Friday, February 14, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb 14, 2020: Estimated Charter Reform Savings for Selected School Districts

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 for Feb 14, 2020

Estimated Charter Reform Savings
for Selected School Districts
Penn Hills SD
Pittsburg SD
Wilkinsburg SD
Woodland Hills
Ambridge Area SD
Reading SD
Bensalem Twp SD
Bristol Twp SD
Coatesville Area SD
West Chester Area SD
Keystone Central SD
Central Dauphin SD
Harrisburg City SD
Chester Upland SD
Southeast Delco SD
Upper Darby SD
William Penn SD
Erie SD
Scranton SD
Lancaster SD
Allentown SD
Wilkes Barre SD
East Stroudsburg Area SD
Pleasant Valley SD
Pocono Mountain SD
Norristown Area SD
Pottstown SD
Bethlehem Area SD
Philadelphia SD
York City SD
Source: PA House Appropriations Committee (D)

Blogger note: support Governor Wolf’s proposed charter reforms:
Reprise: PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb 10, 2020
1. Adopt resolution for charter funding reform
2. Ask your legislators to cosponsor HB2261 or SB1024
3. Register for Advocacy Day on March 23rd

Adopt: the 2020 PSBA resolution for charter school funding reform
In this legislative session, PSBA has been leading the charge with the Senate, House of Representatives and the Governor’s Administration to push for positive charter reform. We’re now asking you to join the campaign: Adopt the resolution: We’re asking all school boards to adopt the 2020 resolution for charter school funding reform at your next board meeting and submit it to your legislators and to PSBA.

Cosponsor: A 120-page charter reform proposal is being introduced as House Bill 2261 by Rep. Joseph Ciresi (D-Montgomery), and Senate Bill 1024, introduced by Senators Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) and James Brewster (D-Allegheny). Ask your legislator to sign on as a cosponsor to House Bill 2261 or Senate Bill 1024.

Register: Five compelling reasons for .@PSBA .@PASA .@PAIU school leaders to come to the Capitol for Advocacy Day on March 23rd:
Charter Reform
Cyber Charter Reform
Basic Ed Funding
Special Ed Funding
Register at

Advocates want Gov. Tom Wolf to declare Philadelphia schools ‘disaster’ area because of asbestos
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Wendy Ruderman, Updated: February 13, 2020- 2:05 PM
A group of federal and local officials are preparing to ask Gov. Tom Wolf to issue a formal disaster declaration for the Philadelphia School District, citing the growing number of school closures because of potentially toxic asbestos exposure. Their push, expected to be detailed Thursday at a 4 p.m. news conference, came as district officials closed two more city schools — Barton Elementary in Feltonville and Sullivan Elementary in Frankford — because of damaged asbestos. So far this school year, nine schools and an early-childhood program have been shut because of the potentially toxic danger to children and staff. A declaration by Wolf would allow authorities to apply for federal disaster funding to expedite the cleanup and reopening of the schools. There is precedent: In 2018, Wolf formally declared a state of emergency over the opioid epidemic, a move that allowed the state broader latitude to fight what officials consider a public health emergency. Jerry Jordan, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president, said that a Philadelphia declaration was necessary “because we need something to happen now. Children attend this school system, and our members are working in these buildings every day."

In a damning audit, Indiana calls on two virtual schools to repay $85 million in misspent state funds
Chalkbeat By Stephanie Wang  February 12, 2020
A special investigation by state auditors found that officials from two Indiana virtual charter schools misspent more than $85 million in state funding by inflating enrollment and funneling millions to a tangled web of related companies. In what has become one of the nation’s largest virtual charter school scandals, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy officials showed “substantial disregard” for following the rules and may have “focused on maximizing profits and revenues by exploiting perceived vulnerabilities” in local oversight and state funding processes, the report said. The state auditors’ scathing report, released Wednesday, follows a series of Chalkbeat investigations revealing financial conflicts of interest at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy and their dismally low academic results. The two virtual charter schools shut down last summer after allegations of enrollment fraud first emerged. The state report seeks repayment for more than $85 million in public dollars inappropriately spent on companies connected to school officials. In the past three years, the two schools sent 83% of their total funding to related companies, the report found. According to the report, the misspent funds include more than $68 million that the schools improperly collected from the state — far more than initially reported — by recording inactive students more than 14,000 times over eight years.

