Monday, June 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 9: YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, 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 and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 9, 2014:
YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies

“If not addressed, the pension crisis will have a crippling effect on the state’s economy and a devastating impact on local school district budgets. The current system is unsustainable, leaving taxpayers to feel the brunt of staggering increases unless a workable, long-term solution is enacted,” is how the PSBA views the issue."
PENSION BOMB: Local school budgets crippled by problem
Note to Readers: This is the fifth part of a series on the pension crisis facing Pennsylvanians. The stories are part of a project being done by The Pottstown Mercury (, a sister paper of the Daily Local News.
West Chester Daily Local By Evan Brandt POSTED: 06/07/14
If you think Pennsylvania’s pension crisis is just a fight in Harrisburg between teachers unions and legislators, take a look at your child’s class size.  The yawning pension deficit that is currently hobbling Pennsylvania’s budget is having a similar trickle-down effect on local school budgets and is helping drive higher property taxes; teacher vacancies; higher class sizes and reduced academic programming.  As the school boards in Pottsgrove, Daniel Boone, Pottstown and Phoenixville school districts struggle to make ends meet, the single most common cause driving higher spending is the sky-rocketing cost of paying for Pennsylvania’s broken pension system.

“I know that the public really does not want education funding cut,” Vitali said. “That’s an issue that resonates with people. ... When you tell people that the choice is between taxing the drillers and cutting these (education) programs, it’s not a hard choice for people to make.”
State budget debate set to begin
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 06/08/14, 11:23 PM EDT |
There will be various numbers tossed around Harrisburg throughout the next three weeks as lawmakers debate the intricacies of the state budget.  Perhaps none of those figures will be as critical as the 102 representatives, 26 senators and one governor needed to approve a new spending plan by the July 1 deadline.  That conglomerate of support is necessary in any budget year. Finding it while staring down a $1.3 billion structural deficit in a busy election year only adds to the annual difficulty.  “I think it’s likely to go right to the deadline,” said state Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester.

Each time charter schools skim marginal need special ed students out of public school districts, they artificially cause the average special ed cost to spiral higher for the next year's special ed charter school tuition rate.
YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies
Would the special ed funding bill HB2138/SB1316 be the "end of charter schools as we know it"?  It might be, especially for the operators of for-profit management companies that contract with charter schools.  As best we can tell, instead of special ed money serving special needs students, it appears that the windfall has funded things like multi-million dollar CEO compensation, over 19,000 local TV commercials, a jet and Florida condo, generous political campaign contributions and a 20,000 square foot mansion on the beach in Palm Beach Florida.  Here's a three minute youtube video produced by KEYSEC Co-Chair Mark B. Miller that clearly explains how this happens.

Want more than a three minute video on this topic?  Here's a great piece by long-time ed writer Dale Mezzacappa for the notebook….
City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on June 5, 2014 02:12 PM
Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to aNotebook analysis of state documents.  That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.
The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

The Keystone State Education Coalition faxed a copy of this editorial to all members of the PA General Assembly over the weekend.  Ask your legislators if they saw it…..
Editorial: Charter school law in need of repair
Bucks County Intelligencer Friday, June 6, 2014 12:15 am
When the charter school law was adopted, multiple benefits were envisioned: to give parents an alternative to failing public schools, at no additional cost to them; to provide competition for public schools, thus spurring schools to improve; and to act as laboratories where, relieved of some state mandates and sparked by the nimbleness of small scale, new and innovative learning methods would percolate and migrate to public schools.  But like anything new, the charter school law had kinks in it. Ironically, what was supposed to help public schools has been hurting them. And so, state lawmakers are in the throes of fixing the law or, more accurately, have been presented with the opportunity to fix it.  Most hurtful is the funding formula for special education. The way it works, the districts forward funds for each special-ed student lost to a charter school. That sum is determined by a state formula that essentially reflects the average cost of educating a special needs student. However, the formula does not distinguish between students in need of low-level services versus those in need of a higher degree of help.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for June 7, 2014:
Parent Trigger Shoots Blanks Again In Philly; Parents Want Good Neighborhood Public Schools

Use a severance tax to close budget hole? Maybe, top House Republican says: The Sunday Brunch
By John L. Micek |   on June 08, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Gov. Tom Corbett says he'd veto one if it ever reached his desk, but that hasn't stopped talk of a severance tax on natural gas drillers from growing from a once-polite whisper to serious chatter.
Now you can add House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-York, to the chorus of voices speculating on the possibility of taking the $700 million or so an extraction would raise and using it to help close a roughly $1.2 billion budget deficit.  "More people are paying attention to it. We're checking it out," Saylor told The York Daily Record last week.

Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and the Keystone State Education Coalition are sponsoring a public meeting with speakers from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center.
When:  Monday June 16th, 6-7 PM
Where: Delaware County Community College Southeast Center, Room 135
              2000 Elmwood AveSharon HillPA 19079
Learn about how a statewide legal strategy could help students in William Penn, Southeast Delco and neighboring districts and how you might participate.  Legal experts and attorneys will be present to talk about the law, your children’s rights and a potential lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania based on the state Constitutional requirement to provide an education.

