Thursday, September 5, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 5: For 2017, Chester Community Charter paid 27% in management fees to GOP superdonor Vahan Gureghian’s company CSMI

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 5 2019

Comparative percent of taxpayer dollars spent on Charter Management Fees:
Mastery Pickett paid 12%
KIPP Philly paid 10%
MaST paid 1%

Blogger note: We inadvertently ran this piece yesterday without the link:

“And that translates into assured big profits for the charter school’s management company, CSMI. According to the CCCS 990 tax return for 2017, CCCS paid Gureghian’s company $18 million in management fees that year. That amount represents 27 percent of all the income that the school received, almost exclusively from taxpayers. In contrast, Philadelphia’s Mastery Pickett Charter School paid about $1.5 million to its nonprofit management organization in 2015 (12 percent of the money it receives almost exclusively from taxpayers) and KIPP Philadelphia Academy paid a little more than $1.2 million (10 percent of the money it receives mostly from taxpayers). MaST Community Charter School, which does not have a charter management organization to which it is obligated, spent $113,491 on management costs — less than 1 percent of its income.
CSMI has not shared how much of $18 million it receives is profit.”
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.

“New cyber charter school applications will require an $86,000 fee to cover the review costs. The fee begins on or after Jan. 1, 2020.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf adds tighter restrictions, costs on charter schools
Centre Square By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square September 4, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf announced a new executive order Wednesday that will require charter schools to pay new fees and comply with a list of regulations. Charter schools that request the Pennsylvania Department of Education to redirect tuition payments to their charter school due to a dispute with a school district will be charged a $15 redirection fee beginning Sept. 15, Wolf announced. The number of redirection requests has increased by 60 percent in the past seven years and the fees are needed to help the PDE recoup its costs, according to a statement by WolfSupporters of charter schools say their popularity is increasing because many do a better job of educating students, and that parents should have a choice where to send their children, particularly when the local public school is failing.

Gov. Wolf announces new fees for Pennsylvania charter schools
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES   | Wednesday, September 4, 2019 3:16 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced that the state Department of Education will enact new fees directed at charter schools. The “fee-for-service model” will charge charter schools to resolve payment disputes with local school districts. It is part of a sweeping charter school reform plan that Wolf announced earlier this month. “These fees will help the Pennsylvania Department of Education recoup costs they are incurring right now by charter schools,” Wolf said during a news conference at Twin Rivers Elementary in the McKeesport Area School District. “This will allow more money to go toward where it should go, tax dollars toward educating our children.” When a student leaves a local school district to attend a charter school — either brick-and-mortar or cyber — state funding follows the student from one school to the other. If there’s a dispute between the local school district and the charter school over transferring those funds, the charter school can ask the state Department of Education to step in. The department processed more than 13,500 such requests in 2018, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, Wolf said.

Gov. Wolf: Charter School Reform Benefits Students and Taxpayers in Southwestern PA
Governor Wolf’s Website September 04, 2019
McKeesport, PA – As part of his three-part plan to address Pennsylvania’s flawed charter school law, Governor Tom Wolf announced today the Department of Education will institute new fees to fund the growing costs of administering the Charter School Law and recoup the rising costs to taxpayers. The fee-for-service model is part of the governor’s commitment to improving charter school quality, accountability, transparency, and outcomes for students, while containing costs. The governor’s proposal includes executive action, overhauling regulations and legislation to reform Pennsylvania’s outdated charter school law. “Pennsylvania’s charter school law is failing students, teachers, school districts and taxpayers,” said Gov. Wolf. “While there are high-quality charter schools, some of them, especially some cyber charter schools, are underperforming. The state and school districts need more tools to hold charters accountable and increase educational quality. “My plan preserves school choice, holds charters to the same standards as traditional public schools, and strengthen education in classrooms across the commonwealth. “Despite costing taxpayers $1.8 billion last year, brick-and-mortar charter and cyber charter schools, and for-profit companies that manage many of them, are not held to the same ethical and transparency standards of traditional public schools.” Governor Tom Wolf is taking executive action, overhauling regulations, and will propose legislation to comprehensively reform the law. The proposal promotes innovation and choice, while ensuring that charter schools are providing a high-quality education and meeting the same standards Pennsylvanians expect from traditional public schools.

