Monday, June 3, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 3: Allentown, Bethlehem superintendents: Why tighter controls are needed for charter 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

Both the House and Senate are back in session today. The Senate Education Committee will meet on Tuesday, June 4th to consider several bills including Senate Bill 590 (Sen. Browne, R-Lehigh), which would create a Charter School Funding Commission

Blogger note: Patrick Dowd, Ph.D, serves as the inaugural executive director of Allies for Children, a nonpartisan child advocacy nonprofit championing big and bold policy changes to improve the lives of children in Allegheny County.
Patrick Dowd: Two paths for a bold commitment to Pennsylvania schools
Trib Live Opinion by PATRICK DOWD | Saturday, June 1, 2019 7:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania’s school districts are under strain. Inequity, underfunding and lack of urgency to invest the funding necessary to enact any real progress toward educational excellence is taking its toll on students, teachers, taxpayers and communities. Good schools are the centerpiece of every vibrant neighborhood, the selling point for homebuyers and an imperative to a strong economy. There are two paths before the elected leaders of Pennsylvania. One path continues along a widely traveled road of inaction, underfunding and failure. Today we are asking you to join us on another path — a path that requires political courage, but one that will pave the way for successful students, strong neighborhoods and a solid future. Gov. Tom Wolf has already committed to act by proposing $260 million more for public education in his budget for the next year. That investment may not be all that our schools need, but it is a step in the right direction. The state Legislature must get behind it. Every state representative and senator should commit to immediately support a proposed $260 million education funding increase, with $200 million to be driven through the school funding formula, $50 million for special education, and $10 million more for career and technical education. This would be a strong political statement in support of schools and an essential next step down the path that leads to PA Schools that Work.

“Legislation pending in the General Assembly pushes the charter law in the wrong direction. HB 356 and 357create more risk for students, local districts and taxpayers. We vehemently oppose these bills. The legislation would undermine local control by allowing charter schools, including the poorest performers, to expand without the authorizing district’s knowledge or approval. These new and unbudgeted expenses would wreak financial havoc for the school districts that would have to absorb them.”
Your View by Allentown, Bethlehem superintendents: Why tighter controls are needed for charter schools
Thomas Parker is superintendent of the Allentown School District. Joseph Roy is superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District.
There is little that is more fundamental or more vital to Pennsylvania’s future prosperity than the quality of its public schools, both district and charter. For Pennsylvania to attract new businesses and grow job opportunities for residents, its public schools must provide a high-quality education that prepares all students to become the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
But the commonwealth’s charter school law undermines this possibility for thousands of public school students. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called the 1997 charter law “the worst in the nation.” We couldn’t agree more. Our message to the General Assembly is clear: The need to overhaul Pennsylvania’s charter school law is real and urgent. School districts need better tools to hold charter school operators accountable to families and taxpayers. The commonwealth has an ethical and moral responsibility to its public school students to ensure charter schools are held to the same state academic standards as district schools. It also has a fiscal responsibility to taxpayers to ensure funds invested in charters are a good investment and are safeguarded against misuse. Current charter law falls woefully short on these fronts and many others.

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.

Data Source: PDE via PSBA
Baldwin-Whitehall SD
Bethel Park SD
Chartiers Valley SD
Keystone Oaks SD
Mt Lebanon SD
Pittsburgh SD


This morning there are 70 bipartisan cosponsors on this bill; has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Letter: Cyber charter schools drain resources from public schools
Pottstown Mercury Letter by Larry Cohen, Schwenksville Jun 1, 2019
During the 2016-17 school year, cyber charter schools siphoned almost $20 million out of the pockets of Montgomery County taxpayers. The Pottstown School District alone was hit for $2.2 million. Every time a student from the school district decides to attend a cyber charter, the school district must send the cyber school a "per-pupil" tuition fee. Meanwhile, the school district cannot save money. It still must maintain its buildings and pay faculty. Academic and sports programs though get less funding. As money is literally taken from Pottstown students to give to cyber charter schools, Pottstown taxpayers are forced to make up the difference. Not only do cyber charter schools place a heavy financial load on our public school system, they have no accountability to the district. They generally score poorly on standardized tests and often rank near the bottom of state rankings. Some legislators in Harrisburg are seeking to reverse this unsustainable situation. Senate Bill 34, introduced in January, would require that in order to attend a cyber charter school, families pay out-of-pocket tuition if their home district offers an equivalent cyber-based program. A similar cyber charter reform bill was introduced in the House by Representative Curt Sonney (R-Eire). Some local legislators such as Joe Ciresi (D-147th) and Joe Webster (D-150th) strongly favor this legislation. Other area representatives have not yet signed on. As Pottstown School District hemorrhages dollars to cyber charters, we should encourage our legislators to support cyber charter school reform. For the sake of our students and taxpayers, lets halt this craziness.

