Friday, June 7, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 7: While we spent over $450 million on tuition, the average student at a cyber charter in Pennsylvania lost 106 days of learning in reading and 118 days in math

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
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HR1878: Glide path for full 40% funding of IDEA now has 95 cosponsors in Congress. Is your PA member of Congress on the list?

When it comes to cyber charters, doing nothing is not an option | Editorial
Public education isn’t simple. Funding it, delivering it, making it equitable for all, are all tough problems to solve. So why ignore education problems that have simpler solutions? Cyber charter schools is one of the biggest. A new report on charter school performance in Pennsylvania raises the latest red flag about cyber charters, showing that this sector of education – that educates over 30,000 students and represents $463 million in spending is not only not bringing improvements, but actually making the situation worse. The Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report is an update of a 2011 report that delves deeply into student performance in math and reading and assesses how charters are faring. The results are mixed at best; brick and mortar charter schools are showing gains for some students over traditional public schools in math and reading, similar performance for some, and negative performance for other students. The clearest, and most troubling finding is that cyber charters show overwhelmingly negative results in academic growth of students. This is not exactly news. Since cybers were authorized in 2002, there have been questions about the money being poured into the sector, the lack of oversight, and the questionable academic performance.

The average student at a cyber charter in Pennsylvania lost 106 days of learning in reading and 118 days in math compared to their “twins” in traditional public schools. Cyber school skeptics say these results prove that the virtual classroom isn’t working for Pennsylvania students, and that the roughly half a billion dollars cyber charters collect each year from taxpayers is a bad investment.”
Cyber charters in Pa. are wildly ineffective, and 3 other takeaways from new Stanford study
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent June 5, 2019
Pennsylvania’s charter school debate attracts a lot of heated rhetoric.
But this week, the conversation got some cold, hard numbers.
The Center for Research on Education Outcomes, a group based at Stanford University, released a deep dive into Pennsylvania’s charter schools, which now serve roughly 140,000 students. Debates about the quality of the growing sector can be especially fraught because comparing schools is rarely an apples-to-apples exercise. A charter school serving many low-income students might not post top results on state tests, but may actually do a better job serving disadvantaged students than a nearby traditional public school. On the flip side, some studies show charters sidestep the toughest-to-serve students, like those with extreme special needs or those who are learning English. These skeptics worry that traditional public schools end up with these cast-aside students, and thus, lower test scores.

REPORT: Commonsense Cyber Charter School Funding Reform
Real reform will eliminate wasteful spending and save $250 million in taxpayer money
Education Voters PA Report 2019
Cyber charter schools have materially lower costs than either traditional public schools or brick and mortar charter schools, where teachers are in the same classrooms as their students. Cyber charter schools deliver their education over the internet to students in their own homes, typically with a laptop computer that is provided by the cyber charter school. They frequently use recorded programs that can be reused in many classes or for students individually. Infrastructure is greatly reduced. Despite this different cost structure, they are paid the same as brick and mortar charter schools. In 2015, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a new school funding formula that based funding on actual student enrollment and other cost factors. This was a major step forward in correcting a decadesold, deeply flawed, and inequitable system of funding public school districts. The legislature has not yet addressed similar flaws in Pennsylvania’s system for funding cyber charter schools. With a nearly $500 million annual price tag, funding of cyber charter schools remains just as flawed as the old system of funding basic education was, and has created ever worsening problems for our state’s school districts and wasted tax monies.
In this report, we recommend adopting commonsense cyber charter school funding reform to eliminate wasteful spending, saving $250 million in taxpayer money, and mitigating the harm that cyber charter schools cause to Pennsylvania’s public school districts.

How much could your school district and taxpayers save if there were statewide flat cyber 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?

