Monday, June 24, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 24: In the last three school years, 12 of the state’s 14 cyber charter schools spent more than $21 million combined in taxpayer dollars promoting their schools

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.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Political Cartoon: Reparations? For what?
Inquirer by Signe Wilkinson Updated: June 23, 2019 - 5:00 AM
Three centuries of slavery, then another century of lynchings, cross burnings, redlining, and discrimination lasting until today. The issue of reparations is debatable as a means of making amends for systemic inequality, but we at least need to recognize the inequality and injustice that got us here and still lingers. Nowhere is it more infuriatingly evident than in the differences in public schools for the wealthy and the poor, particularly poor black students. Fair and equitable funding for all students would be one place to start.

Reprise Aug. 2017: Pa. charter schools spend millions of public dollars in advertising to attract students
Public Source By Stephanie Hacke and Mary Niederberger AUG. 29, 2017
PART OF THE SERIES The Charter Effect|
If you’re a parent, it’s likely Facebook knows it.
If you’re not happy with your child’s current school, Facebook probably knows that, too. And you are likely to be hit with paid, highly targeted ads offering alternatives. That’s why when you scroll through your news feed on Facebook you may see a sponsored photo of a wide-eyed child and parent thrilled about their tuition-free, personalized education at a Pennsylvania cyber charter school. If you pay property taxes, you likely paid for this ad campaign. See the ad on the side of the Port Authority bus that shows happy students and a message that Propel Montour High School has spaces available in grades 9 and 10. Your property taxes paid for that, too. Television ads, radio promotions, social media ads and billboards promoting cyber and brick-and-mortar charter schools are everywhere. Some charter operators pay for online keyword searches that prompt their school’s websites to show up first when a parent searches for certain terms related to charter schools or a student’s need for an alternative education setting. In the last three school years, 12 of the state’s 14 cyber charter schools spent more than $21 million combined in taxpayer dollars promoting their schools, PublicSource found through Right-to-Know requests. The Commonwealth Charter Academy spent the most of the cyber charters on advertising; it spent $3.2 million in 2015-16 and $4.4 million in 2016-17.

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.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senate Education Cmte Majority Chairman .@SenLangerholc’s districts had to send over $10.5.3 million to chronically underperforming cybers that their locally elected school boards never authorized. . #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that. 
Data source: PDE via PSBA

Bedford Area SD
Blacklick Valley SD
Cambria Heights SD
Central Cambria SD
Chestnut Ridge SD
Claysburg-Kimmel SD
Clearfield Area SD
Conemaugh Valley SD
Curwensville Area SD
Dubois Area SD
Everett Area SD
Ferndale Area SD
Forest Hills SD
Glendale SD
Greater Johnstown SD
Harmony Area SD
Moshannon Valley SD
Northern Bedford County SD
Northern Cambria SD
Penn Cambria SD
Philipsburg-Osceola Area SD
Portage Area SD
Purchase Line SD
Richland SD
Tussey Mountain SD
West Branch Area SD
Westmont Hilltop SD
Windber Area SD


Has your state senator cosponsored bipartisan SB34?

Is your state representative one of the over 70 bipartisan cosponsors of HB526?

WHYY Radio Times: Cyber charter schools
Air Date: Friday June 21, 2019 10:00 am; Runtime 49:15
Guests: Margaret Raymond, Susan Spicka, David Hardy
A new study shows that many students enrolled in Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools are not getting a quality education. A quarter of Pennsylvania’s charter school students use these virtual learning programs as an alternative to attending brick-and-mortar schools. Today, we’ll hear about the damning report, the pros and cons of digital classrooms, and what the future holds for these types of programs. Joining us will be MARGARET RAYMOND, founding director of the organization, CREDO, that released the report, as well as SUSAN SPICKA of Education Voters of PA, and DAVID HARDY, executive director of Excellent Schools Pa, a school choice advocacy organization.

PA's year-end surplus is official. But it won't last long.
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 21, 2019 6:52 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- State lawmakers now have the official report on the money Pennsylvania netted this fiscal year. As expected, there's a surplus. But it won't go nearly as far as some officials have hoped. The Independent Fiscal Office said Friday that the commonwealth can count on ending the year with $910 million to spare. That's a jump from their initial estimate of $866 million in May. But the number dwindles when factoring in the amount the state overspent--$548 million dollars. Governor Tom Wolf said it mostly comes from unexpected Medicaid costs. Lawmakers also tried to transfer $200 million dollars from a state-created medical malpractice insurer for the third year in a row. But that money is tied up in court, so it'll be made up with back-payments from the coming fiscal year. That leaves around $162 million dollars. Wolf said he doesn't want to spend it.  "I agree with the Republicans that we ought to put that into the rainy day fund--into our cookie jar," he said. A spokesman for Wolf noted, since budget negotiations aren't yet final, the exact dollar amount that ends up in the rainy day fund could change. Some Democrats have suggested other approaches--like putting surplus dollars into an emergency fund for school repairs. Wolf said he doesn't think there's enough left over to make a difference, and maintains the state should fund infrastructure in other ways.