‘Anytime Joe would speak, members listened.’ After two decades in Harrisburg, Scarnati leaves a complicated legacy
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison February 13, 2020
Back in 2018, the top Republican in the Pennsylvania state Legislature offered some simple advice for anyone nearing the end of their career in public office. “Don’t wait to be pushed out the door,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, told State Legislatures Magazine at the time. “Don’t wait for the ballot box to push you out or a subpoena or a coffin. Go out on top.” After almost two decades in the Republican-controlled Senate, Scarnati is apparently putting those words into practice. Scarnati, whose Jefferson County-based district covers wide swaths of northern Pennsylvania, announced Wednesday night that he would retire at the end of the year to spend more time with his family. The  announcement came just weeks after House Speaker Mike Turzai, the top-ranking Republican in the lower chamber, announced that he, too, was retiring at year’s end. Their twin departures opened a yawning — and rare — power gap in the 253-member General Assembly.

Guest column: Gov. Wolf on right path to reform Pa. charter schools
West Chester Daily Local Opinion By Susan Spicka Guest columnist Feb 12, 2020
Susan Spicka is executive director of Education Voters of PA, an advocacy group that works to ensure elected officials adopt and implement a pro-public education agenda.
In the upcoming months, school districts will prepare budgets for the next fiscal year and make the hard decision about whether to increase property taxes to deal with rising costs. One of the fastest growing costs for all school districts is charter schools — publicly funded, privately operated schools that offer education wholly online or at a site within a community. School districts pay 100% of charter school tuition bills, and rapidly increasing tuition payments are a top reason that property taxes continue to rise. Although charter school students represent only 8% of all public school students, in 2017-18, 37 cents of every new property tax dollar raised was sent to a charter or cyber charter school. Pennsylvania taxpayers are spending more than $1.8 billion on tuition bills for students to attend charter and online cyber charter schools. Tuition rates are set by the state, but flawed calculations in Pennsylvania’s 22-year-old charter school law mandate payments well beyond the cost to educate a child. After more than 20 years, the time has come to retool charter funding to bring payments in line with the costs, eliminate questionable and wasteful spending by charters, and bring property tax increases under control. Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a funding plan that will do just that: eliminate overpayments and provide $280 million in savings to school districts while providing sufficient funding to allow charter schools to appropriately serve students. Wolf’s proposal should receive the enthusiastic support of Pennsylvania taxpayers and state lawmakers alike.

30 power-players, rising stars and influencers with the most punch in Pennsylvania politics
Lancaster Online by BRAD BUMSTED + SAM JANESCH + MIKE WERESCHAGIN + PAULA KNUDSEN | The Caucus Feb 12, 2020
They live and work in the top tier of the pecking order in Pennsylvania politics. They raise lots of campaign money. They amass clout on their way to  leadership roles. They get things done. They are the elite. The Caucus set out to identify the most powerful and influential figures at the Capitol and across the state. We looked at who makes things happen — who gets stuff on the Legislature’s agenda or before a state agency, plays a big role in helping lawmakers or governors win elections, or gets a matter considered that conventional wisdom dictates had little chance. We looked at whose power is ascending. Who’s already got clout but is on a path to perhaps becoming among the top leaders in the General Assembly, Congress, U.S. Senate or statewide office? Who’s distinguished themselves from colleagues by being forceful, taking chances and succeeding sometimes by sheer will? We looked at who has a knack for raising campaign money, who can get just about anyone in the state to take their phone call. Here’s a list of who we came up with.

