Sunday, June 10, 2012

KDKA: Corbett To Ask Legislature To Reduce Cyber School Funding/ House GOP shops around hybrid school choice plan

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Could this be why we’re hearing a target date of June 13th to seal a budget deal?......
PA May Revenue Numbers Due by June 15th
More funding could be available to lessen proposed deep cuts
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, June 8, 2012
After lackluster collections in the first half of the 2011-12 fiscal year, March and April surged past estimates, narrowing the state’s revenue shortfall to $288 million, or 1.2%. This puts the state on much better fiscal footing going into 2012-13 – and likely means more funding will be available to help lessen the deep cuts proposed by Governor Tom Corbett in February. We will have an analysis of the May revenue numbers next week. Here is a graphic comparing the revenue shortfall as of May 2012 to the projected revenue shortfall in the Governor's February budget:

Pennsylvania budget: Main proposals pitched by Corbett, Senate are $500 million apart

June 10, 2012 12:51 am
By Karen Langley and Laura Olson / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
It's not going to be as early a state budget as top Republican lawmakers had hoped, but Pennsylvania's second on-time spending plan in the past decade still looks like a solid bet.
The GOP majorities in each chamber are working with the governor's office to bridge a $500 million gap between their plans for next year's spending, which mostly involves differences for education and welfare.

“Governor Corbett says he’ll ask the legislature this summer to determine the actual cost of educating a child online and find an equitable solution.”

Gov. Corbett To Ask Legislature To Reduce Cyber School Funding

June 8, 2012 9:16 PM
By Andy Sheehan PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A KDKA investigation is getting a response from Governor Tom Corbett.  Investigator Andy Sheehan questioned the performance and funding of cyber schools and whether some schools are getting money over and above the actual cost of educating a child online.
Gov. Corbett says it’s time to reduce the funding for cyber schools.

Conflict Of Interest Concerns Raised With Pa. Cyber

June 7, 2012 6:30 PM
By Andy Sheehan PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – To many, Nick Trombetta is a visionary who has launched the cyber school revolution in Pennsylvania and is a hero to graduates of Pa. Cyber.
“This day and more days like this are coming will embolden us to continue to fight the fight so that families in Pennsylvania will have the choice to choose a school the education they want,” Trombetta said.
Trombetta has built an empire with a building boom in Midland, Pennsylvania, a charter arts school and more. Pa. Cyber has spawned a number of successful ventures that develop and market online curriculum and foster cyber schools throughout the country.
It’s all to the dismay of neighboring school superintendents who claim they’re footing the bill.

Sensible limits: Fleck’s HB 2364 would reform charter school funding

Editorial - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 10, 2012 12:17 am
Charter schools don't offer interscholastic athletics. They don't contribute to the cost of competing charter schools. And they can get their own state reimbursement for teacher retirement costs.
Nonetheless, when school districts are figuring out how much they must pay the charters for each student they enroll, those three factors -- athletics, charter payments and pension costs for teachers -- are part of the equation. That's not fair.
House Bill 2364 would level the playing field, bringing fairness to the funding formula for charters in addition to more oversight of the operations of these independent yet publicly funded schools, both the bricks-and-mortar and the cyber varieties.

“Charter schools are public schools. Mr. Fleck's bill would hold them to the same financial standards while enabling traditional public schools to better deal with budget cuts. Lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett should implement it for the 2012-2013 school year.”
Times-Tribune Editorial: Fleck’s bill improves accountability for charters
Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial Published: June 7, 2012
Public charter schools have grown exponentially in Pennsylvania because parents want educational choices that best suit their children.  But state law has not kept up with that growth, allowing the growth, as well, of vast funding disparities and gaps in accountability.
(HB 2364) A comprehensive bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mike Fleck, with broad bipartisan support, would correct many of the funding disparities and boost accountability.

“It’s one hell of a step in the right direction,” he said.
Bill would change funding formula for charter school, cyberschools
By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 6:15 am
Jack Myers, the Bensalem School District’s business manager, has been a critic of the funding formula for charter schools and cyberschools for years.
So when he heard about House Bill 2364, which reforms school district tuition payments for students attending those schools, he smiled.
And the more he learned about the legislation, introduced Monday by state Rep. Mike Fleck, R-81, he “smiled a little more.”
“It’s one hell of a step in the right direction,” he said.

Is your State Rep. on the cosponsor list for HB 2364? Charter school funding, accountability and transparency
The bill is now posted on the General Assembly’s website:
Here’s more info on HB 2364 from PSBA:

“His proposal also would increase the authorized tax credits for the existing EITC program from the current $75 million to $100 million in the year starting July 1 and $200 million for subsequent years.”
“The proposal would raise the cap on the total tax credits available each year to businesses participating in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which provides scholarships for students to attend non-public schools, while creating a parallel program for students from the lowest-achieving 15 percent of public schools. Like the existing tax credit program, the proposed Educational Improvement Scholarship Credit program would provide aid to students with family incomes below a threshold.”
House GOP shops around hybrid school choice plan
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 8, 2012 12:14 am
HARRISBURG -- In budget negotiations with the governor and Senate, House Republican leaders are advocating to expand tax credits to businesses that provide scholarship donations.
While Republicans in both chambers have sought to provide students with alternatives to public schools, the Senate has supported creating a program of taxpayer-funded vouchers for students in the worst-performing schools. The House has preferred expanding the tax credit program.
But leaders in that chamber are now arguing for a framework proposed by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, that contains aspects of both approaches.