 “Yet, thousands of students will begin a new school year in radically different classrooms. Some live in districts that can give them tools that boost skills – seasoned teachers, counselors, adequate supplies, librarians, etc. Many don’t. Their districts must keep raising taxes to cover basic costs. As the recent editorial noted: “Property taxes are a harsh reality” for many and even that revenue is not enough. To get more students prepared and relieve the burden on local taxpayers, the state must adequately fund every school. In 2020, the state can and should do more for our students.”
Letter to Editor: Unequal funding is handicapping too many kids
Delco Times Letter by Martin Stamper September 4, 2019
According to a recent report from the Public Citizens for Children and Youth, 40% of Delaware County families are underwater. PCCY’s report lays the dire situation out at And it’s about to get worse. Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a 150-year-old refinery, is closing. Workers who had good, family-sustaining jobs are looking for other options. If the region’s next generation of workers are to weather this kind of storm, they must be more skilled and adaptable than ever before. Today’s students must enter the workforce with skills that can keep pace with our ever-changing, technology-centered world.

“House Bill 1355 could ensure that all Pennsylvania public schools have access to a certified school librarian, which would be instrumental in aiding student development and improving Pennsylvania’s standing in national education rankings. Ensuring that certified school librarians are involved in our children’s education is an investment, not an expense.”
HB1355: Guest Opinion: Decline in school librarians in PA school districts takes a toll
Intelligencer Opinion By Thomas P. Murt Posted at 5:56 AM September 4, 2019
Grace Devlin and Emilie Vayner from Lower Moreland High School contributed to this article. Rep. Thomas P. Murt represents the 152nd Legislative District which includes Upper and Lower Moreland townships, Hatboro, Bryn Athyn and parts of Upper Dublin and Northeast Philadelphia.
In the 21st century, the need for successful research and accurate information is more profound than ever. With misinformation so prevalent in today’s media and society, the skill of recognizing precise and competent sources of information is critical and should be developed early in a child’s academic career. Certified school librarians possess a vital role in guiding students and assisting them in developing these skills. Despite librarians’ critical importance, some school districts do not provide certified school librarians in every school. Over the past six years, the number of certified school librarians in Pennsylvania has decreased 9%, and in Philadelphia, only 7 of 214 Philadelphia public schools have certified school librarians. The lack of librarians within Philadelphia’s schools can be attributed primarily to inadequate school budgets and insufficient funding for public education. In the eyes of some misguided budget-cutting officials, the increased access to the internet diminishes the necessity for libraries. I have been discreetly advised that some principals in Philadelphia must choose between a certified school librarian or a certified school nurse for their buildings.

“Several board members lamented the fact that third-grade reading scores, which had been a bright spot in the 2018 exam results, had dropped from 56.1% of third-grade students reading proficiently to 50.9%. Third-grade reading is significant because the grade level marks the point at which students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. After third-grade, reading skills are needed to solve math problems and comprehend lessons in other classes.  Udin said of the elementary schools in the Hill District, which he represents, 70% to 80% of students have not been reading at grade level in 2017, 2018 or 2019. (He did not cite specific data points and the test results were not publicly broken down by school on Tuesday.) Udin criticized the district’s reading program ReadyGen, which he said was opposed by teachers.  He said researchers have predicted that students who can’t read by the end of third grade will never be proficient readers and are more likely to drop out of school. “
Stubborn gaps, minor gains and ‘deflating’ drops: A breakdown of Pittsburgh students’ state test scores
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet stayed quiet at Tuesday's district board meeting. In a statement, he said the district would 'drill down' on the falling scores.
Public Source by  Mary Niederberger  September 4, 2019
Pittsburgh school board members heard disappointing news about student test performance Tuesday night. Scores for several grade levels fell, and the district continues to have wide achievement gaps between black and white students.  Reading proficiency rates among third-grade students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools [PPS] have dropped.  Performance by secondary students on the state Keystone Exams in literature, biology and algebra I is down.  And students across the district continue to struggle with math.  In every subject and every grade level tested, black students scored far lower than white students, with percentage-point gaps ranging from 27.1 in eighth-grade math to 40.9 in algebra. Though the gap was smallest among eighth-grade students in math, just 8.2% scored proficient.  “We cannot continue to allow failing performance to be normalized,” school board member Sala Udin said after results were presented at the Tuesday board meeting.  Board president Lynda Wrenn called the results “rather deflating.”  Wrenn, along with Udin and fellow board member Regina Holley voiced particular concern about the drop in third-grade reading scores. 

