Friday, April 5, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 5: Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry

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Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry

Blogger note: With the renewed focus on cyber charter funding reform via SB34 and HB526 this November 2016 Education Week Deep Dive series on cyber charters is recommended reading and still timely.
Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry
Education Week Series November 2016
With growing evidence that the nation's cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems, Education Week conducted a months-long investigation into what is happening in this niche sector of K-12 schooling. The result is a deep-dive account of what's wrong with cyber charters. Education Week uncovered exclusive data on how rarely students use the learning software at Colorado’s largest cyber charter, the questionable management practices in online charters, and how lobbying in scores of states helps keep the sector growing.

Outsized Influence: Online Charters Bring Lobbying 'A' Game to States
Education By Arianna Prothero November 3, 2016 | Corrected: November 3, 2016
For five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing. The school, where students take all of their classes online while at home, had been assigned an "F" grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a "C." That troubled track record had finally made the virtual school of nearly 4,000 students a candidate for state regulators' chopping block. In September, Hoosier Academies representatives appeared before the Indiana board of education to make their case for giving the school another chance. There, they revealed their strategy: the creation of a second virtual school—one to which they had siphoned students who were most behind. Those students, they argued, would get more support and specialized services. Glenda Ritz, the state schools chief in Indiana, bluntly noted that shifting the neediest students would raise the original school's grade and possibly spare it from being shut down. It was another close call for a virtual charter school run by K12 Inc., a national company based in Herndon, Va.

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 .@SenatorRegan’s school districts in Cumberland and York Counties had to send over $13.4 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

Big Spring SD
Camp Hill SD
Carlisle Area SD
Cumberland Valley SD
Dover Area SD
East Pennsboro Area SD
Mechanicsburg Area SD
Northern York County SD
South Middleton SD
Spring Grove Area SD
West Shore SD


Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Democrats want to flip Pennsylvania’s state Senate in 2020. They’ll need the suburbs to do it
PA Capital Star By Elizabeth Hardison April 4, 2019
A Democratic victory in a contested special election in the Pittsburgh suburbs on Tuesday has political observers across Pennsylvania asking the same question: Can the party flip the Republican-controlled Senate in 2020? Unofficial results from the Department of State show Navy veteran and former Bush White House aide Pam Iovino beating Republican nominee D. Raja by four percentage points. Iovino’s win in the 37th Senate District in Pittsburgh’s South Hills means Democrats have whittled a once-veto proof 34-16 Republican majority to a far narrower 26-22 advantage. Assuming Republicans win May special elections for two vacancies in GOP strongholds — boosting their majority to 28-22 — Democrats will need to flip three seats in 2020 to control half of the 50-seat chamber. The vote of Lt. Gov John Fetterman, the Senate’s presiding officer, would make them the majority party, able to chair committees and decide which bills get brought up for votes. The Senate also has the power to confirm the governor’s nominations to boards, commissions, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Though high-stakes nomination fights have been relatively absent during the recent years of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, they can become political battles.

Creating a fairer map: Pa. Redistricting Reform Commission kicks off public input tour
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Emily Previti, WITF April 5, 2019
Pennsylvania will redraw its congressional and legislative districts after the 2020 census – and there’s a renewed push to change the rules before that happens. To get voters’ input on creating future congressional maps, the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission is touring the state for a series of public meetings. The first was in Williamsport Thursday night and drew more than 50 people. “To me, gerrymandering is a gateway into voter suppression,” said Ron Williams, who’s involved with Fair Districts PA. Williams believes gerrymandering leads to policies that further disenfranchise voters. “You have districts, which are safe, you have districts where the power really goes to the party,” Williams said. “The party controlling those districts allows that power to remain. And then we see other kinds of voter suppression come in.”

Report outlines priorities for Latinos in Pa., focus on education, workforce development
By Rachel McDevitt, WITF April 3, 2019
Pennsylvania’s Latino community came together for a first-of-its-kind convention in Lancaster last fall. Organizers recently released a white paper highlighting policy priorities and recommendations. The report addresses 10 issues ranging from education and workforce development to health care and immigration. Pennsylvania Latino Convention chairman Norman Bristol Colón said the overarching goal is to make sure the community is heading in the right direction. Latinos have been the fastest-growing ethnic group in the commonwealth for the past 20 years and are approaching the one million mark. Colón, who is also an executive in the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said the report is meant to inform political and business leaders of the population’s specific needs. “That they are not forgetting the agenda of the Latino community, that they are not forgetting the voices of that community that for many years have been neglected,” he said. Recommendations include raising the minimum wage, investing in schools and adult education programs in Latino neighborhoods, and cultural and language training for health care professionals.