Buses filling up for June 12 fair school funding rally
The Phoenix Reporter by Evan Brandt @PottstownNews on Twitter June 7, 2019
POTTSTOWN — Knowing that Pennsylvania's funding gap between rich and poor school districts is the worst in the nation makes Kelly Grosser angry. "It's despicable," said Grosser during a May 20 "Education Equity" workshop at Montgomery County Community College's West Campus in Pottstown. Grosser, youth program director for YWCA Tri-County Area, get's even angrier when she talks about the fact that even when school districts have a similar poverty level, the state funding system provides more dollars per student to districts with more white students. "How do they sleep at night?" she asked, not expecting an answer. She was referring to state legislators who, by failing to apply Pennsylvania's Fair School Funding formula to all public education, perpetuate this racial inequity in Pennsylvania's public education funding. There are fewer of them all the time, as more and more become co-sponsors of House Bill 961, introduced by state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-200th Dist. Most recently, state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th Dist., who represents the southern portion of Pottstown, signed on. That bill would immediately implement the fair funding formula for all Pennsylvania public schools. Under the current system, 52 percent of all public school students in the Keystone state attend under-funded schools, according to Rabb.

HB800: More tax credits? More spending? Lawmakers continue to clash on education.
PA Post by Katie Meyer JUNE 5, 2019 | 3:31 PM
 (Harrisburg) — Republicans in the state House and Senate are briskly moving a bill they say helps low-income students, and that Democrats say is unfairly routing money away from struggling public schools. The proposed increase to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit will likely to be used as a bargaining chip in ongoing budget negotiations. The tax credit goes to people and businesses that donate to private school scholarships or run related programs. It lets them deduct most of that money from their state taxes. The available credits have grown incrementally and substantially since the program started in 2001—often with bipartisan support. This bill goes further than past iterations, however. It would nearly double the amount of credit available and escalate it automatically if at least 90 percent gets used. It would also raise the income cap for eligible families, from $85,000 to $95,000. Chester County Democrat Andy Dinniman, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, has long supported the program. But he said this is too much. “My concern is that we have students sitting in classrooms in some of our schools that have asbestos and lead in those classrooms,” Dinniman said. “We need to make sure some money is given there.” Fellow Democratic Senator Lindsey Williams, of Allegheny County, noted she is concerned there isn’t enough oversight involved with the program. “Every dollar that we draw out is less money for those [public] schools, and those dollars should be spent in a transparent and accountable way,” she said. “We don’t know what’s happening with it.”

Paul Muschick on charter school’s hypocrisy: Public funding, secret spending
I often hear charter schools and their supporters say they are unfairly criticized. Well, here’s an opportunity for one school to build some credibility with the public, and set an example for others. A $4 million gym recently opened at Executive Education Academy Charter School in Allentown. If that gym was at an Allentown School District building, the public would have the right to see how every penny was spent. But the charter school, which gets taxpayer money, doesn’t want to disclose construction spending details, which were sought by Morning Call reporter Jacqueline Palochko. The school rejected her request for the records under the state Right-to-Know Law. The school says it doesn’t possess the records because it didn’t build the gym. It says the construction was done by the building’s owner, the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, and the school is merely a rent-paying tenant. The charter school argues that the foundation is a separate, private, nonprofit entity that doesn’t perform a “governmental function” for the school, so it doesn’t have to cough up those records. Thankfully, the state Office of Open Records rejected that shell game. It said the foundation and the school essentially are the same operation.

As it seeks state control, Education department tries to prevent new action by Harrisburg School Board
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison June 6, 2019
The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Thursday tried a new tactic in its battle to take control of the Harrisburg School District, asking a county judge to prevent the city’s elected school board from approving any new contracts. Education Secretary Pedro Rivera filed the emergency injunction on Thursday morning, the same day that the Harrisburg School Board of Directors is scheduled to hold a special meeting to vote on personnel items. Rivera petitioned Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas earlier this week to put the struggling district in receivership, a move that would require its superintendent and school board to cede almost all their powers to a state-appointed administrator. Among other points, Rivera argued in the petition that the district violated the long-term recovery plan it adopted jointly with the state in 2013 by allowing its superintendent and solicitor to collect paychecks, even though its board has not approved their employment contracts. In his filings on Thursday, Rivera sought to prevent the school board from voting on any new employment contracts until the courts make a decision on receivership.

