Wednesday, July 10, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 10: Follow the Money: Charter Operator Cost of Doing Business?

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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Just a heads up that with schools out for summer and things quiet at the Capitol we may not strive to publish the PA Ed Policy Roundup every day.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of the dynamics in Harrisburg, from time to time over the years we have published “Follow the Money” charts using data from the PA Department of State’s Campaign Finance Reporting website:

We’ll leave it up to our readers to draw their own conclusions regarding how such contributions may or may not influence policymakers as they go about the people’s business in Harrisburg.

Michael Karp is the founder and board chair of the Belmont Academy and Belmont Elementary Charter Schools in West Philly.  He is also the principal at University Housing Company (UCH), which owns and manages 4000+ apartment units.

The chart below lists over $600,000 in campaign contributions made by Mr. Karp and UCH for PA state offices from 2016 through 2019.

Highlights include $280,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, $160,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $100,000 to House Speaker Mike Turzai, $25,000 to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s Build PA PAC, $25,000 to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, $25,000 to House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, $10,000 to Senate Appropriations Majority Chairman Pat Browne and, for good measure, $10,000 to Senate Appropriations Minority Chairman Vincent Hughes, $10,000 to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and $2500 to Governor Wolf’s Wolf PAC.

University City Housing / BUILD PA PAC
University City Housing/SENATE DEM CAMPAIGN COM 
University City Housing Company / WOLF PAC 


Blogger note: over the past year we have been publishing 2016-2017 cyber charter tuition data. We just received the 2017-2018 data set and will be pushing it out during the summer.

If the state would take on the cost of cyber charter school tuition since the state is responsible for authorizing and overseeing cyber charter schools, it would save school districts $520 million. (PASBO)

If we adopted single, statewide tuition rates for both regular and special education students that were tied to the actual costs of providing cyber education we could save taxpayers $250 million each year. (Education Voters PA)

Jay Costa
Anthony Williams
Wayne Fontana
Lawrence Farnese
Vincent Hughes
Judith Schwank
John Blake
Lisa Boscola
Data Source PDE via PSBA

…And you may ask yourself, "Well... how did I get here?"
If we weren’t spending over $500 million per year on cyber charters this vintage 2002 Inquirer piece might seem quaint. In between his tenure as Secretary of Education under Governor Ridge and his reprise as Budget Secretary under Governor Corbett, Charles Zogby took a six figure administrative jobs at K12 , Inc. Along with Commonwealth Connections, K12 wrote the cyber charter legislation and lobbied heavily to get it enacted.

“Zogby, a strong proponent of alternatives to public schools, has backed cyber schools while working in the Ridge and Schweiker administrations. Last year, Zogby withheld state education money from public school districts that refused to pay tuition for students who transferred to cyber schools. And Zogby lobbied the General Assembly this year to transfer oversight of cyber charters from local school districts to his department. The changes Zogby pushed for were incorporated into a state education budget signed by Gov. Schweiker in June.”
Archive 2002: Zogby said to be in line for job at for-profit schools firm
Inquirer by CHRIS BRENNAN,, Posted: November 27, 2002
Article Publication Date: Nov 27, 2002
Charles Zogby, the state secretary of education and an avowed fan of Edison Schools Inc., is rumored to be joining a private education company when he leaves public office next month. No, it's not an Edison job. Zogby will work for K12 Inc., a for-profit company that operates "home-based public schools" on the Internet, several sources told the Daily News. Zogby 's spokeswoman, Beth Williams, said yesterday that he was not ready to announce where he would work after Harrisburg. "There will be an announcement coming toward the middle or end of December," Williams said. As of now, we really can't confirm or deny anything. " Last week Zogby told the Associated Press that his next job might mean a move out of Pennsylvania. "I want to stay in education. If something comes along in Pennsylvania, that would be great. I'm not necessarily limiting myself to Pennsylvania," he said. Virginia-based K12 was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William J. Bennett, and is a subsidiary of the Knowledge Universe Learning Group, an education conglomerate founded by former junk-bond financier Michael Milken. K12 runs the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, one of seven "cyber schools" in the state. Based in Norristown, the school has 1,800 students in kindergarten through fifth grade from as far away as Erie.

PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison July 9, 2019
By the time Pennsylvania wrapped up another fiscal year on June 30, the state had generated a surplus of more than $800 million — the result, officials say, of strong corporate tax revenues and record-low unemployment.  Some of that money had to cover costs that the state budget hadn’t anticipated. But $317million went into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the Wolf administration announced on Tuesday, which is used to keep government operations funded in the event of an economic downturn. “No one knows what the future holds for the American economy, and even with the best decision making there is always a risk we will have another recession,” Wolf, a Democrat,  said at a Capitol press conference Tuesday. “We need to build up reserves when times are good, like they are now.” Wolf authorized the deposit two weeks ago, when he signed a $34 billion balanced budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. It’s 25 percent higher than the $250 million deposit that lawmakers initially expected to make.