'Highlight of my year': Ryan Aument hosts dozens of Lancaster County students for annual Senator for a Day event
Lancaster Online ALEX GELI | Staff Writer April 5, 2019
Mahayla Meyer stood inside the state Capitol building on Thursday ready to defend a Senate bill she sponsored that would require all public school students, except student-athletes, to take physical education classes. Then came a flurry of questions she never saw coming, despite working through an amended version of the bill in the Senate Education Committee less than two hours earlier. What would happen at schools that struggle to afford to provide gym classes? What about gym teacher salaries and job openings? The Warwick High School junior stood in front of her peers, chuckling nervously and anxiously adjusting her glasses at times, and answered every question thrown her way. “I wasn’t uncomfortable,” she said. “It was just challenging in the fact that I needed to think in a way  that I hadn’t thought before.” Within minutes her bill, as amended, passed with broad support. “I was ecstatic,” she said. Meyer was one of about 60 students from nine Lancaster County high schools who participated in Senator for a Day. Hosted annually, except for election years, by state Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Landisville), the daylong event exposes local students to the work it takes to carry a piece of legislation through committee and eventually into law.

Pocono Mountain School District Decides to Outsource Transportation
School board member reacts to the decision
PA Home Page Posted: Apr 04, 2019 05:42 PM EDT
SWIFTWATER, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - There's a lot of anger in Monroe County after the Pocono Mountain School District's school board voted to outsource its student transportation Wednesday night. The district says the move will save nearly $30 million dollars, but union leaders say you can't put a price on students' safety. Union leaders say once the private company takes over, nearly 200 bus drivers, mechanics and secretaries could lose their jobs. Eyewitness News reached out to all nine school board members, but only heard back from three. One, who voted against outsourcing, agreed to sit down with us for an interview. Despite a clear message from audience members during Wednesday night's school board meeting, the board voted 6-3 in favor of outsourcing its student transportation.

Why the 2019 primary for York school board members is so important
York Daily Record Opinion by Michael G. Miller  Published 1:01 p.m. ET April 4, 2019
Michael G. Miller is a York City school director.
The School District of the City of York is at a critical transition. The following background facts outline the issues and dangers. Seven years ago, the commonwealth (under Act 141) placed York under financial distress status and appointed a chief recovery officer (CRO) to require the school board to approve and follow a recovery plan (Plan) or have the Department of Education Secretary appoint a receiver to govern all aspects of the district.  (The only exception being that school law mandates that only elected school directors may raise or lower property tax rates, but this authority may occur only with prior CRO approval.) Following a state funded study by MASS Insight, CRO Doctor Carol Saylor and District Superintendent Doctor Eric Holmes drafted a 23-point recovery plan which has been authorized and supported by the school board and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.  The plan addresses improving student performance and stabilizing the district financial foundation. Recently, MASS Insight reviewed the progress of the plan and found that the school board and district have rigorously and faithfully followed the plan which is working well. Students are progressing more than one years’ worth of grade level growth a year in the K8 schools and the proficiencies for the High School PA Keystone tests are improving.

Group wants Philly school board to redo votes made behind closed doors
KYW Newsradio MIKE DENARDO APRIL 04, 2019 - 4:00 AM
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A watchdog group is considering suing the Philadelphia school board for continuing last week's disrupted meeting behind closed doors. When members of the Philadelphia Student Union loudly interrupted the school board's meeting last Thursday, the board tried to carry on.  But the board recessed the meeting and the nine members left the auditorium, retreating to a committee room where they voted in private, televising the proceedings online and on the district's cable channel.   Retired teacher Lisa Haver, a co-founder of the Alliance for Public Schools, is calling on the board to reconvene and vote again in public. "Just livestreaming a meeting does not make it a public meeting, because the public cannot be in the room when you vote. The public can't be heard on what you're voting on," Haver said. Among the items the board approved was a preliminary version of its budget.  "I know that the board thinks they voted on that but they did not vote on it. It has to be at a public meeting and we did communicate that to the board," she added. 

Why criminalize students and control schools with a metal detectors mandate? | Opinion
Amir Curry, for the Inquirer Updated: April 4, 2019 - 3:39 PM
Amir Curry is a West Philadelphia resident and senior at Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber. He currently serves as student organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union.
I’m a senior at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber. Our school relies on the voices of its students to build community. These values have guided me through my high school career. Growing and learning in a community that encourages students to be actively engaged is how our school thrives, and one of the primary reasons our leadership has exercised discretion in choosing not to implement metal detectors. But the recent school board mandate subverts that individual school autonomy. It will implement an “emergency preparedness” plan in all district high schools, mandating walk-through metal detectors. Members of the Philadelphia Student Union, to which I belong, were initially notified of the policy in late December. We immediately focused our energy on developing an inclusive campaign to start a conversation on school safety and metal detectors, including student voices. We spent several months studying and critically analyzing the plan, engaging the district’s only three high schools — Science Leadership Academy, SLA Beeber, and the Workshop School — that do not use metal detectors. We concluded that metal detectors, like in-school police, criminalized students instead of protecting them.