Budget pressure, policy agendas collide in Pennsylvania ahead of deadline
Pottstown Mercury By MARC LEVY Associated Press June 23, 2019
HARRISBURG (AP) — Toil on a $34 billion budget package in Pennsylvania's Capitol is barreling into the final week of the fiscal year, as top lawmakers rush to wrap up closed-door budget talks, score some pet victories and send rank-and-filers home for the summer. The main objective is extending the state's spending authority for another 12 months, doing it on time and without the sort of long partisan fight that marked the first three years of power-sharing between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature. Broad outlines about the package are known, but many details remain under wraps, withheld even from rank-and-file lawmakers. "This has been one closed-lipped budget," said Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams. The next few days also will be crucial to the policy agendas of Wolf and top lawmakers, as they rushed to use the deadline pressure of budget negotiations to strike deals.

Pa’s public schools need our help. Gov. Tom Wolf was right to veto private school tax credit bill | Opinion
By Susan Spicka  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor June 20, 2019
It’s budget season in Harrisburg. At a time of year when we should be talking about funding to meet public schools’ needs, instead we’ve been hearing more about massive giveaways of taxpayer dollars to well-off families who send their children to private schools. The Pennsylvania House and Senate passed legislation sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, allowing for a massive expansion, from $110 million to $210 million, of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit. The two-decade-old program provides tax credits to businesses and other organizations that fund scholarship aid for religious and private schools. A built-in,10 percent annual increase in EITC funding in Turzai’s bill would have brought the total annual funding for the EITC program to an eye-popping $544 million in just 10 years. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the legislation, and he was correct to do this. The EITC program, and its partner, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program, are intentionally designed to provide taxpayer-funded private/religious school tuition vouchers to well-off families that are already comfortably paying their children’s private school tuition.

Lawmakers, Wolf need to fix Pennsylvania’s charter school funding imbalance | Opinion
By Jay Himes  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor June 18, 2019
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently passed a package of charter school reform bills without considering amendments addressing the most important charter school reform issue—funding. While debate heated up between supporters and opponents of the bills, no matter what side of the issue you’re on, we can all agree that all students need access to a high quality education. Our concerns are not whether charter schools are good or bad. Instead, our concern is how current state policy funds charter schools and the financial impact that current policy has on all of our school districts, taxpayers and students. The entire burden of funding charter schools falls on school districts and local taxpayers. Last year, 37 cents of every additional dollar raised in property taxes went to pay the increasing cost of charter school tuition, which grew by  10 percent. If the Legislature fails to recognize and resolve the impact of mandated charter school costs on school districts and taxpayers, public education funding will become even more serious a problem down the road. In fact, for school districts across the state, this problem has already started and is forcing them into real fiscal distress.

Pa.’s charter school package doesn’t count as real reform | Opinion
Bernie O’Neill, for the Inquirer Updated: June 19, 2019 - 1:01 PM
 Bernie O’Neill is the former Republican state representative for Bucks County.
If you weren’t worried about the rising cost of public education before now — you should be. If Pennsylvania passes the charter bills currently in the state Senate, expect more of the same: higher school taxes and disappointing news on school performance. Last week, the Pa. House passed a set of bills proffered to “fix” Pennsylvania’s charter school law. Yet the bills fail to address necessary charter school funding reform, and two of the bills (HB 356 and 357) specifically allow charters to expand without adequate oversight. In fact, a proposed amendment to the package that would have required a rigorous charter accountability system failed by a vote of 100-99. Harrisburg — what are you thinking? Just last week, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a study on charter school performance in Pennsylvania that should be sounding alarms in the minds of legislators across the state. Despite decades of investments, Pennsylvania’s charter school students aren’t showing the results promised or hoped for. Student reading performance is similar for charters and traditional public schools, and in math, charter school students are doing worse than their public school peers.

