schools are bursting at the seams. Mitchell made the argument that every school board member in every district would make, that every student in the district - regardless of where they live - deserves an equal education. She stressed the need for modern schools that are not overcrowded. That’s two things that too many children in the Upper Darby School District do not enjoy. Some kids actually now attend classes at a school that is not even geographically in the district. The school rents Walter Senkow Elementary in Glenolden to ease overcrowding conditions in several district elementary schools. Of course, all of this must be weighed against that other crucial factor that every school board member grapples with: The Bottom Line. How much is all this going to cost? And who will pay for it?

“Council approved the tax by a 13-4 vote in June 2016. Since January 2017, the tax has added 1.5 cents per ounce to the cost of sweetened beverages. Along with paying for pre-K, it was created to fund programs and repairs for community schools, parks, recreation centers and libraries.”
America Beverage Association targets Mayor Jim Kenney’s beverage tax in new television ad
Inquirer by Chris Brennan, Updated: April 8, 2019- 11:57 AM
Two visions of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s first term are competing for attention on television. One shows a city succeeding with new programs and policies. The other shows a city imposing unfair taxes despite being flush with cash. This air war is not coming from Kenney or the two Democratic primary challengers trying to deny his bid for a second term. In a repeat from four years ago, the big spending is by special interests rather than candidates. And the city’s controversial sweetened beverage tax is at the center of it all. The American Beverage Association, which spent $16.2 million from 2016 to 2018 to combat the tax, on Saturday started spending $408,000 to air two weeks of commercials critical of Kenney’s signature program. That follows a $130,732 purchase of television air time by a new political action committee, Philly 2019, bankrolled by the city’s building trades unions, which are backing Kenney. That ad touts new pre-K classes funded by the tax. Kenney faces two beverage-tax opponents in the May 21 primary, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz. The ABA has already started campaigning against City Council members who voted for the tax.

“Williams has a history of launching campaigns for higher office that fail to meet expectations. He began his 2015 campaign for mayor with plenty of backing from influential players, and he had the benefit of more than $7 million in spending from a Super PAC funded almost entirely by three wealthy financial executives committed to expanding charter schools. Despite that effort, Williams got just 26 percent of the vote in the six-candidate Democratic primary, finishing about 30 points behind Kenney. In 2010, Williams ran for governor, getting more than $3 million in contributions from charter school advocates. He got just 18 percent of the vote.”
Williams: ‘Dirty,’ ‘dangerous’ Philly needs new leadership
WHYY By Dave Davies March 18, 2019
State Sen. Anthony Williams began a campaign kick-off event in West Philadelphia Monday night by acknowledging that he’s entering the city’s mayoral race in an unusual way. “In 30 years of public service, I have never, ever done anything like this,” he said, referring to his last-minute entry into the race with little money or political support. He said he won’t have a war chest to compete with Mayor Jim Kenney, who defeated him in the Democratic primary four years ago. “I don’t care if I have 10 cents in the bank,” Williams said. “I’m going to stand on 52nd Street, 60th Street, Northwest, South Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, and we’re going to tell the truth.” The truth, as he sees it, is that Philadelphia is “a dangerous city” and “a dirty city,” run by a mayor who’s failed to address persistent poverty, struggling schools, and property taxes driving longtime residents from gentrifying neighborhoods. He denounced Kenney’s “crushing, regressive” tax on sweetened beverages.

NRA sues Pittsburgh after Peduto signs gun ban into law
Trib Live by BOB BAUDER   | Tuesday, April 9, 2019 12:34 p.m.
The National Rifle Association and its supporters wasted no time Tuesday suing Pittsburgh, City Council and Mayor Bill Peduto following the mayor’s signing of three bills restricting military-style weapons within city limits. Four city residents with assistance from the NRA filed the lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court less then three hours after the mayor signed the gun ordinances into law. Other local gun owners vowed to file criminal charges Friday against the mayor and council. Peduto anticipated the legal challenges. He announced that the city would be represented at no cost in the civil suit by a legal team from the nonprofit gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said he and six council members who voted in favor of the ban have also retained an attorney for criminal defense. He would not name the attorney. “The very concept that the state could create a law that would say that elected officials who challenge the validity of that law would somehow be held to criminal charges goes against everything and every proactive step forward that this country has taken,” Peduto said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to overturn this law.”