Trump’s words, bullied kids, scarred schools
The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Post found
Washington Post By Hannah NatansonJohn Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein Feb. 13, 2020
Two kindergartners in Utah told a Latino boy that President Trump would send him back to Mexico, and teenagers in Maine sneered "Ban Muslims" at a classmate wearing a hijab. In Tennessee, a group of middle-schoolers linked arms, imitating the president's proposed border wall as they refused to let nonwhite students pass. In Ohio, another group of middle-schoolers surrounded a mixed-race sixth-grader and, as she confided to her mother, told the girl: "This is Trump country." Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period.

After seeking to cut charter program, education department calls backers ‘desperate’
Chalkbeat By Matt Barnum  February 13, 2020
When President Trump’s budget plan was released earlier this week, one cut stood out: a program that funnels federal dollars to charter schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long been a charter-school advocate, with charters fitting under the umbrella of her favored policy, school choice. But that was apparently outweighed by an interest in a longtime conservative goal: a smaller education department that hands more control over to states. The plan has frustrated charter advocates. On Thursday, though, the education department made clear that it isn’t backing down. “The federal lobbyists for charter schools sound a lot like the lobbyists for all of the other competitive grant programs,” Assistant Secretary Jim Blew told Chalkbeat in a statement. “In their desperate communications, they have exaggerated the importance of CSP — just like other lobbyists,” he added, referring to the Charter Schools Program. It’s not clear that the program is in real jeopardy, since Congress has previously disregarded the Trump administration’s proposed budgets. But the budget proposal and combative rhetoric suggest that charter advocates do not have as staunch an ally in the administration as they previously believed. “We are saddened and puzzled by the Department of Education’s comments,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which has received federal charter dollars. “We advocate for the federal Charter Schools Program because we believe it is a lifeline for students.”

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Register Today to Help transform education in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Education Fund
Learn More at PEF's Information Session
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 4:30 - 5:30 pm
Philadelphia Education Fund, 718 Arch Street, Suite 700N Philadelphia, PA 19106
Do you have a willingness to engage with the students we serve through our college access and college persistence programming? The Philadelphia Education Fund supports nearly 6,000 students and serves 16 schools. As a result, we produce and host hundreds of sessions for students on a range of topics that are intended to help our young people navigate a successful journey through high school and college.
This Information Session will explain how you can help!

Hear relevant content from statewide experts, district practitioners and PSBA government affairs staff at PSBA’s annual membership gathering. PSBA Sectional Advisors and Advocacy Ambassadors are on-site to connect with district leaders in their region and share important information for you to take back to your district.
Locations and dates

Sectional Meetings are 6:00 p.m. -8:00 p.m. (across all locations). Light refreshments will be offered.
Cost: Complimentary for PSBA member entities.
Registration: Registration is now open. To register, please sign into myPSBA and look for Store/Registration on the left.

Allegheny County Legislative Forum on Education March 12
by Allegheny Intermediate Unit Thu, March 12, 2020 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM EDT
Join us on March 12 at 7:00 pm for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's annual Allegheny County Legislative Forum. The event will feature a discussion with state lawmakers on a variety of issues impacting public schools. We hope you will join us and be part of the conversation about education in Allegheny County.

All school leaders are invited to attend Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) are partnering together to strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. Click here for more information or register at
School directors can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

PSBA Board Presidents Panel April 27, 28 and 29; Multiple Locations
Offered at 10 locations across the state, this annual event supports current and aspiring school board leaders through roundtable conversations with colleagues as well as a facilitated panel of experienced regional and statewide board presidents and superintendents. Board Presidents Panel is designed to equip new and veteran board presidents and vice presidents as well as superintendents and other school directors who may pursue a leadership position in the future.

PARSS Annual Conference April 29 – May 1, 2020 in State College
The 2020 PARSS Conference is April 29 through May 1, 2020, at Wyndham Garden Hotel at Mountain View Country Club in State College. Please register as a member or a vendor by accessing the links below.

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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