Toyota dealership pays off student meal debt
Beaver County Times By Patrick O’Shea  Posted Sep 2, 2019 at 5:10 PM
With one check, large debts that have hung over three local school districts and some parents have been wiped out. Baierl Toyota of Cranberry Township has agreed to give the Ellwood City Area School District $22,181 to pay off all the outstanding debt incurred by students for meals eaten at its four school buildings over the last several years. The car dealership also agreed to send $20,000 each to the Big Beaver Falls Area and New Brighton Area school districts for programs there. Joseph Mancini, Ellwood City Area superintendent, said Thursday that about 800 students owed amounts ranging from $5 to $300 affected by the donation. He said it will take some time for district officials to get into individual accounts and credit them, so some parents might still see a delinquency note until then. Mancini said the donation “helps the community, helps parents and helps our kids. ... It does a lot for us.” He added, “This lets every kid start off with a clean slate.” The Ellwood City Area School Board has debated how to handle the lag in getting payment at times for meals, sometimes not seeing the money until a student reaches graduation, which can create a delinquent bill of several hundred dollars. The board has discussed adding finance or late fees to delinquent accounts.

 “The $12.43 billion in abated value translates into an estimated $109 million in actual property tax revenue that will be foregone by the city and school district next year, according to city projections.”
Who benefits most from Philly’s tax abatement? Center City developers
WHYY By Ryan Briggs September 5, 2019
When Philadelphians think about the city’s 10-year tax abatement, many picture the ostentatious mega-rowhouses that have sprouted in historically working-class neighborhoods, igniting controversy along the way. But if residents want to see where most of those tax breaks are going, they might be better off looking at the downtown skyline. Just 1,700 structures, mostly concentrated in the city’s commercial core, will account for $6.39 billion in abated tax value next year. That’s more than half of the $12.43 billion total abated in the fiscal year, according to the city’s 2020 property tax revenue projections. Most of these properties are apartment buildings, hotels or large commercial and industrial properties. The 13,900 other buildings that received the abatement, mostly rowhouses or other single-family home, added up to a smaller $5.19 billion in abated tax value. “A new townhome gets built in a working-class, rowhome neighborhood, and they’re getting the abatement, and it’s a three story home on a block that’s all two-story, and they’re gentrifying the neighborhood. That’s the most visible abated property to the average Philadelphian,” said economist Kevin Gillen, a Building Industry Association of Philadelphia board member.  “But the reality is that most of the abated properties are heavily concentrated in and around Center City. And they’re mostly commercial or multifamily.”

South Philly teen is city’s new youth poet laureate
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: September 4, 2019- 6:44 PM
Mia Concepcion, a 17-year-old high school student from South Philadelphia, is the city’s new youth poet laureate. She was awarded the title Tuesday during a ceremony at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s central branch. Concepcion is a senior at Science Leadership Academy, a poetry powerhouse that produced four out the first six young people to earn the title. She succeeds Wes Matthews, another SLA student. She got interested in poetry as an eighth grader at Meredith Elementary, and was quickly hooked. She joined SLA’s slam poetry team as a freshman and was published in an anthology by the time she was a sophomore. “It took off from there, and I haven’t stopped since,” said Concepcion, who applied for the city post and was chosen from a competitive pool, officials said.

Jennifer Elliott: Pennsylvania school screenings missing vital asthma test
Trib Live Letter by JENNIFER ELLIOTT | Wednesday, September 4, 2019 7:00 p.m.
With students back in class, schools across the state are providing annual vision and hearing screenings to help ensure student well-being. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not mandate a screening for the most common chronic childhood disease: asthma. Such screenings should be required in Pennsylvania, which has the second highest percentage of children suffering from asthma in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A 2017 Allegheny Health Network study found that of more than 1,200 Western Pennsylvania school children, 24% suffered from asthma, as compared to the national average of 8.3% as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics. In my work in the Pittsburgh region, I’ve screened thousands of students for asthma and personally seen how the disease affects parents and their children. The impact on their lives is significant. Asthma is one of the top reasons for missed school days, causing students to not only fall behind in their classes but also miss opportunities to socially interact with peers, take on an active lifestyle or participate in sports. Without treatment, these children face an uphill battle to keep up.

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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