What if ICE comes knocking? Attorneys offer advice to Easton families.
If Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers knock on the door, ask to see a warrant, which has to specify the person they want to arrest. The person named should go outside, closing the door behind them, so the officers don’t come in. To protect children, parents should designate a guardian so there’s a clear custodian if ICE makes an arrest. Then the child won’t go to a stranger’s home. Immigration lawyers Kathryn Albarelli and Dave Harrington offered that advice Tuesday to families at Easton’s Paxinosa Elementary School in the city’s West Ward, answering questions from people from Guatemala, Nigeria and Mexico, among other places. If ICE comes to a workplace and asks everyone for identification, don’t run, they advised. The officers will give chase, and the runner could wind up facing a criminal charge. Easton Area School District officials said immigrant families worry about what will happen if officers come to their homes or workplaces, and what would happen to their U.S.- and foreign-born children. When they held the same session last year, about 50 or so people attended, which was a lot more than at Tuesday’s gathering. People may be afraid to come, they said. Because the law changes frequently, rumors abound. And those uncertainties can worry students at school.
“It affects their school work, it affects their sleep,” said Katie Sames, the district’s ESL coordinator. “They have those worries and they’re not going to be able to focus in school.”

Gov. Wolf is right to push for increase in teacher salaries | Opinion
Luis Vanderhorst, for the Inquirer Updated: April 9, 2019 - 12:19 PM
I grew up in a single-parent home where my siblings and I were taught to work hard for the things that are important in life. That work ethic is what got me through college and has allowed me to stick with a fulfilling career in public education. I work as hard as I can every day because what I do makes a difference in the lives of the students I teach. I know educators from across Pennsylvania who share this work ethic. We share another thing in common, too. We aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. I am one of more than 3,000 teachers statewide who would get a boost in salary from Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum educator salary from $18,500 to $45,000 per year. The governor proposed the salary increase during his budget address in February, and state lawmakers from both parties are seeking cosponsors on legislation to enact it. The minimum salary law hasn’t been updated in more than 30 years. Living off an educator’s salary is tough. Ask any teacher. But it’s especially challenging in Pennsylvania’s financially struggling school districts.

PA Schools Work Berks County Thu, April 11, 2019 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT
Berks County Intermediate Unit 1111 Commons Boulevard Reading, PA 19605
PA Schools Work is organizing in Berks County. We are looking for advocates to fight for more funding for our students. Agenda will include detailed information about individual school districts, meeting with local Berks representatives to share your stories, statewide support for your efforts and much more. We want to work together to make a difference. School leaders, parents, community members and local citizens that care about education are all welcome. Registration starts at 6 with meeting beginning at 6:30. Networking available so bring material to share about your organization too. If you have any questions, please contact Sandra at

Success Starts Here is a multi-year public awareness campaign sharing positive news in PA public education.

Calling all Norristown parents, educators, leaders & stakeholders! Join us for Norristown Parents & Students for Education on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Norristown Public Library.
Together we can harness the power of all to make a difference in our schools and communities! Hear from the experts and learn how to advocate! Free breakfast & givewaways. Don't miss out!
Sponsored by Norristown Men of Excellence, The Urban League of Philadelphia & PA Schools Work.

PSBA: Nominations for the Allwein Society are welcome!
The Allwein Society is an award program recognizing school directors who are outstanding leaders and advocates on behalf of public schools and students. This prestigious honor was created in 2011 in memory of Timothy M. Allwein, a former PSBA staff member who exemplified the integrity and commitment to advance political action for the benefit of public education. Nominations are accepted year-round and inductees will be recognized at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference, among other honors.

PSBA: 2019 State of Education report now online
PSBA Website February 19, 2019
The 2019 State of Education report is now available on in PDF format. The report is a barometer of not only the key indicators of public school performance, but also the challenges schools face and how they are coping with them. Data reported comes from publicly available sources and from a survey to chief school administrators, which had a 66% response rate. Print copies of the report will be mailed to members soon.

All PSBA-members are invited to attend Advocacy Day on Monday, April 29, 2019 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. In addition, this year PSBA will be partnering with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) to strengthen our advocacy impact. The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. There is no cost to attend, and PSBA will assist in scheduling appointments with legislators once your registration is received. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefings prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. PSBA staff will be stationed at a table in the main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance. The day’s agenda and other details will be available soon. If you have questions about Advocacy Day, legislative appointments or need additional information, contact  Register for Advocacy Day now at
PSBA members can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at or call her at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3420

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.

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

PSBA Tweet March 12, 2019 Video Runtime: 6:40
In this installment of #VideoEDition, learn about legislation introduced in the PA Senate & House of Representatives that would save millions of dollars for school districts that make tuition payments for their students to attend cyber charter schools. 

PSBA Summaries of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Statewide Cyber Charter School Funding Reform

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 256

How much could your school district and taxpayers save if there were statewide flat tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed.? See the estimated savings by school district here.
Education Voters PA Website February 14, 2019

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

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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