Friday, July 6, 2012

COMMENTARY: Shameless; just (expletive deleted) shameless

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Shameless; just (expletive deleted) shameless
Forgive me.  I grew up in Philly and learned that there are times when an expletive provides appropriate emphasis.  This is one of those times.

Excerpt from  PA SB1115 as amended:
  …charter schools shall be subject to the following…"(7)  THE RIGHT-TO-KNOW LAW, EXCEPT RECORDS OF VENDORS OF LOCAL AGENCIES SHALL NOT BE ACCESSIBLE."

Last Saturday, as PA House members worked feverishly to finish their business, Rep. Tom Killion (R-168, Chester/Delaware counties) dropped a 54 page amendment into SB1115 containing charter school reform provisions.

It included a clause that would specifically exclude companies doing business with charter schools, including management companies, from Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know laws.

That means that taxpayers would not have the right to see the budgets, check registers, payroll records or other financial records for facilities that they are paying for.

They would not have the right to know the salaries of teachers, administrators, superintendents, or, for that matter, CEOs paid by a management company.  In contrast, these are all things that traditional school districts are required to provide by law.

The bill passed the House with 120 members voting in favor of it but was not supported by the Senate.

For over six years the owner of Charter School Management Company, under contract to run the state’s largest brick and mortar charter school in Chester, has fought just such a right-to-know request in the courts.  The case is now apparently headed to the state Supreme Court.  That individual just happens to be the largest individual campaign contributor to Governor Corbett and a major donor to the GOP.  He reportedly was recently able to purchase two beach front lots in Palm Beach Florida for $29 million and is building a new 20,000 square foot residence there.

Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories for innovation that would share strategies to help all schools.  Remember – “it’s all about the kids”……

The excerpt cited above is “the sentence” cited by Governor Corbett below…
From  Under The Dome™ email Thursday, July 5, 2012
Dinniman says House GOP proposal lets charters, big GOP donors duck Right To Know law. 
One of the Democratic authors of the Senate charter school reform bill praised Senate Republicans for standing up to House GOP efforts to conceal currently available records of taxpayer funds spent by vendors for charter schools and cyber charters. House GOP officials and staff said no such attempt occurred, but acrimony endured on both sides after the House and Senate stalled on charter school reform last weekend over that issue. The Senate version of the legislation, House Bill 1330, did not have that provision exempting vendors from the Right To Know Law, while the House's version, amended to Senate Bill 1115, did. After the language was found, the Senate declined to pass the House bill while House leaders insisted their amendment was better. “We were within a sentence of getting it done,” Gov. Tom Corbett said on Tuesday. “A sentence!” To read more about the situation that led to the scuttling of charter school reform last week,CLICK HERE (paywall) to read a story from Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey. And CLICK HERE (paywall) to read a Philadelphia Inquirer story (see that article below; LAF) about Gov. Corbett’s plan to revisit charter school reform in the fall.

Corbett already eyeing bills for the fall session
July 04, 2012|By Angela Couloumbis and Michael Macagnone, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - The last few weeks of grueling negotiations over a state budget may be over, but Gov. Corbett already has his eye on the legislature's fall session to move bills that did not survive the budget crunch.
Topping that list, Corbett said Tuesday: changes in the way charter schools are regulated.
During budget talks last month, the governor pushed for a measure giving the state a larger role in regulating charter schools. He wanted to create a state commission to authorize new charters, taking that power from school boards.

William Penn Foundation giving $15M to public, private, and charter schools
By Kristen A. Graham Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Fri, Jul. 6, 2012, 3:01 AM
Jeremy Nowak , president of the William Penn Foundation, said the aim was "closing the achievement gap."  In a signal of its growing reach into the city's education sector, the William Penn Foundation will give $15 million to fund innovations in Philadelphia public, private, and charter schools over the next three years.
William Penn has pledged the money to the Philadelphia School Partnership, which will award grants to some schools this month, with other awards coming before the end of the year. It's a major step forward in the newer nonprofit's goal of raising $100 million in five years to speed up the pace of educational change.  Although William Penn has traditionally given grants in the "children, youth and families" arena, president Jeremy Nowak told The Inquirer that going forward, the foundation would focus more narrowly on "closing the achievement gap" for low-income students, with an emphasis on global standards.
"This is putting a stake in the ground about the need for great schools," Nowak said in an interview.

Money Talks
And when William Penn Foundation’s Jeremy Nowak is paying, Philly schools have to listen.
Daniel Denvir City Paper Posted: Thu, Jul. 5, 2012, 12:00 AM
In mid-May, Jeremy Nowak joined School Reform Commission chairman Pedro Ramos and pro-charter-school activists at a long meeting to discuss a big problem: They were losing the media war to opponents of the plan, released three weeks earlier, to dismantle the Philadelphia School District and potentially put public schools under private management. Nowak, who took over as chief executive of the William Penn Foundation in June 2011, was very much invested in the plan’s success. The foundation had given $1.45 million directly — and helped obtain at least $1.2 million more — to pay the Boston Consulting Group to develop a so-called “Blueprint” for restructuring the troubled district.
But while the SRC, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Boston Consulting were all targets of protesters’ ire, Nowak’s role was discussed by just a few. And then only in whispers.
“I think he’s taking an activist approach to being president of the foundation, and he has an agenda,” says one observer of city schools who, like many interviewed for this story, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “It is a shadow school district that’s being bankrolled by people who don’t even live in the city.”
Conversations with sources, along with documents obtained by City Paper, portray an expanding network of pro-charter-school organizations close to, and in many cases funded by, William Penn, coordinating with the state-controlled School District to map out the future of Philly public education. It is now clear that Nowak, a major charter-school supporter and longtime force in Philadelphia, had taken the city’s most powerful foundation in an aggressively political direction. 

Posted: Fri, Jul. 6, 2012, 3:01 AM
Phila.-based cyber school yields its charter
By Martha Woodall Inquirer Staff Writer
Rather than fight the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the beleaguered Frontier Virtual Charter High School will surrender its operating charter.  The cyber charter school's board made the decision during an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, according to Brian H. Leinhauser, a lawyer who represents the school.  He said Frontier would release a statement Friday outlining its reasons.
Frontier, which has administrative offices at 3020 Market St., has been plagued with financial and management problems since it was launched last fall.  By law, the state Education Department is responsible for overseeing cyber charter schools, which provide online instruction to students statewide in their homes.
Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis filed documents Monday saying he intended to yank the school's charter for failing to deliver education it promised students, violating the state charter-school law, spending taxpayer money on nonschool expenses, and failing to maintain the finances necessary to provide services to students.

‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House

New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: July 6, 2012
On Friday, the Department of Education plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
“The more waivers there are, the less there really is a law, right?” said Andy Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

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