Monday, October 15, 2012

“The public be damned” - SB1115 charter "reform" bill to be considered today would gut public Right-to-Know

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“The public be damned”
SB1115, the charter school reform bill scheduled to be considered by the PA Senate Rules Committee on Monday October 15thincludes a provision that would exempt companies (“vendors”) doing business with charter schools (“local education agencies”) from Pennsylvania’s right-to-know laws.
No vendor who performs a governmental function and receives public taxpayer dollars should be exempted from PA’s Right-to-Know law.  Ask your state legislators why this provision is in this bill and urge them to vote NO on SB1115.
What possible reasons could there be for including such a provision in the charter school reform bill?  Why would anyone lobby for that exemption?

Please take a minute and call your state senator and your state representative this morning and urge them to vote NO on the SB1115 charter reform bill.
  • Vote NO on this egregious proposal to exempt charter school management companies from PA right-to-know laws.
  • Vote NO on direct pay by the Department of Education to Charter and Cyber operators that would deny local school districts any ability to monitor the validity of charges and payments of taxpayer funds before they are paid. 
  • Vote NO on a Statewide Charter Funding Advisory Commission where three quarters of the members are Charter and Cyber operators/advocates and gubernatorial or political appointees.  Of 17 members, only 3 would represent school districts.
  • Vote NO on a statewide charter authorizer.
 Got three minutes more?
Call the offices of the Governor 717-787-2500, Senate Majority Leader Pileggi (717) 787-4712 and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (717) 772-9943 and ask them why we would exempt charter management companies from Pennsylvania right-to-know laws.

Editorial: Charter school proposals should be rejected

……..This newspaper has been in a legal tug of war for years with Vahan Gureghian, whose firm operates Chester Community Charter School. He insists that as a private entity, the public has no claim to see his books. We disagree, noting the amount of public funding his school receives. It’s still rattling around in court.
Now Harrisburg appears ready to allow the charters to do just that. The plan was part of an amendment in a special education funding bill. The new wording at first looks promising, in terms of bringing charter schools under the auspices of the state’s fairly new Right-to-Know law. But as usual the devil is in the details, or in this case, the semantics. The amendment waves its magic wand, granting an exemption by declaring “records of vendors of local agencies shall not be accessible.”
Guess what the charter schools are listed as? If you said local agencies, you get an A-plus, students. Somewhat surprisingly, the proposal is the work of local state Rep. Tom Killion, R-168, of Middletown.

Posted: Thu, Oct. 11, 2012, 3:01 AM
DN Editorial: We need more info, not less, about Pa. charter schools
Philadelphia Daily News
SINCE ACT 22 enabled charter schools in the state 15 years ago, charters have expanded exponentially; Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend about $1 billion a year on 73,000 students enrolled in "bricks and mortar" and cyber-charter schools. With charters championed by lawmakers as a key alternative to traditional public schools, expect even more.
But we are also at a particular tipping point for charters, since more voices are expressing concern that charters are a path to dismantling the traditional public system to put education - and lots of public money - in the hands of private companies with little or no accountability.
Harrisburg is helping widen that divide with a series of bills and proposals that are described as reforms. One would remove local district control of charters and put them under oversight of a new state board.
That itself is a questionable move, but more disturbing is a provision in a House bill that would exempt for-profit education providers from right-to-know laws. Such laws currently apply to charters, but a proposed amendment would exempt "vendors of local agencies," which could include private management groups that run charter schools. That means operators of schools funded with public dollars would be closed to scrutiny.

“Should public education be the responsibility of locally elected officials who are responsible and accountable to their neighbors and the communities they live in, or should public education be a business opportunity for friends, political allies and financial supporters of a sitting governor?”

Let school boards make call on public education policy

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012, 1:00 AM   
Patriot News Letters to the Editor by Lawrence A. Feinberg
While there are great charter schools, 16 years of charters in Pennsylvania have not shown them to be systematically more effective than traditional public schools.
This week, the state Legislature is expected to consider charter school reform legislation that, among other things, would give a state-appointed body the power to create charter schools without approval by the local communities and school districts that they might be in.