Pa. needs more money for public schools. Not tax credits for private schools | Opinion
By Lawrence Feinberg  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor June 15, 2019
With the Legislature’s recent passage, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s looming veto, of a bill that nearly doubles tax credits for private and religious school by 90 percent, it struck me that there might be value in revisiting our Pennsylvania constitution for some context.
Article III, Section 14 of the state’s foundational document reads like this: “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”
Then there’s Article III, Section 15: “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”
And, for good measure, Article VI, Section 3: “Senators, Representatives and all judicial, State and county officers shall, before entering on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation before a person authorized to administer oaths. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”
Using the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s own Basic Education Funding Formula, it is estimated that 52 percent of our public school students are attending school districts that are underfunded. That’s over 893,000 students on a “waiting list” – waiting for the Legislature to fund that formula and fulfill its constitutional obligation to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education”.

Increasing minimum salary can help to solve the teacher shortage | Opinion
Alan Malachowski, For the Inquirer Updated: 12 minutes ago
Alan M. Malachowski is a music teacher in the North Penn School District and a member of the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools (CAPS).
Over the past 30 years, the cost of living has risen, college tuition has soared, and the education profession has changed dramatically. Yet Pennsylvania’s minimum teacher salaryhas remained on the books at $18,500 per year, unchanged in the school code since 1989. Now there is a legislative proposal, recommended and supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, to raise the minimum salary across the state to $45,000. Why is this so important? There was a time when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued more than 14,000 licenses to new teachers each year. In the last few years, that number has dropped to fewer than 5,000. Pennsylvania, like other states around the country (which other states?), is experiencing a chronic shortage of certified teachers, not only in our urban areas, but here in Bucks and Montgomery Counties as well. What’s more, the problem is most acute in the areas of math and science, which are critical to a twenty-first century education, and special education, where the number of students identified and needing services has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that up to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Experts estimate that the teacher attrition rate is about eight percent annually, with higher rates in urban districts. We need to find ways to not only recruit a diverse educator workforce, but to retain them in our classrooms across the state.

Behrend gets $1 million grant to develop math teachers
GoErie by Ed Palattella  Posted Jun 23, 2019 at 2:00 AM
Penn State faculty using National Science Foundation funding to work with Erie, Corry, Iroquois, Northwestern districts.
Penn State Behrend wants to add to the number of math teachers in Erie County and nationwide. It has a big number to help reach its goal. Behrend received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to partner with the Erie School District and three other school districts in the county to offset teacher shortages in math. Over five years starting this coming school year, Behrend will use the grant to develop what it calls “a pipeline of highly qualified mathematics teachers who are committed to teaching in ‘high-need’ school districts.” The initiative will include scholarships for Behrend students who will teach math after graduation in high-need schools locally or across the country. The other local school districts involved in the Behrend initiative are Corry Area, Iroquois and Northwestern. The U.S. Department of Education defines a school as high need if it is in an area where a large number of students live below the poverty line, where the turnover rate for teachers is high or where a large number of teachers are “out-of-field,” or teaching outside of the academic areas in which they were trained.

Your Guide to Education in the Democratic Debate: Charter Schools, Teacher Pay, and Betsy DeVos
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Evie Blad on June 23, 2019 9:50 AM
The 2020 presidential election will turn on one issue: Education.
Just kidding. It almost certainly won't. 
But there's been more talk of education and education-related issues in the Democratic primary than in some past contests. Candidates have released competing proposals on issues like raising federal education spending, addressing student debt, and boosting teacher pay. And some have criticized charter schools. But education is often left out of presidential debates or barely mentioned at all. Will it come up in the Democrats' first debate this week? And if it does, what are the issues candidates are most likely to comment on? Grab your popcorn and tune in with the Politics K-12 team on our Twitter feed as we watch slates of ten candidates tackle the issues on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Until then, study up on the issues here.

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is August 19, 2019.
Become a 2019-2020 PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for two open Advocacy Ambassador positions. Candidates should have experience in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be responsible for assisting PSBA in achieving its advocacy goals. To achieve their mission, ambassadors will be kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions on legislation. The current open positions will cover PSBA Sections 3 and 4, and Section 7.
PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities. 

PSBA: Nominations for The Allwein Society are open!
This award program recognizes school directors who are outstanding leaders & advocates on behalf of public schools & students. Nominations are accepted year-round with selections announced early fall: 

EPLC is accepting applications for the 2019-20 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Education Policy & Leadership Center
PA's premier education policy leadership program for education, policy & community leaders with 582 alumni since 1999. Application with program schedule & agenda are at 

2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-18, 2019
WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.