From Bad to Worst
Yinzercation Blog June 7, 2014
From bad to worse to – what’s worse than worse? A new report released this week shows that “the financial condition of school districts across the Commonwealth continues to deteriorate.” The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) surveyed the state’s 500 school districts and got some chilling results. [PASA-PASBO Budget Report, 6-5-14] With 56% of districts responding, the researchers found that:

Editorial: Don’t bet on education funding reform
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 06/07/14, 8:57 PM EDT
A tall task is looming for Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature as they hunker down in Harrisburg for the annual June drama that results in a Pennsylvania budget. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) 
There are no shortage of reasons to doubt that meaningful change when it comes to education funding and property tax reform – a yoke that has hung around the neck of Pennsylvania home owners for decades – is going to happy any time soon.  Actually, there are 1.7 billion of them.
That’s the sea of red ink facing Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature as they hunker down in Harrisburg for that annual month-long June drama that results in a Pennsylvania budget.
In his budget preview address back in February, Corbett – battling tanking poll numbers and under fire for three years of austere spending plans, in particular when it comes to education – announced a plan to pump more money into public education.

Philly City Council wants to control schools
BY JENNY DeHUFF, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5218
POSTED: June 06, 2014
LIKE WACKY Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen, members of City Council are trying to draw attention to the fact that the city wants control of its school district back.
Hoping to get that message across to Harrisburg, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced legislation yesterday that calls for abolition of the School Reform Commission, the state-appointed board that oversees the School District of Philadelphia.
Blackwell says that if put to Philadelphia voters, a question on the November ballot would garner overwhelming support and would bolster the more than 38,000 petition signatures already collected by Council calling for the SRC to be dissolved.

At one city school, no optimism things will get better
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Sunday, June 8, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Saturday, June 7, 2014, 8:30 AM
There is no money for supplies to stock Melissa Holloway's biology lab, so the teacher at Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush awards extra credit to students who bring in paper towels.  There's no Latin or Advanced Placement Chemistry at Rush Arts this year, to the disappointment of 180 students who had planned to take those courses.  And if you caught an otherwise excellent student performance in the school theater, you likely squinted, because the staff couldn't get anyone to fix the lights.  While City Hall and Harrisburg debate funding for the near-destitute Philadelphia School District, students and staff are nearing the end of a school year that has been, in the words of one student, "insane" - and not in a good way.

"Though there's no concrete evidence, some believe the substitute teacher pool may be shrinking because fewer full-time teaching jobs have translated into fewer recent college graduates hoping to turn a couple years of subbing into a job offer.  And certain school districts are capping the hours of the substitutes left in the pool in an effort to avoid paying for heath care, which eventually will be required under the Affordable Care Act for employees working an average of 30 hours a week.  "Unfortunately, it's just a series of bad circumstances that is making what's always been somewhat of a challenge a much more significant challenge," said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, which provides training for district business offices throughout the state."
Schools grapple with substitute teacher shortage
Tight job market and Obamacare fears aggravate a longtime problem.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:28 p.m. EDT, June 7, 2014
During the middle of a weekday last month, more than 100 Allen High School students were ushered into the gymnasium.  There was no assembly that day or school pep rally. And this definitely wasn't a game of dodge ball.  Many of the students were supposed to be in class, but 25 teachers called in sick and the school could find only 19 substitutes, according to the district.
The administration's best option was to place the students in a study hall with four teachers monitoring, district Chief Academic Officer Tina Belardi said. When the school went into a lockdown drill that day, the scene became chaotic.
"In PA, we've already seen how this works with cyber-charters -- just thirty or forty families can decide that an entire school district will have to make massive cuts. When they jump ship, they don't just take their own tax dollars with them -- they take the tax dollars of all their neighbors as well, and those neighbors get no say in the matter at all.  Even electing new school board members won't make a difference."
School Choice Is UnAmerican
Huffington Post by Peter Greene Teacher, writer Posted: 06/02/2014 9:10 am EDT
When I was busy listing reasons that conservatives should be opposed to school choice, I skipped over a biggy.  School choice is taxation without representation.
When some cranky old fart (crankier and older than I am, anyway) wants to complain about having to pay taxes for schools when his kids aren't even IN school any more, I have a standard answer. Schools are not a service for parents. The people who produced the student are not the only "customers" for the school.  The educated human who emerges from school will become a neighbor, an employee, a parent, a spouse, a voter, a (one hopes) involved citizen, a person whose job will contribute in some way to the life of the community. Everybody who will ever deal with her in any of those capacities shares the benefits of that education. They are all "customers" of public education. Whether they are relatives of the educatee or not is hardly the point.
We all have a stake in public education. We all pay taxes to support public education. And we all get to vote on who will manage the operation of our schools (well, unless we are in occupied territories like Philadelphia or Newark).