“In 2016, Pennsylvania enacted a fair funding formula that takes student need into account when considering how much districts should get. The problem is, because this only applies to new money — that is, increases to the state budget — less than 10% of the state’s basic education budget goes through the fair funding formula. That means more than 90% of state funding is distributed inequitably.”
Your View: How you can help end 'education apartheid’ in Pennsylvania
This op-ed was written by the following members of POWER, a nonprofit, interfaith organization: Phyllis Alexander, Nicole Johns, Renee Burgos, Marlene Armato, Andrea Moselle, Wilhelmina Young, Duane Coleman and Matt Lenahan.
On May 17, the nation commemorated the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that having separate schools for Black and White students is inherently unequal. The landmark decision was seen as a major victory in the civil rights movement. But sadly, Brown’s legacy is not fully realized today, surrounded as we are by lack of educational opportunities for Black and Latinx students. School integration, as a strategy to access equal educational resources, was limited in what it could achieve. Although school integration reached its peak in the 1970s, it has been in decline since, largely due to the court’s ruling in Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, which released districts from court oversight if they had achieved integration. With districts no longer under court order to integrate, today’s levels of school segregation have returned to those of the 1960s. Yet as many activists understand, integration was never the end goal, and so advocates of racial equality in education continue to fight the good fight. Equal educational opportunity is now waged on other grounds: securing adequate and equitable school funding. POWER Interfaith, a statewide faith-based organization, is one such organization working to pressure state legislators to change unjust school funding policies.

Why aren’t dangerous schools a higher priority? | Editorial
The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: June 2, 2019 - 5:56 AM
A scathing 2018 Inquirer report on the dangerous state of aging, crumbling, and hazardous schools throughout the city prompted something unusual: a fast response from both the city and the state. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Philadelphia School District devoted $15.7 million to cleaning up schools, and later, the city passed a law requiring schools to certify they are lead-safe. But all that was still not enough, and now State Sen. Vincent Hughes wants to devote$125 million to repairing and cleaning up schools throughout the state, with $85 million earmarked for Philadelphia schools. Crumbling, aging, ill-maintained school buildings with lead paint, asbestos, outdated systems, and rodents are not just health hazards to our children, but physical symbols of the decades of shortchanging the education of our city’s children, especially the most vulnerable. Environmental hazards make them even more vulnerable, both physically and academically. Hughes’ worthy proposal could cover lead and asbestos abatement, heating, venting and air-conditioning, and the removal of chemicals and toxins from schools, though the money will be far from a slam dunk. Hughes wants to fund part of the cleanup from an $828 million surplus in the state budget, generated in part by high tax revenues. But Republicans are already saying “not so fast” and warning against “spending sprees,” preferring to park a big part of the surplus in the rainy day fund. The fight for those dollars will be fierce. Never mind that in terms of priorities, children being in unsafe and hazardous public buildings should be considered a very rainy day.

To spend or not to spend? Pa. politicians get ready for annual debate
WHYY By Katie Meyer, WITF June 2, 2019
Budget negotiations are getting started at the Capitol, and some Philadelphia Democrats are making it clear that they want the state’s rare surplus to go toward education. Most Republicans, meanwhile, want a different approach. It’s a disagreement that is likely to recur throughout the approval process. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office has reported  that Pennsylvania is going to end the year more than $800 million above budget projections. About half will likely fill a hole in this year’s budget. Senator Vince Hughes, a Philadelphia Democrat who serves as minority chair of the Appropriations Committee, plans to release legislation that would route $125 million of the rest toward fixing schools struggling with issues like lead, mold, and crumbling facilities. “We’re not saying all of the surplus,” he said. “But we’re saying a decent portion of that surplus needs to address this very toxic, very serious issue across Pennsylvania.” In particular, Hughes cited a recent report from the nonpartisan Joint State Government Commission that recommended more lead abatement programs and testing of schools’ water. Hughes said he’d also be open to tapping reserve funds to cover improvements. The Republican majority hasn’t been receptive to doing anything with the surplus but saving it in case of another economic downturn.

