Wednesday, September 4, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 4, 2019 How big a mess is Pennsylvania’s charter school sector? This big.

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.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 4, 2019

“Federal data collected in 2015 showed that across the entire country, Pennsylvania had the highest gap between how much the wealthiest and lowest-income districts in the state spend per student. Compared to the wealthier districts, those districts with the highest poverty levels received one third fewer tax dollars per pupil.  This disparity comes from the high percentage of education funds coming from local taxes rather than state-allocated funds. According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, about 58% of funds received by school districts throughout the state came from local taxes during the 2017-18 school year, while only 38% came from the state.”
Editorial: Lawsuit could be a step towards equity in Pa. education funding
A lawsuit claims that Pennsylvania public school funding is unfair because it relies too heavily on local tax dollars and discriminates against underprivileged districts.
By The Pitt News Editorial Board SEPTEMBER 3, 2019
Many students are going back to school this week, but not all students will have the same resources or education available to them. There are major differences in what each Pennsylvania school district is able to pay towards each student’s education. This has been a problem in the state for a long time, but we may have new reason to hope for change in the form of a lawsuit filed by a couple of law centers and multiple Pennsylvania school districts. Where the state government has failed to solve the problem, this lawsuit could be a step towards a solution. The lawsuit argues that Pennsylvania doesn’t meet constitutional requirements because the state doesn’t give enough money to districts to fund their schools. Districts must rely heavily on local property taxes, which causes inequities between wealthy and non-wealthy areas. The lawsuit therefore claims that the state discriminates against districts with lower property tax revenue, which are typically lower-income areas.

Former PA schools chief says state needs to examine cyber enrollment practices
Sunbury Daily Item By John Finnerty Aug 30, 2019
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania needs to examine the way cyber schools are funded and explore whether there should be criteria used to determine if students should be allowed to study online at home, former state Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said Friday. Ensuring that children who turn to online classes can succeed is vitally important because too often students quickly fall behind their peers if they unsuccessfully try cyber school enrollment, Zahorchak said. Zahorchak served as Education Secretary during the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Cyber schools may be fine for students who’d otherwise be home-schooled, he said. For students who are trying to avoid public schools because of behavioral problems or are just unwilling to show up for school every day, the cyber programs only make matters worse. A recent analysis by researchers at Stanford University found that in Pennsylvania, “students lose an academic year in math and reading for every year they spend in cyber school,” Zahorchak said. The Education Commission of the States found that of the 44 states that have charter schools, only 22 allow students to enroll in schools that offer classes online. “Pennsylvania’s current legislation seems to have the least amount of accountability and the only illogical funding system,” Zahorchak said. There are 140,000 children enrolled in charter schools in Pennsylvania, about 37,000 of them enrolled in online-based schools, according to the Department of Education. Charter schools and cyber schools, in particular, have become a hot-button subject at the Capitol.

Chairman Roebuck commends governor’s commitment to charter school reform
Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. Website    September 3, 2019 | 3:43 PM
State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., and Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, released the following statement applauding Gov. Tom Wolf’s most recent charter school reform plan: 
“While I do support charter schools, I believe major revisions are needed to the 22-year-old law regarding the governance, financing and accountability of charter and cyber charter schools. 
“My mission has been to ensure that the original intent of the charter school law, which asserts that charter schools were to be innovative and to offer policies to be replicated, continues to be upheld in order to protect students and taxpayers. But we have not yet seen one substantial report that charter schools have created any educational model which could be replicated by other public schools.  “Now, thanks to Governor Tom Wolf, with whom I am working closely, the charter schools will have to meet more requirements to improve accountability and transparency.
 “Over the past several legislative sessions I have pushed initiatives that would improve and strengthen charter school accountability. Most recently, we have introduced several individual bills calling on our colleagues who are concerned with public education in our state to move forward several measures, including imposing limits on fees charged for organizational management to making sure funds collected by charter schools for special education match the actual cost of special education services provided.   “Since charter schools and cyber charter schools are public schools, they are funded by public taxes. Governor Wolf wants to assure us that these schools are using public tax money wisely and fairly.  “Perhaps Governor Wolf’s new initiative, coupled with our continuing efforts, can rectify this.”