"While the Gates Foundation created the burst of momentum behind the Common Core, the Obama administration picked up the cause and helped push states to act quickly.
There was so much cross-pollination between the foundation and the administration, it is difficult to determine the degree to which one may have influenced the other.  Several top players in Obama’s Education Department who shaped the administration’s policies came either straight from the Gates Foundation in 2009 or from organizations that received heavy funding from the foundation."
How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution
Washington Post WRITTEN BY Lyndsey Layton PUBLISHED: JUNE 7
The pair of education advocates had a big idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America. By early 2008, many of the nation’s top politicians and education leaders had lined up in support.  But that wasn’t enough. The duo needed money — tens of millions of dollars, at least — and they needed a champion who could overcome the politics that had thwarted every previous attempt to institute national standards.
So they turned to the richest man in the world.

"This is the closest thing to an educational coup in the history of the United States. Our education system is made up of about 14,000 local school districts; most education policy is set at the state level. But Bill Gates was able to underwrite a swift revolution. It happened so quickly that there was very little debate or discussion. Almost every consequential education group was funded by the Gates Foundation to study or promote the Common Core standards. Whereas most businesses would conduct pilot testing of a major new product, there was no pilot testing of the Common Core. These national standards were written with minimal public awareness or participation, and at least one state — Kentucky — adopted them before the final draft was finished."
Did Bill Gates fund an ‘educational coup’?
BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 8 at 11:53 am
My Post colleague Lyndsey Layton has written an illuminating story about the role Bill Gates and his money played in the Common Core State Standards initiative and its adoption by 45 states and the District of Columbia. In great detail, she explains how on one summer day in 2008, two men — Gene Wilhoit, then-director of the Council for Chief State School Officers, and David Coleman, at the time an educational consultant and an “emerging evangelist for the standards movement” — persuaded Gates to fund the creation and marketing of what became the Common Core.   The article makes a few things clear if they weren’t before:

AL law using public dollars to subsidize tuition at private schools ruled unconstitutional
Education Votes by Brian Washington 8 Jun 2014
A program that pro-public education activists have called a throwback to the 1950s–a time when Alabama tried avoiding integration by directing public school funds to private schools–has been ruled unconstitutional by a Montgomery County circuit court judge.
The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 targeted students attending public schools that the state deemed “failing.” Instead of providing real solutions to help all students gain access to a quality public education, the Accountability Act starved public schools of critical funding.
The law created a tax-credit program that used public dollars to reimburse the cost of tuition to those parents who pulled their children out of public schools and enrolled them in private or religious schools. Tax credits were also given to companies and individuals who gave money to certain organizations to fund scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.
The program cost taxpayers $40 million during the 2013-14 fiscal year, yet, studies show that voucher and tuition tax-credit schemes don’t result in a better education for students.

Pre-K Strengthens Our Economy: Live Webcast 2:00 pm June 9 with Governors Rendell, Schweiker
Pre-K for PA Jun 6, 2014
On Monday, June 9 at 2pm please join Pre-K for PA for a live webcast with former Pennsylvania Governors Edward G. Rendell and Mark S. Schweiker for a special event about investment in high-quality pre-kindergarten to grow Pennsylvania’s economy, with introductory remarks by Rob Wonderling, President & CEO, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

PCCY invites you to get on the School Spirit Bus to Harrisburg on Tuesday June 10th for Fair and Full School Funding!
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
On Tuesday June 10th, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be going to Harrisburg.  Join committed parents, leaders, and community members from around state to make it clear to Harrisburg that PA students need fair and full funding now!  We are providing free transportation to and from Harrisburg as well as lunch.   Please arrive at the United Way Building located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway no later than8:15am.  The bus will depart at 8:30am sharp! Reserve your seat today by emailing us at or calling us at 215-563-5848 x11. You can download and share our flyer by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Pennsylvania Education Summit Wednesday, June 11, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (EDT) Camp Hill, PA
PA Business-Education Partnership
Welcome By Governor Tom Corbett (invited)
Remarks Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq (confirmed)
Perceptions & comments of business leaders, educators, college presidents, and advocacy groups

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
Wednesday, June 18, Monday, June 23, and Monday, June 30
Education Voters PA
Governor Corbett’s “election-year” budget is falling apart. Revenue projections are down and Corbett and state legislators are looking to make more than $1.2 billion in cuts to his proposed 2014-2015 budget.  Lobbyists will be swarming the Capitol in the month of June and we need to be there, too.  Join Pennsylvanians from throughout the commonwealth as we send a loud and clear message that after three years of balancing the state budget on the backs of Pennsylvania’s public school children, it is time for our state government to do what is right and pass a fair budget that will provide students with the opportunities they need to meet state standards and be successful after they graduate.

Julian Vasquez Heilig  |  | 1 Comment
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Do you believe in public education? Do you want US policymakers to understand why decision makers in Chile have now judged vouchers to be problematic after 30 years of universal implementation? Do you have frequent flier miles you can donate? Sponsor a grad student today!  This summer, I along with eight UT-Austin graduate students will travel to Santiago, Chile in August 2014 with Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig to conduct field research that will result in a policy brief, op-eds and a peer-reviewed academic paper detailing recent changes in Chile’s market-based education policy proposed this past April by Chile’s current Education Minister Nicholas Eyzaguirre.

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This 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.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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