Gov. Wolf: PAsmart is Creating the Skilled Workforce that Businesses Need
Governor Wolf Press Release July 09, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – After delivering on his bold budget plan to invest in education and job training for Pennsylvania workers, Governor Tom Wolf today visited Phoenix Contact USA near Harrisburg to highlight how his PAsmart initiative is expanding apprenticeships and other job training opportunities. “PAsmart is investing in training people to have the skills and experience that growing businesses need to thrive,” said Governor Wolf. “By closing the training gap, we can ensure workers can compete for good, well-paying jobs and every employer can find the talented people it needs to succeed and grow our economy.” The governor launched the innovative PAsmart initiative last year and secured a $10 million increase to $40 million for the program this year. PAsmart provides $20 million for science and technology education, $10 million for apprenticeships and job training, and new this year, an additional $10 million for career and technical education. “Pennsylvania businesses are hiring, but they can’t find enough skilled workers for all of the open jobs,” said Governor Wolf. “PAsmart recognizes that a four-year college isn’t for everyone, but people need the job training that apprenticeships and career and technical education provide.” In the first year of PAsmart, the Department of Labor & Industry awarded grants to more than 100 pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs serving over 2,600 workers. Apprenticeships give workers the opportunity to earn a paycheck while learning and gaining on-the-job training with an employer.

Some Pa. superintendents have been quietly armed in schools — and parents probably don’t know it
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Jen Kinney July 10, 2019
Amid ongoing debate about who can carry guns in Pennsylvania schools, some school administrators have been quietly armed for nearly a year, a Keystone Crossroads investigation has found. According to a lawyer whose firm represents about 50 Pa. school districts, a handful of superintendents have gained permission from county law enforcement officials to carry concealed firearms in their schools without the public’s knowledge. Attorney Ronald Repak, of the Altoona-based Beard Legal Group, gave a presentation at a school safety conference earlier this year, in which he said that his firm had petitioned district attorneys on behalf of administrators who wished to carry firearms in their official capacity. Based on ambiguity in state statute, district attorneys in different counties arrive at different interpretations of the law. Repak recently confirmed that fewer than six of those petitions were successful, and that  administrators in those districts now carry guns. He would not disclose details about which districts or staffers.  There could be other armed staff at districts represented by different firms. ”I will tell you, you probably don’t know who these individuals are, but they are carrying concealed weapons within the school districts because of our petition,” Repak said. The news came as a shock to some education advocates. “I haven’t heard one thing at all about anyone carrying guns,” said Edward Albert, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Rural and Small Schools. 

Editorial: Pennsylvania takes step backward in protecting against lunch shaming [opinion]
Lancaster Online by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD July 10, 2019
THE ISSUE - A provision in Pennsylvania’s 2019-20 budget, which was passed and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf late last month, “allows schools to serve students alternative meals if they have an unpaid balance of $50 or more,” LNP’s Alex Geli reported July 5. State lawmakers approved this update of the school code despite banning “lunch shaming” less than two years ago. Meanwhile, a June 27 article by Geli notes the ban on lunch shaming appears to be costing local school districts more money. “At the end of the 2018-19 school year, parents still owed Lancaster County districts $118,501 on their children’s cafeteria accounts,” Geli reported. It’s frustrating that we must revisit the issue of lunch shaming so soon after we thought it was settled in Pennsylvania. Some background: In autumn 2016, there was national coverage of the lunch policy of Canon-McMillan School District in western Pennsylvania. Cafeteria workers there were barred from serving a hot meal to students who owed more than $25 on their accounts. Instead, those students received a sandwich with a single slice of cold cheese. Cafeteria worker Stacy Koltiska resigned in protest over the policy, telling The Washington Post, “As a Christian, I have an issue with this. It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.” It took a year — which is quick by Harrisburg’s standards — for the state to amend its school code to ban lunch shaming. Pennsylvania forbade forcing students to do chores to pay for lunch and the stigmatization of students (for example, having those on reduced-cost programs wear wristbands). In summer 2017, a few months prior to that legislation, we wrote: “Whatever the reason a student can’t afford to pay for lunch, we can all agree that the child shouldn’t be singled out or publicly humiliated for it. ... We can all agree that every child should get through his school day with at least two things — something to eat and his dignity.”
We still hold that view.