The governor is vowing to restructure it.
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss Reporter September 3 at 3:08 PM
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has been making charter-school supporters in his state mighty unhappy. The charter sector in Pennsylvania has long been beset by fraud and a lack of transparency and accountability. In fact, in 2016, the state’s auditor general called the state charter law the “worst” in the nation. Now Wolf has raised the ire of supporters of charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — referring to the “growing cost of privatization of our public schools” while discussing cyber charters. Meanwhile, a recent news release issued by the governor’s office said he wanted to stop the drain of public resources from traditional public school districts that instead are going to these schools: “Pennsylvania must help school districts struggling with the problem of increasing amounts of school funding siphoned by private cyber and charter schools.” Calling these schools “private” angered charter supporters, who say they are public because they are publicly funded (though not accountable to the public in the same way school districts are). Now Wolf is moving ahead to try to change the charter sector in his state in the absence of movement from the Republican-led legislature. In August, he said he would, among other things, use executive power to make sure charters are held to the same “ethical and transparency standards of public schools,” and allow school districts to cap the number of charters. This post looks at the state of the charter sector in Pennsylvania, the reality that Wolf is trying to change. It was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who serves as executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group for public schools. Burris was named the 2010 Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Burris has been chronicling problems with modern school restructuring and school choice for years on The Answer Sheet.

Curmudgucation: PA: Poorer Districts Worst Hit by Cyber Schools
National Education Policy Center by Peter Greene September 3, 2019
A study released in February shows that poorer school districts are bearing the brunt of funding Pennsylvania's cyber schools. The study was published in the American Journal of Education, and you can tell it's serious because its title is painfully dull: Cyber Charter Schools and Growing Resource Inequality among Public Districts: Geospatial Patterns and Consequences of a Statewide Choice Policy in Pennsylvania, 2002–2014.
Bryan Mann (University of Alabama) is a professor of education policy and foundations, and co-author David Baker (Penn State) is a professor of sociology, education and demographics. As the title suggests, they looked at the changes in cyber enrollment and the patterns and financial costs of that enrollment from 2002 to 2014. And because it's behind an academic paywall, we'll have to depend on second-hand reporting of the results, as well as their own writing about it..
The abstract of the study, translated from heavy academese, boils down to this:
When cyberschools started, everyone said, "Cool! Computers! I bet that'll make kids damned smart!" But then it turned out that cyber schools don't actually school well at all, and as word got out in the media, upscale communities ditched it, while enrollment in poorer areas kept up. So now districts with low tax bases are losing "significant revenue" to the cybers, despite the "dubious academic benefits." From the anecdotal perspective of someone who taught in a less-wealthy rural-ish district, that sounds about right. There are several other takeaways from the study, all worth noting. The study confirmed many of the usual criticisms of the cybers. Because Pennsylvania's payment system for cybers is an unholy mess that only a cybercharter lobbyist could love, the cybers are crazy profitable.

My child may have died without school choice | Opinion
Penn Live Opinion By Colleen Cook Posted Sep 3, 8:06 AM
Colleen Cook is a veteran of the United States Navy, parent of three children who have used charter school options, and president of the National Coalition of Public School Options. She lives in Oklahoma.
When I see Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf trying to close Pennsylvania’s charter schools, I cannot help but think of what that would have done to my family if we didn’t have school choice in Oklahoma. Legislators in Pennsylvania should know that my oldest son – a well-behaved, honor-roll student – attempted to take his own life. Internal struggles had changed school from a place of learning to a place of fear and despair for him. Feeling trapped, he almost succeeded in taking his own life and shattering ours. Following this near tragedy a few important things happened: My son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a diagnosis that helped him understand why he was feeling so lost. And I moved him and my two other children out of public school and into a virtual public school where they could learn in an environment better suited to their needs. That experience inspired me to become more involved in Oklahoma and nationally as a voice in support of the school choice that not only saved, but changed my son’s life. I now serve as president of the National Coalition for Public School Options, an organization dedicated to promoting all school choice options and empowering parents to choose what’s best for their families. Our mission is neatly summed up by our motto: #ITrustParents. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf does not seem to trust Pennsylvania parents. He believes he knows what’s better for children. Among his attacks on charter schools, he claims Pennsylvania charters aren’t accountable.