While the PA Constitution clearly says that the state is responsible for providing a public education, there is nothing mandating the state to provide private or religious education.  As I listened to Chairman Adolph of the House Appropriations Committee last week make it clear that there was no additional money available for the proposed budget, it helped to put “school choice” more clearly in focus.  The legislature has chosen to forego $75 million in revenue in order to fund private and religious schools through the current EITC program.  If we do not have the money to provide kindergarten programs in Harrisburg, how can we even consider diverting another $200 million to private and religious schools?
That being said, here is Rep. Christiana’s cosponsorship memo which provides some details of his proposed legislation.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers Letter to all Members of the PA House of Representatives June 4, 2012

Along with 28 other statewide organizations, Keystone State Education Coalition is a member of Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers.  POV sent this letter to all members of the PA House on June 4th.  The Keystone State Education Coalition is faxing a copy to all members of the PA General Assembly on June 10th.

Butterflies and Stinkbugs
Yinzercation blog — JUNE 8, 2012
It’s been a beautiful June week and the insects, both good and bad, are out in full force. For our Friday news wrap-up, we present some virtual awards complete with small flying critters.

Education Voters PA ‏@EdVotersPA
Please take 2 minutes to send an email to your state reps, ask them to restore public ed funding:

“The NCLB testing bubble should have burst several years ago, and probably would have done so had not the billionaire technocrats intervened with the Common Core testing bailout. Now it looks like we are in for a few more years of glorious predictions of the wonderful equitable outcomes the latest and greatest testing technology will deliver, until it doesn’t. But in the meantime, our public schools continue to be undermined, and resources continue to be diverted away from classrooms and into the testing/data infrastructure.”
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 06/09/2012

The trouble with ‘Groupthink’ in school reform

This was written by educator Anthony Cody, who worked for 24 years in the Oakland schools, 18 years teaching science at a high-needs school and six years as a mentor and coach of teachers. He is a National Board-certified teacher. A version of this post appeared on his Education Week Teacher blog, Living in Dialogue .
By Anthony Cody
A disturbing thought came to mind as I was looking at the latest report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, which criticizes schools of education for failing to jump on the “obsessed with data” bandwagon. You can just feel the irritation in the words of NCTQ president Kate Walsh when she says:  A lot of schools of education continue to become quite oppositional to the notion of standardized tests, even though they have very much become a reality in K-12 schools. The ideological resistance is critical.
This reminds me of a phenomenon called “Groupthink.” What we are experiencing in education is actually a virulent and coercive strain of Groupthink, and it is harming our students.
The value of test data has been inflated way beyond its true worth, in a manner similar to real estate prices during the bubble of the past decade. Once this bubble is launched, many people begin to depend on it for their livelihoods.

Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Turkish Movement

New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL Published: June 5, 2012
A group of three publicly financed charter schools in Georgia run by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish imam, have come under scrutiny after they defaulted on bonds and an audit found that the schools improperly granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to businesses and groups, many of them with ties to the Gulen movement.

June 8, 2012, 6:39 p.m. ET
Steven Malanga: State Politicians and the Public Pension Cookie Jar
Wall Street Journal By STEVEN MALANGA
Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin should energize efforts around the country to reform one of the biggest perks protected by public-employee unions: retirement benefits, which are piling up to the tune of $3 trillion in unfunded promises to state and local workers. But for reformers to tackle this issue, lawmakers have to overcome one crucial special interest: themselves.
Legislators in dozens of states have crafted retirement perks that are even more generous than those of their government employees. As states and municipalities confront the crushing cost of pension promises, these elected officials are being asked to rein in a system they benefit from.

Diane Ravitch on PBS Newshour June 5th, 2012

NSBA asks for flexibility for local Race to the Top grants

NSBA’s School Board News Today Blog by Joetta Sack-Min|June 7th, 2012
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is concerned that the federal government’s proposed criteria for a new, $400 million Race to the Top (RTTT) district competition could stifle innovation and local control.
“Several of the draft requirements threaten to diminish the program as an [local education agency] grant in name only, including first time requirements that represent alarming precedents for the future,” NSBA wrote in a June 8 letter to the U.S. Department of Education.

Here are more than 700 articles since January 23rd detailing budget cuts, program cuts, staffing cuts and tax increases being discussed by local school districts
The PA House Democratic Caucus has been tracking daily press coverage on school district budgets statewide:

June 29 is deadline to submit proposals for PSBA’s 2013 Legislative Platform
Your school board is invited to submit proposals for consideration for PSBA’s 2013 Legislative Platform. The association is accepting proposals now until Friday, June 29, 2012.  Guidelines for platform submissions are posted on PSBA’s Web site.  The PSBA Platform Committee will review proposals and rationale submitted for the platform on Aug. 11. The recommendations of the committee will be brought before the Legislative Policy Council for a final vote on Oct. 18.

PSBA accepting nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
Last year, PSBA created a new award to honor the memory of its long-term chief lobbyist, who died unexpectedly. The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA's Legislative Platform. The nomination process is now open and applications will be accepted until June 22, 2012. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. For more information and criteria details, see the Allwein Advocacy Award page. To obtain an application form, see the Allwein Advocacy Award Nomination Form. Completed forms should be returned no later than June 22 to: Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Advocacy Award Selection Committee, PO Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-0790.

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
PSBA website 6/1/2012
All school directors and school board secretaries who are eligible to vote and who do not plan to attend the association's annual business meeting during the 2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey, Oct. 16-19, may request an absentee ballot for election purposes.
The absentee ballot must be requested from the PSBA executive director in accordance with the PSBA Bylaws provisions (see PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 4, J-Q.). Specify the name and mailing address of each individual for whom a ballot is requested.
Requests must be in writing, e-mailed or mailed first class and postmarked or marked received at PSBA Headquarters no later than Aug. 15. Mail to Executive Director, P.O. Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 or e-mail

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