Wolf’s school attendance proposal will help students succeed. Here’s how | Opinion
By Karen Farmer White  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor June 2, 2019
Karen Farmer White is the chairwoman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. 
Parents are often advised that children need structure in their lives, from the time they are toddlers through their teenage years. While their minds and bodies are growing and maturing, children don’t always possess the knowledge, skills and experience to make fully informed decisions. Gov. Tom Wolf understands that formal schooling provides this critical structure, but he also recognizes that Pennsylvania’s requirements for when students must start school and how long they have to remain in school are outdated and must be changed to better serve our students. The state Board of Education agrees with the governor, unanimously adopting two resolutions on May 8 supporting the proposal to amend the Public School Code. Wolf’s proposal would lower Pennsylvania’s school attendance requirement from 8 years to 6 years. Pennsylvania is one of just two states in the nation (Washington state is the other) that allows children to wait until age 8 to enroll in school. This compulsory age requirement was established in 1895 and does not reflect the needs of children or families in the 21stcentury.

'I believe in public education': Superintendent who led York City's recovery retiring
Kimberly Strong, York Daily Record Published 10:58 a.m. ET May 30, 2019 | Updated 8:28 a.m. ET May 31, 2019
York City School Superintendent Eric Holmes wants to see a change in the funding model for schools in Pennsylvania
The sketch of a former slave looms large over Dr. Eric Holmes' office, as a reminder to him and everyone who sees the picture that Frederick Douglass rose above his beginnings. Douglass escaped slavery to become an author, activist, ambassador and public speaker.  "It's the possibility that, no matter where you're from or what station in life, you can excel, if you work hard," Holmes said, sitting in his York City School District office just weeks before his retirement as superintendent. He has been a teacher and administrator through 32 years, facing the most difficult challenge six years ago when he took over as superintendent. The district was so financially troubled that the state had assigned a recovery officer, in 2012, to help repair the fiscal damage. "It was challenging times, but I never doubted that it would work out," he said. " Even though things looked pretty grim. ... I believed that public education would win out." The district has rebounded so well that it will apply in June to end its financial recovery status, said Margie Orr, York City school board president. "Our finances now are very good. ... We haven't had to raise taxes for the last six years."  The district built a recovery plan then a second one, drawing on many of the academic components of the first. To be successful, Holmes is clear on this: "If it's not in the plan, we don't do it. It helps us sweep away other ideas." While he admits the district hasn't made "leaps-and-bounds" progress, it's moving in the right direction.

Central High School valedictorian: Education is equity | Perspective
Sasha Hochman, for the Inquirer Updated: May 31, 2019 - 10:00 AM
Sasha Hochman graduated as valedictorian from Central High School on May 31. She gave this speech at commencement and will attend Barnard College in the fall.
Good morning. I would like to take a moment to thank President McKenna, and the assistant principals, Ms. Harrington, Dr. Scott, and Mrs. Vanbuskirk. I want to thank our families, friends, and Central alumni for supporting us and being here today to celebrate our accomplishments. And of course, I want to thank my class of 278. Today, I especially want to thank my teachers. For fostering my curiosity, for answering my questions, my follow-up questions, and my clarifying questions. I want to thank my teachers for pointing out ways to grow that I could never have seen myself. My teachers prepared me with an education in which I learned to be self-reflective and critical enough to recognize the face of inequality. I’m speaking today because I worked hard. I prioritized studying. I motivated myself to finish the chapter, to go to tutoring, to revise my English essay one last time. But that’s only part of the reason why I’m speaking today. I’m also speaking because of the family I was born into. Because my family is middle class, and I could prioritize studying. Because both of my moms are college-educated, they could help me revise my English essay. I’m speaking today partly because of the privileges that accompany having white skin in the United States.