Should Harrisburg school board members be allowed to make binding decisions as state takeover looms?
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Today 5:00 AM
A Dauphin County judge on Friday will hear arguments on whether Harrisburg School Board members can hire and fire employees and make other binding decisions while a judge considers a petition to appoint a receiver. Attorneys for the Commonwealth on Thursday filed an emergency motion, just hours before school board members intended to meet in a specially-called meeting, to prevent the board members from taking any action that would tie the hands of a receiver, if one eventually is appointed. Judge William Tully granted the injunction, at least temporarily, which prompted the board to cancel Thursday night’s special meeting. Two county deputies interrupted the school board members while they were in a closed, executive session, to serve them with the papers. Tully said he would hear arguments on the injunction at 1:45 p.m. Friday. His temporary order remains in effect until he rules on the emergency motion. If Tully grants the state’s request, board members would be prohibited from creating new— or terminating existing— contracts for goods, services or personnel. It would retain the “status quo” while the court decides whether to appoint a receiver to take over operations of the district.

Big Soda’s big spending in the primary didn’t much threaten the sweetened beverage tax | Clout
Inquirer by Chris Brennan, Updated: 40 minutes ago
Does Big Soda have more money than sense?
The American Beverage Association, closing in on $20 million in spending in Philadelphia since 2016, appears no closer to killing Mayor Jim Kenney’s sweetened beverage tax that pays for pre-K and other city programs. The ABA’s most recent investment — just shy of $1.5 million in the May 21 primary election — didn’t do much to move the needle. Thirty-five percent of that money was spent on television commercials critical of Kenney. He won his Democratic primary bid for reelection with 67 percent of the vote while barely campaigning.

Phoenixville schools budget hikes property taxes 2.23%
PHOENIXVILLE — When the Phoenixville School Board votes Tuesday on setting the new tax rate, it will be based on a budget that was approved last month and will raise property taxes by 2.23 percent. The $94,513,605 budget for 2019-2020 was approved May 16 in a 7-2 vote, with board members Lori Broker and David Golberg voting no. The budget represents a spending increase of $2,842,253 over the current year's budget and includes money for full-day kindergarten, which will be implemented for the first time in the coming school year. For the average residential property in the district, which is assessed at $135,000, the budget will represent an annual increase of $92 over the current average school tax bill of $4,120, according to Christopher Gehris, the district's director of finance. The tax hike of 2.23 percent is less than the Act 1 index of 2.3 percent, the maximum tax hike allowed by the state without a public referendum. No reserve funds were used to balance the budget, according to Gehris.

Pottstown Middle School gets $2M grant over 5 years
POTTSTOWN — Efforts to improve opportunities at Pottstown Middle School have received a $2 million boost from the state. For the next five years, before- and after-school programs at the middle school will receive a $400,000 annual boost through its 21st-Century Community Learning Centers program. Pottstown's was one of 74 out of 99 grant applicants chosen to receive funding and the only one in Berks of Montgomery counties. Four programs in Chester County were also funded.  A total of $22 million out of $30 million in applications were awarded, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In a message to the district, Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said grant funding is "specifically focused on enrichment and academic achievement for all of our middle school students over the next five years," adding, "this programming will be free for any Pottstown Middle School full-time students."

PA Education Leaders to Hold Advocacy Day 2019 in Harrisburg June 18th
PA Principals Association Press Release June 5th, 2019
(Harrisburg, PA) — A delegation of principals, education leaders and staff from the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) will participate in PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day 2019 (#paadvocacyday19) on Tuesday, June 18 at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa., to meet with legislators to address several important issues that are at the forefront of education in the commonwealth. These include: Increasing Basic Education Funding/Special Education Funding/Early Childhood Funding; Revising Act 82: Principal and Teacher Evaluations; Supporting Pre-K Education; Supporting Changes to Pennsylvania’s Compulsory School Attendance Ages; and Supporting and Funding Career and Technical Education.

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.

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