Blogger note: Modernization! The good news is that you will no longer need to keep your microfiche viewers…..
Schools praise new state measure
Sharon Herald By MELISSA KLARIC Herald Staff Writer Jul 8, 2019
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) praises the recent passage of legislation to update and improve the process for state reimbursement of public school construction projects. The PSBA is urging Gov. Tom Wolf to sign Senate Bill 700 into law. The legislation incorporates the recommendations of the Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee to address concerns over the approval process known as PlanCon. The Grove City School District is in the midst of a $37.6 million construction project that will enable grades Kindergarten through fifth to be in the same building. The district is building an addition onto an existing school and renovating it as well. The project has just about reached its half-way mark. Superintendent Jeffrey Finch said the new legislation would not affect their current construction as it was approved under the old PlanCon system. “It’s a good thing if you’re coming from the mindset of the past couple years when they were unsure if they were going to offer funding,” Finch said. Finch had other reasons why the new PlanCon system could be advantageous to schools. “Some of its intent is to make it less cumbersome,” he said. “Helping schools target smaller projects so they could be eligible for efficient growth. Categorizing funds to support school safety and school security.”

National teacher shortage affects Pennsylvania
Observer Reporter by Karen Mansfield Jul 7, 2019 Updated Jul 8, 2019
The United States, including Pennsylvania, is dealing with a teacher shortage.
Since 1996, the number of undergraduate education majors has declined 55%.
Additionally, since 2009, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 71%, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Pennsylvania used to issue licenses to more than 14,000 new teachers annually. In 2016-17, the state issued 4,412. Dr. Diane Fine, a professor at California University of Pennsylvania’s College of Education, has watched the decline in the ranks of students seeking education degrees across all disciplines. Fall enrollment for education majors at the university has dropped below 551 each year since 2014. In the fall of 2018, 452 aspiring teachers enrolled in Cal’s education program, almost 100 fewer than in 2014. “These are definitely challenging times, no doubt, in education. I tell my students that they’re entering teaching at a challenging time,” said Fine. “It is tougher to recruit students into education programs.” The teacher shortage is most pronounced in math and science, with graduates joining the corporate world – including STEM fields – where jobs offer greater pay and stability.

“For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can't be trusted, that teachers can't do their job, that teachers won't do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, "What's wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it's supposed to be done." And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.”
There Is No Teacher Shortage
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Tuesday, January 29, 2019
I've made this point a dozen times in other contexts, but let me take a day to address it directly.
There is no teacher shortage.
Oh, across the nation there are districts that are having trouble filling openings with fully-qualified certified teachers. But there is no teacher shortage. "Shortage" implies a supply problem. Like maybe people are born teachers and for some reasons, the gene pool has just stopped coughing out people with the special teacher genetic code. Or maybe the colleges and universities just aren't recruiting and educating enough proto-teachers. Or teachinmg is a "calling" and apparently there just aren't that many people being called. Or maybe all the teachers are falling through a black hole into that dimension where all the lost socks go.

“Last year, the Palm Beach County school district enrolled 4,555 Guatemalan students in K through 12, nearly 50 percent more than two years earlier. Many of the students come from the country’s remote highlands and speak neither Spanish nor English. The number of elementary school students in K through 5 more than doubled to 2,119 in that same period.”
Schools Scramble to Handle Thousands of New Migrant Families
New York Times By Miriam Jordan July 9, 2019
LAKE WORTH, Fla. — Dayvin Mungia, 7, arrived from El Salvador at South Grade Elementary in South Florida last year with, it seemed, no schooling at all. “He didn’t even recognize the first letter of his name,” said Nicol Sakellarios, his second-grade teacher, as the smiling boy gamely stumbled through his ABC’s in summer school not long ago. “Good job, my love,” she said, prodding him on as he faltered again and again. Laura Martin, 16, who attended school for only three years in Guatemala and speaks an indigenous language, plans to enroll in high school in Florida next month. “Illiterate” and “0” were scrawled on a math work sheet that she tried and failed to complete after she made her way across the border in May. Migrant children arriving in record numbers are creating challenges for school districts across the country. Many of the newcomers have disjointed or little schooling; their parents, often with limited reading and writing skills themselves and no familiarity with the American education system, are unable to help.
Schools in places like Lake Worth, a city near President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort that has become a favorite destination for Guatemalans, are scrambling to hire new staff and add summer sessions to support the newcomers.

PCCY: 2 seconds for $200,000 and a game-changing opportunity for kids
PCCY needs your votes!  We are in the running for a $200,000 Key to the Community Grant from the Philadelphia Foundation! Our idea is simple – give more parents in the Greater Philadelphia region tools, resources and networks to amplify their voices in advocacy and policy impacting our children. To launch the Parent Advocacy Accelerator, we need your help.  The Philadelphia Foundation is running an on-line voting contest. The idea that gets the most votes in a category, wins the grant. Voting is quick and easy at Just scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and vote for the project listed as the Parent Advocacy Accelerator under the “Community and Civic Engagement" category, Every vote, every day counts. VOTE EVERY DAY UNTIL JULY 26! Share with your networks in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, or Delaware and ask them to vote every day, too.
Thank you for your votes and support!

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.

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