Don’t give up on Harrisburg School District | PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor J. Stacey Ely, Bethlehem, Lehigh County Posted Jun 2, 4:31 PM
On May 9, 2019, the Patriot News published an article titled “Harrisburg tops the state in teacher turnover: Five former teacher on why.” As a former Harrisburg School teacher from 2005-2008, I wanted to offer another perspective. I started my career with Harrisburg School District. I taught first grade at Scott School. After I decided to move back to the Lehigh Valley, I felt guilty for leaving my kids behind. Harrisburg taught me how to manage my class. It taught me how to be firm and consistent but still love and show compassion. Harrisburg helped me understand children and understand they need structure more than anything. It was challenging and it wasn’t easy. The stories I could tell you would break your heart. However, I worked during a time when we had a supportive and forward-thinking superintendent. The district wasn’t scared to make changes and improve their buildings, their students and their teachers. I hope Harrisburg School District finds their way. The kids deserve it.

Ice cream: A treat after school? No, it’s part of class.
Food and culture were a theme of a creative writing class at Boys' Latin High School. The course culminated in a trip to Reading Terminal Market and a lesson on ice cream.
The notebook by Makoto Manheim May 31 — 2:55 pm, 2019
 “It’s good, but there’s some stuff I wouldn’t put in, like the halva.”   Saddiq Robinson was at Reading Terminal Market, tasting ice cream that he and 10 of his schoolmates from Boys’ Latin Charter School had just helped make. He had never before tried halva – a sweet, sesame-flavored Middle Eastern paste that was one of the ingredients. In fact, he had never even heard of it. Nor, for that matter, had he ever made ice cream before.   The field trip was the culminating event of a creative writing course at Boys’ Latin that builds storytelling around food.    “Food allows us to cross geographic and cultural boundaries in Philadelphia,” said Ian Doreian, teacher of the elective course and assistant principal at Boys’ Latin. “Reading Terminal Market is only about 30 minutes by trolley, but to these students, it feels like miles away culturally.”   The purpose of the course, Doreian said, is to provide the students more ways to tell their own stories. “Food is a great frame for self-reflection, self-discovery, and thinking about family,” he noted. “We want to help them learn the history and connect to new foods.” More than half of the students had never been to Reading Market Terminal before, and very few of them had ever eaten ice cream with toppings like halva, funnel cake, or banana chips. Doreian hoped that this trip would help his students reflect on the familial connection that exists in the market and the culture and stories that are woven into each individual merchant’s business.

Ahead of rumored run for Congress, DePasquale drops campaign cash on Facebook ads
PA Capital Star By Stephen Caruso June 2, 2019
Deep in the middle of his second and final term, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s future is a frequent topic of speculation among political observers, who believe the York County Democrat is well positioned to take advantage of a buffet of ballot alternatives  — from governor to senator to congressman — over the next few years. This spring, as rumors of a future run pick up, DePasquale dipped into his campaign coffers, spending slightly less than $24,000 from his state-level campaign account on Facebook ads touting his record, according to Facebook data. DePasquale has been frequently mentioned as possible challenger to a fellow York countian, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District. In March, the National Journal, a publication that covers Washington politics, cited three anonymous sources who said DePasquale was “strongly considering” a run for the seat. A source this month told PennLive the auditor is “seriously leaning” toward making a bid for Congress.

Fred Keller to become 12th District’s congressman Monday, replacing Tom Marino
By John Beauge | Special to PennLive Posted Jun 1, 2019
The region’s newest congressman will be sworn into office Monday evening, filling the seat in the 12th District vacated in January by Rep. Thomas A. Marino. State Rep. Fred Keller, who won a May 21 special election, said Saturday he was told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will administer the oath at 6:30 p.m. According to unofficial election returns, the Republican from Snyder County defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg, a cyber security instructor at Penn State, 89,109 to 41,752, in the sprawling district that extends from Perry County to the New York State line. 