Dinniman: New School Year Means Later School Start Times for Some
Senator Dinniman’s Website August 27, 2019
With many schools returning to session this week, some middle and high school students may find themselves struggling to rise and shine when the first bell rings. Others are already enjoying a few more extra minutes of shuteye compared to last year. Meanwhile, the question of instituting later secondary school start times is the subject of a soon-to-be-released report by a special Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) advisory committee. The committee, established by legislation introduced by Dinniman, is expected to release its report by mid-October. Under Senate Resolution 417, the study will include an assessment of the health, academic and safety benefits associated with them, as well as any potential negative impacts.

Your View by state legislator: Why all of Pennsylvania needs high-speed internet service
State Rep. Pam Snyder asserts that many Pennsylvanians lack access to broadband internet service which is capable of moving much more information faster than older methods. The lack of access is leaving residents behind in education, work and services, Snyder contends. State Rep. Pam Snyder represents the 50th District, which includes Greene, Fayette and Washington counties.
Imagine the following scenarios:
A sixth grader, who is trying to finish an online project, can only complete this assignment while sitting in her parent’s car in the parking lot of her school.
A physician, whose patient lives more than an hour away, wants to utilize remote patient monitoring technology, but is unable to do so.
A large employer is considering relocating to Pennsylvania, bringing with it the potential of hundreds of jobs and community investment, but has decided against it.
What’s the common denominator in each of these scenarios? Unreliable broadband internet service. For the past three years, I have been pushing for all Pennsylvanians — rural, urban and suburban — to have access to reliable, affordable broadband access, regardless of the county in which they reside. In particular, the more rural and less densely populated areas of our state have been most affected by this lack of access.

Opening day at a Philly school that reflects the district’s triumphs and tribulations
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent September 3, 2019
 “It’s a pretty good, quiet corner,” said Robinson as she watched for the first group of crossers for the 2019-20 school year. “Sometimes it’s a little congested when the busses are here and the adults get a little antsy.” When Robinson started here, there were a lot of antsy adults in Philadelphia. The city’s public school system was stuck in yet another budget crisis, and newly appointed Superintendent William Hite had recently shuttered about two dozen schools. Now, Hite and Mayor Jim Kenney can point to progress. The books are balanced. All of the unions representing school employees have contracts. And there are modest signs of academic growth — in both graduation rates and standardized test scores.

The promise of the first day: It’s back to school for Philly students
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: September 3, 2019- 3:58 PM
Across the city, hundreds of bells rang as the Philadelphia School District marked the official opening of the 2019-20 school year for 124,000 students in traditional public schools. An additional 70,000 students attend 89 city charters, many of which began their terms before Tuesday. The district has hired 700 new educators, some of them for new positions. It is adding teachers for English-language learners, social workers, and nurses. It also added air-conditioning at six schools, though the vast majority of district buildings remain un-air conditioned. This will be a crucial year for the school system, as it embarks on a comprehensive planningprocess to address enrollment shifts citywide. Officials have said some schools could close as a result of the work, which will take place over several years. Other schools might open, and school boundaries could change.

School opens Tuesday in Philly with bell-ringing and high hopes for the new year
Educating children is "the single most important thing that we do," said Mayor Kenney. He said he hopes there is momentum this year to reform the state's charter school law.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. September 3 — 3:02 pm, 2019
The Philadelphia School District officially launched its new academic year Tuesday morning with the traditional ringing of the schoolhouse bell and the equally traditional burst of optimism from students, staff, and administrators alike. “Students, are you ready for a great school year?” asked Superintendent William Hite as he stood on the playground, bell in hand, at Morris Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion. “Yeah!” answered the gathered students, with bells of their own ready to ring.  “So am I,” responded Hite, and they rang the bells. The superintendent then rattled off a list of new additions that his team hopes will help District schools improve their climate and academic performance across the system. Among this year’s changes: adding 700 new teachers, modernizing 132 classrooms, improving access to counseling and nurses, expanding Career and Technical Education programs, and adding “150 air conditioners – with more to come,” said Hite.

Pittsburgh Public School board members frustrated over state test scores
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette SEP 3, 2019
Pittsburgh school board members expressed their frustration Tuesday night that students’ state test scores either remained flat or didn’t improve as much as they would have liked for 2019. The Pittsburgh Public Schools administration presented the most recent test scores to the board at an education committee meeting. Districtwide, the percentage of students who achieved proficient or advanced in English increased from 46.2% to 47.3% over last year, but with declines in third and eighth grade. The number of students who scored proficient or advanced in math remained about the same, at 28.7%. Overall, the number of students who achieved proficiency in science increased from 46.2% in 2018 to 49.8% in 2019. Student performance on the high school Keystone exams decreased slightly in all three subjects. “We are pleased with the steady progress we are seeing in student performance on the PSSA, and encouraged to see that the hard work of our teachers, administrators, staff and students is bearing fruit,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in a statement after the meeting. “While we would have preferred to see a third year of positive results on the Keystone exams, we intend to drill down into the reason behind the decline and address contributing factors.”