For now, charter approval isn't a Pennsylvania GOP priority

October 15, 2012 12:16 am
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- Republican legislative leaders have agreed to set aside a controversial measure that would make it easier for charter schools to form, instead focusing on other regulatory changes this week in final votes before the election.
Proponents of charter schools want to allow the authorization of new schools by a statewide board, rather than requiring the approval of local school districts.
In June, discord over a statewide authorizer was among the charter-related disagreements that pushed state budget negotiations to the deadline. Days after the budget's signing -- without changes to charter regulation -- Gov. Tom Corbett said of the charter reforms that negotiators had been "within a sentence of getting it done."
Legislative leaders and the governor's office now have agreed to set aside the statewide authorizer for future consideration and aim to push through an agreement on other regulatory changes, said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republicans.
Those changes include forming a commission to examine funding, mandating annual independent audits and requiring the state to directly pay charter schools, unless the schools opt to continue collecting from their sending districts. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, confirmed the components of the agreement.

Posted: Sun, Oct. 14, 2012, 5:17 AM
Chester Community Charter School investigation closes
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has closed its investigation of the Chester Community Charter School, formally ending an inquiry that began in July 2011 and at one time focused on suspected testing irregularities at 48 school districts and charter schools across the state.

“Parents do have a choice,” Watkins said. “We’ve got to make them choose us. That becomes our challenge.”
Recovery officer: Chester Upland School District needs to regain students
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
CHESTER — Chester Upland School District Chief Recovery Officer Joe Watkins said the district must regain many of the students it has lost to charter and private schools if it is to establish financial stability and begin a path toward prosperity.
Speaking at a public meeting Thursday night, Watkins stressed that Chester Upland can no longer continue losing students to other educational institutions, noting that critical funding follows those students from the district.

Write Your Letter to the President Now
Diane Ravitch’s Blog October 13, 2012 //
It’s time to write your letter to President Obama to let him know how he should change Race to the Top.
Join the Campaign for Our Public Schools.
Should schools compete or collaborate?
Should teachers compete or collaborate?
Is education a “race” or a process of development?
Share your thoughts with the President, your Governor, and all your elected officials.
Here are the instructions.

“The corporate reform movement that brought us charter schools in the name of parental choice has led to a situation where students who are a little better off and come from more stable homes are segregated from students who come from more dire, unstable situations due to low wages and unemployment. These students are left in the underfunded regular system, further concentrating the effects of poverty.”
Commentary: Film perpetuates myths about education
by thenotebook on Oct 12 2012 Posted in Blogger commentary
This guest blog comes from Ken Derstine, an award-winning retired teacher who spent 37 years in the Philadelphia School District, and is now a political activist on behalf of public education. The Notebook invites guest blog posts on current topics in Philadelphia education from its readers. Contact us to make a submission.
by Ken Derstine
On Monday, Oct. 8, Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg discussed "parent trigger" laws on WHYY-FM’s Radio Times. Brouillette repeated the familiar but flawed argument now favored by corporate education reformers: bad teachers, not the conditions that policymakers force teachers to work under, produce “bad schools.”    As I see it, there are two myths that continue to gain traction despite contrary evidence and experience. They are the Bad SchoolBad Teacher myth, and the “We tried throwing money at education, and it didn’t work” myth. Defenders of public education must continue to debunk them both.

“The Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association, Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, Pennsylvania Boroughs Association and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association are examples of the other organizations that could be affected, said Gedid, director of the school’s Law and Government Institute.”

Lobbyists could be subject to Pennsylvania's open-records law

Published: Friday, October 12, 2012, 3:35 PM
Organizations that lobby on behalf of townships and other political bodies could be subject to the state’s open records law and forced to publicly share documents that pertain to those associations and state government.
The decision by the state’s Open Records office that the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors is a “local agency” and subject to complying with requests for records that are filed by residents, the media and others spurred an appeal in Cumberland County Court by the East Pennsboro Twp.-based association.
Should the Open Records office’s opinion be upheld, it could lead to a host of similar associations that represent the interests of political bodies before state legislators having to open up their records and documents to Right to Know requests, to the extent these documents pertain to communications between these associations and state government, said John L. Gedid, a professor at Widener Law School.