Districts Struggle to Hire Black Teachers. Is the Solution Hiring More Black Principals?
Education Week By Denisa R. Superville on May 31, 2019 3:47 PM
School districts across the country struggle to hire staff that reflect changing student demographics. But could the answer to that ongoing problem lie in developing a strategy to hire more principals of color?   A working paper by Jason Grissom, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, and Brendan Bartanen, a doctoral student at the university, strongly suggests yes. They found that having a black principal at a school increased the likelihood that newly-hired teachers would be black by 5 to 7 percentage points, and that changing from a white principal to a black principal increased the percentage of black teachers by 3 percentage points on average. Black teachers stayed in their roles longer in schools led by black principals—reducing black teacher mobility by 2 to 5 percent, they said. Over time, changing a school's leader from a white to a black principal increased the proportion of black teachers in a school after five years by 5.3 percentage points in Missouri and 5.2 percentage points in Tennessee, the two states that were the subject of the research on how principals' race affect the racial makeup of school staff. The increase in the share of black teachers was accomplished through an increase in the hiring and retention of black teachers. Both black and white principals were more likely to hire teachers who are the same race as they are. That was more evident among teachers who were transferring from one school to another than with novice teachers, the researchers found.  They also found evidence to suggest that having black teachers increased achievement in math for black students. And even in the absence of hiring a black teacher, there were positive math gains for black students under a black principal.

U.S. News makes major changes to high school rankings. How it dramatically changes the results.
Washington Post Answer Sheet by By Valerie Strauss June 1 at 10:00 AM
U.S. News & World Report just published its 2019 “Best High Schools” rankings — and the top 10 looks mighty different from 2018. (It may make you wonder whether the 2018 wasn’t the “best.” But never mind.) Last year, seven of the top 10 high schools were charter schools — six from the same charter chain. In the newly released 2019 rankings, seven of the top 10 are schools from traditional public school systems, most of them magnet schools; three are charters. Last year, the top school was a charter school in Arizona, which dropped to No. 3 for 2019. In the ranking just out, the top campus is a magnet school in South Carolina, which wasn’t in the top 10 last year. Meanwhile, the magnet Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools jumped from No. 10 in 2018 to No. 4 in 2019. Did the schools really change all that much in a year? Of course not. U.S. News says it dramatically changed the way it decides what the “best” high schools are (even though in years past it has assured us those lists represented the “best”) — and, accordingly the results are different. It made the changes, it said, “with students, parents, educators and the general public in mind,” so that the rankings would be “easier to understand, more thorough and include as many schools as possible.”

Philadelphia Public School Notebook 25th Anniversary!
Please join us on June 4, 2019, at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia! 
Teachers, families, public education advocates – come celebrate with us on the last day of the school year.
Every June, 400 public school supporters gather in celebration at the end of the school year. This festive event features awards for outstanding high school journalism, talented local musicians, a silent auction, and the opportunity to speak with the most influential voices in the local education community.
THE NOTEBOOK is thrilled to celebrate our 25th Anniversary on the final day of the school year! Our annual event will be a celebration of this exciting milestone for our nonprofit news organization. Our amazing community has made our decades of reporting possible, and we want to honor you this year: the parents, educators and advocates striving together in support of equity and quality in our public schools.
Our 25th Anniversary speakers will include:
• Stephen Flemming, English teacher and certified reading specialist at Martin Luther King High School, and an adjunct professor at Delaware County Community College
• Robin Roberts, Vocal advocate for high quality public education, public school parent and Director for Parents United for Public Education
• Dale Mezzacappa, Notebook contributing editor and veteran Philadelphia education reporter.

PA League of Women Voters 2019 Convention Registration
Crowne Plaza in Reading June 21-23, 2019
May 22, 2019 – Deadline to get special room rates at Crowne Plaza Hotel 
                            Book Hotel or call: 1 877 666 3243
May 31, 2019 – Deadline to register as a delegate for the Convention
June 7, 2019 – Deadline to register for the Convention

PA Schools Work Capitol Caravan Days Wed. June 5th and Tues. June 18th
If you couldn’t make it to Harrisburg last week, it’s not too late. We are getting down to the wire. In a few short weeks, the budget will likely be passed. Collectively, our voices have a larger impact to get more funding for Pennsylvania’s students. Legislators need to hear from you!  
Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 18th  for our next PA Schools Work caravan days. We’d love to have you join us on these legislative visits. For more details about the caravans and to sign up, go to: . Please call Tomea Sippio-Smith at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 36 or (C) 215-667-9421 or Shirlee Howe at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 34 or (C) 215-888-8297 with any questions or specific requests for legislative meetings. 

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.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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