How School Nurses Can Help Principals Combat Student Vaping
Education Week By Denisa R. Superville on August 28, 2019 6:35 PM
Educators are grappling with widespread student vaping and use of e-cigarettes in schools, a problem my colleague Arianna Prothero and I wrote about this week. While some schools are doubling down on a discipline-heavy, punitive approach to students found with vaping devices and e-cigarettes on campus, the National Association of School Nurses says principals and educators must be mindful of the addictive nature of nicotine in any response to the vaping "epidemic." Any policies used to address vaping should incorporate education, intervention, and efforts to help students quit, the association says. "Our organization believes that when students become exposed to an addictive substance, that school districts consider, in this case, smoking cessation programs as a necessary intervention for those students, and that that should be embedded into any procedure that addresses tobacco use on campus," said Laurie G. Combe, the president of the National Association of School Nurses. About one-third of U.S. high school and middle school students reported exposure to second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes in 2018, an increase from about a quarter between 2015 and 2017, according to a research letter posted on JAMA Open Network on Wednesday. About half of those students said they were exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke from traditional cigarettes, according to the letter. Our story this week, included interviews with two registered nurses, Elizabeth Blackwell, a school nurse, and Stephanie Faren, the director of health services in Colorado's Boulder Valley school district, who are working with schools and the city on a comprehensive public health approach to an increase in vaping in the community.

Walmart to stop selling handgun ammunition
Trib Live ASSOCIATED PRESS  | Tuesday, September 3, 2019 1:43 p.m.
NEW YORK — Walmart says it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and also publicly request that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it. The announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas and follows two other back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling short-barrel and handgun ammunition, including .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. It will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from handguns and allowing it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 28 - September 3, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on September 3, 2019 - 2:22pm 
As evidence of the many failures of test-driven school "reform" continues to mount, more parents, educators, and community leaders are organizing effective campaigns to roll back standardized exam misuse and overuse. Use these models to build victories in your home state.  

The Monarch Monitoring Project is a long-term study on monarch migration through Cape May, NJ. It is a part of the New Jersey Audubon Research Department, and closely affiliated with the Cape May Bird Observatory. 

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website  or email

EPLC/DCIU 2019 Regional Training Workshop for PA School Board Candidates Sept. 14th
The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Center will conduct a regional Full Day Workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates at the DCIU on September 14, 2019.
Target Audience: School Board Directors and Candidates, Community Members, School Administrators
Description: Full Day Workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates. Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. The workshop will include Legal and Leadership Roles of School Directors and School Boards; State and Federal Policies: Implications for School Boards; School District Finances and Budgeting; Candidates and the Law; Information Resources; "State and Federal Policies" section includes, but is not limited to: K-12 Governance; PA Standards, Student Assessment, and Accountability; Curriculum and Graduation Requirements; K-12 State Funding; Early Education; Student Choices (Non-Public, Home Schooling, Charter Schools, Career-Technical, and more); Teacher Issues; Linking K-12 to Workforce and Post-Secondary Education; Linking K-12 to Community Partners
***Fee: $75.00. Payment by Credit Card Only, Visa or Mastercard, PLEASE DO NOT SELECT ANY OTHER PAYMENT TYPE*** Registration ends 9/7/2019

“Each member entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 23 – Oct. 11, 2019).”
PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2019, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 15th at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).

In November, many boards will be preparing to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This event will help attendees create a full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Register now:
PSBA: Start Strong: Developing a District On-Boarding Plan for New Directors
SEP 11, 2019 • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
In November, many boards will be faced with a significant transition as they prepare to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This single-day program facilitated by PSBA trainers and an experienced PA board president will guide attendees to creating a strong, full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Grounded in PSBA’s Principles for Governance and Leadership, attendees will hear best practices from their colleagues and leave with a full year’s schedule, a jump drive of resources, ideas for effective local training, and a plan to start strong.
Register online at MyPSBA: and click on “MyPSBA” in the upper right corner.

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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