In Harrisburg, the access game never stops.
Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek October 13, 2012
HARRISBURG — It’s just after 8 a.m. on a Wednesday, weeks before an election, and state Rep. Jerry Knowles is engaging in a time-honored rite of fall.
Outside the Market Square Café in the Harrisburg Hilton, Knowles greets lobbyists, fellow lawmakers and other supporters entering his fundraising breakfast. Nearby, at a folding table, an aide ticks off their names. The price: $250.
“Come on in,” the Schuylkill County Republican tells a colleague, stateRep. Gene DiGirolamo of Bucks County. “Have some coffee.” Just inside, state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, Knowles’ former boss, chats with several people. Veteran Capitol lobbyist Rocco Pugliese strolls in.

Allentown School Board to vote on Vitalistic's retroactive move request

Troubled charter school seeks Allentown's OK for Bethlehem move already made.

 9:25 p.m. EDT, October 12, 2012
After losing his west Bethlehem charter school building in August, Ron DeIaco had a choice.
He could try to find a new building immediately for Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School or wait until he had the blessing of the Allentown and Bethlehem Area school boards, which have final authority on relocations.
For his students' sake, DeIaco told Allentown School Board's Education Committee on Thursday, he chose to find a school immediately, which he knew technically violated Vitalistic's charter.

School Choice: A Subject Both Candidates Support October 13, 2012
The right to choose the school you want your child to attend has been the subject of court battles and bitter political debates. Still, both President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney have made school choice a cornerstone of their efforts to reform public education.


Want to Ruin Teaching? Give Ratings

New York Times OP-ED By DEBORAH KENNY Published: October 14, 2012
AS the founder of a charter school network in Harlem, I’ve seen firsthand the nuances inherent in teacher evaluation. A few years ago, for instance, we decided not to renew the contract of one of our teachers despite the fact that his students performed exceptionally well on the state exam.

Homeless Students Top 1 Million, U.S. Says, Leaving Advocates 'Horrified'

Huffington Post by Saki Knafo and Joy Resmovits Posted: 06/28/2012 6:34 pm
The U.S. Education Department reported that, for the first time, the number of homeless students in America topped one million by the end of the 2010-2011 school year. These kids live in shelters and on the streets, and increasingly in hotels and on the couches of friends and relatives. On one hotel-lined stretch of highway -- a road leading to Disney World -- Nilan heard of schools where there are as many as 25 homeless students in classes of 28. The government report said 1,065,794 homeless kids were enrolled in schools in the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 57 percent since the start of the recession in 2007.
"The number is horrifyingly high but it probably is half of what the number really could be if the kids could be counted," said Nilan. The count doesn't include homeless infants, children not enrolled in school, and homeless students that schools simply failed to identify.

New data on public education released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here’s an infographic with some new data about public education enrollment and spending, student achievement and other related issues just released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dear Teacher, Johnny Is Skipping the Test

New York Times By SONI SANGHA Published: October 12, 2012
LATER this month, children at 169 New York City elementary and middle schools will, for the second time in a calendar year, take a 40-minute “field test” in math and English language arts to determine which questions will go on future state standardized exams.
Lori Chajet’s daughter will not be among them, though the tests are scheduled to be given at her school, Public School 321, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Nor will many students at Public School 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, or children at schools across District 6 in northern Manhattan.
Ms. Chajet’s objection is not to testing itself, but to the way tests are being used to evaluate schools and teachers.
“I want my school to use tests to help instruction, to help find out if kids don’t know fractions,” she said. “I don’t want my child to feel like her score will decide if her teacher has a job or not.”

Commentary: PA charter school reform should protect taxpayers, not just K12, Inc. CEO Ron Packard and CSM CEO Vahan Gureghian
Keystone State Education Coalition October 4, 2012
Pennsylvania lawmakers should consider the following principles in any charter school reform legislation:

The PA Legislature is in recess until October 15th
Please contact your state senator and state rep regarding charter school reform during this break
You can bet that the charter school lobbyists are not taking a break

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