School safety requires strong security like metal detectors | Opinion
Kevin Davis, for the Inquirer Updated: April 4, 2019 - 3:38 PM
Kevin Davis is a senior at Strawberry Mansion High School and an aspiring journalist.
Do you really know how safe your children are when they enter their school? On March 28, the Philadelphia school board voted to mandate that all city high schools use metal detectors to screen students. Currently, there are 49 high schools that use metal detectors and only three that do not. While many students are not in favor of the policy, I think it is a good idea. I am a senior at Strawberry Mansion High School. I’ve been at Mansion since the start of my sophomore year and have attended Philadelphia district schools since kindergarten. I have attended schools that use metal detectors, and I believe they make a positive impact. In this day and age, we are faced with many violent incidents that feel as if they take place on a daily basis. We have in particular seen the rise of school shootings and intruders in school buildings. As a student who goes through a metal detector every day as part of our school’s safety procedure, I’ve grown to understand why it is important. The metal detectors are not there to make us feel as if we’re being policed but to keep us out of harm’s way.

ACLU threatens legal action against McKeesport Area schools over formation of black student organization
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER APR 4, 2019 3:52 PM
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is threatening legal action against the McKeesport Area School District if it does not allow for the creation of a Black Student Union at the high school and has given the district a deadline of Friday, April 5. The ACLU said in a March 19 letter to the district, “If MASD fails to approve the club by the deadline, absent a compelling explanation conveyed to us, we will seek a federal court injunction ordering the district to comply with our request.” Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said he met with a group of about nine McKeesport High School students, but said “I’m told there are more” who showed interest in starting a black student union. “Students have been trying since January to get approval for the club,” Mr. Walczak said, but added, “There have been various obstacles in the way. We’ve gotten substantial pushback — particularly from the superintendent.” He said the Black Student Union would be like any other student-run club and would be open to anyone who wanted to join. District Superintendent Mark Holtzman says he supports the idea of a student union but wants it to be able to include students of all races. 

Let’s fact-check this Betsy DeVos tweet about Trump’s $5 billion school tax credit proposal
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss April 5 at 6:00 AM
Despite what some may try to tell you . . . Education Freedom Scholarships are privately funded and do not take any money from public schools. #EducationFreedom
That comes from a tweet that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos posted in an attempt to sell the public on the Trump administration’s newest plan to expand alternatives to traditional public schools. And, for the record, it’s not true. The Trump administration has included in its proposed 2020 budget spending up to $5 billion on tax credits for individuals and groups who donate to help children attend private and religious schools. The donations, which would receive a 100 percent tax credit, could go for other education-related purposes — all aimed at expanding what DeVos now calls “education freedom” but used to more frequently refer to as “school choice." The plan, called the Education Freedom Scholarships, has no chance of passing Congress with Democrats in control of the House, and with some Republican opposition.

States Are Spending Way Too Little on Schools, Report Concludes
Education Week By Daarel Burnette II on April 3, 2019 4:17 PM
When it comes to learning, money matters, and state leaders aren't providing schools with enough of it for their students to meet national average test scores, according to a new research paper issued by the Albert Shanker Institute and co-authored by Bruce Baker, a top school finance expert from Rutgers University. "There is now widespread agreement, backed by research, that we cannot improve education outcomes without providing schools—particularly schools serving disadvantaged student populations—with the resources necessary for doing so," the authors concluded. "Put simply: we can't decide how best to spend money for schools unless schools have enough money to spend." Using state and local spending patterns, a slew of recently published research, and test scores, the authors concluded that while states are spending enough money for middle class and wealthier students to meet states' academic standards, they're spending far too little on America's growing population of poor students. "The vast majority of states spend well under the levels that would be necessary for their higher-poverty districts to achieve national average test scores," the authors concluded. 

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.

The League of Women Voters of Delaware County and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit present: EPLC 2019 Regional Training Workshop for PA School Board Candidates (and Incumbents) April 27th 8am – 4:30pm at DCIU
Ron Cowell of The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Center will conduct a regional full day workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.
Date & Time: Saturday, April 27, 2019, 8am to 4:30pm
Location: Delaware County Intermediate Unit, 200 Yale Ave. Morton, PA
Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. Registration is $75 (payable by credit card) and includes coffee and pastries, lunch, and materials. For questions contact Adriene Irving at 610-938-9000 ext. 2061.
To register, please visit

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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