Friday, January 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 30: PennLive Series - THE RISE OF CHARTER SCHOOLS IN PA

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 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, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 30, 2015:

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearings scheduled in  Montgomery County and Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 5, 2015, 10 am Montgomery County, Central Montco Tech HS, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

"Research shows that early literacy is a key predictor of adult success, and the cost of falling behind is clearer than ever, particularly for low-income students and students of color. It’s an urban myth that state governments use 3rd-grade literacy levels to predict prison populations, but the correlation between poor reading, dropping out, poverty, and incarceration remains troublingly strong."
From reading to community
Stakes are high for literacy campaigns like READ! by 4th. Non-readers can feel isolated, leading to more trouble.
By Bill Hangley Jr.  on Jan 29, 2015 10:37 AM
It’s family storytime at the Lucien E. Blackwell public library on 52nd Street, and the bushy-haired toddler named Rio isn’t just here to learn to read.He’s here to join the world. “Look at this – red!” says Jennifer Walker, the librarian, as she holds open a picture book about colors. “Just like this scarf!”

Advocate urges DV school board to join fair funding fight
Sandra Miller: 'There's a real need for a set formula' for Pennsylvania schools
Pike County Courier PUBLISHED JAN 29, 2015 AT 3:21 PM (UPDATED JAN 29, 2015)
SHOHOLA — Sandra Miller from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding PA says the way schools in Pennsylvania are funded has to change, because districts don’t know from year to year how state aid will affect their budgets.  “There’s a real need for a set formula regarding what the individual districts get every year," Miller told the Delaware Valley school board. The way funds are distributed doesn’t seem to follow logic, in a stark contrast to other states, she said.
Miller said she’s a circuit rider and a school board member in Saucon Valley. The campaign to gather support among school districts and individuals for a stable education funding formula.
Miller gave a brief overview of the history of Pennsylvania state funding, along with more recent developments. Pennsylvania is one of only three states with no set funding formula, she said.

PA searching for fair school-funding system
WKBN By Nadine Grimley Published: January 29, 2015, 6:50 pm  Updated: January 29, 2015, 7:46 pm
MERCER COUNTY, Pa. (WKBN) – Currently Pennsylvania is one of three states in the country without an equation for dishing out money to schools. “We really never know from year to year what our funding is going to be until it’s passed in June or July by the legislature,” Sharon City Schools Superintendent Michael Calla  That’s why in 2014, a 15-member committee called the Basic Education Funding Commission was formed. The group is currently touring the state, hearing from various school districts, and it stopped in Mercer County Thursday.

"With the denial of Insight's application, the Education Department has rejected every application for a new cyber in the last three years.  The state's 14 existing cybers enroll 36,596 students."
State rejects the third cyber charter application
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 6:42 PM
Pennsylvania's acting education secretary turned down the third and final application for a new statewide cyber charter school Thursday.  The decision, signed by Pedro A. Rivera, found that the application filed by the proposed Insight PA Cyber Charter School was deficient in six areas, including governance.

PennLive Series - What are charter schools and why are they controversial? Q&A
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 29, 2015 at 8:15 AM, updated January 30, 2015 at 5:32 AM
Charter schools have exploded across the country in the past 20 years and their growth has often been controversial. Here's a primer on charter schools and why they've spurred so much attention in Pennsylvania.

"It seems to get at a similar idea," Fischer said. "The idea that you deem public schools as 'failing' with the solution being to transform them into an institution that serves the public into one that serves for-profit interests and private interests."  Fischer said that despite the repeated promises from lawmakers and free-market think tanks, there was little evidence to suggest that converting established schools into charter schools solved the structural problems that often plague inner-city schools."
PennLive Series - Are charter schools the answer? More on the law that stripped York parents' control
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 29, 2015 at 10:30 AM, updated January 29, 2015 at 11:01 AM
It's rarely without a fight that a community gives up its democratic power.  But in 2012, almost overnight, a handful of Pennsylvania school came dangerously close to it after the state deemed that all four of them – York City School District, Harrisburg City School District, Duquesne City School District, and Chester-Upland School District – were so financially distressed they required state oversight.  In each district, the state appointed a chief recovery officer given the authority to take full control should the elected board fail to make changes as directed.

PennLive Series - Charter school takeovers: As York schools near privatization, lessons from New Orleans and Michigan
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 29, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated January 29, 2015 at 8:14 AM
On a weekday afternoon in January,William Penn High School in York looks like any other school in central Pennsylvania. Laughing students churn out the main entrance, teachers bustle out of classrooms bearing books and binders.  But the school, and the seven others that make up the York City School District, differ from the state's 3,053 other public schools in one fundamental way: they stand on the precipice of a rarely attempted experiment in the history of America's education system.

Charter founder described as fuzzy but competent  for retrial on $6.3 million fraud charges
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 2:10 PM
Dorothy June Brown, 77, has some problems remembering dates, her age, the year, and where she went to school, but a forensic psychologist said she is competent to be retried on charges that she defrauded the charter schools she founded of $6.3 million.

District posts reports on proposed Philly charter schools
By the Notebook on Jan 29, 2015 05:35 PM
Now that both rounds of hearings for 40 new charter school applicants are over, the School District posted the evaluations for the proposed schools today.
People can look through the reports and submit public comment by Sunday, Feb. 1, three days from now. Comments can be emailed, dropped off at District headquarters, or mailed.
The School Reform Commission is required to vote on each charter application by Feb. 21. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that no meeting date for votes has been set.

Philadelphia sizes up more charter schools
PA Independent By Evan Grossman | January 29, 2015 | By Eric Boehm
The School District of Philadelphia could be on the verge of a historic expansion of the city’s charter school program.  Accepting applications for the first time since 2007, the district received 40 proposals in October from groups interested in opening new charter schools and it could expand the program, turning almost half of the entire city into charters.
There are currently 67,000 students attending 84 charter schools in Philadelphia and more than 40,000 names on waiting lists to get into charters, according to Philly School Choice. There is no set number of schools the district must approve or reject.

"Moreover, Williams’ recorded support for charter school expansion resulted in huge gains to his campaign treasury when he unsuccessfully ran for Pennsylvania governor in 2010. Through the political action committee Students’ Choice, Williams received an astounding $3.3 million to support his gubernatorial bid in the election, which Republican Tom Corbett ultimately won.
The PAC was bankrolled by three local businessmen, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer described as “free market entrepreneurs in the mold of Ayn Rand.” One of the businessmen, Jeff Yass, is a board member at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute."
Mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams' take on charter schools sets him apart
Daily Pennsylvanian By DAN SPINELLI 01/29/15 1:04am
State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams’s support for charter schools has made him some unusual allies.  In the debate over charter school expansion, Williams, a Democrat, has often found himself allied with conservatives. Generally, Democrats advocate keeping funds within the local school district, while Republicans have petitioned for vouchers supporting the choice between public and nonpublic schools.  In 1997, Williams was one of the lone Democrats to join Republicans in the bill allowing charter schools to form in Pennsylvania. More recently in 2010, Williams introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature that mandated vouchers for poor students in underperforming schools. Three Republicans cosponsored the bill with Williams.
Such bipartisan action on education has made Williams the darling of some conservative elites, including Republican Senator Patrick Toomey, who invited Williams to view the 2013 State of the Union address as his guest.

Nutter asks business to fight for school funding
CHRIS BRENNAN, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 8:54 PM
Mayor Nutter, with a nod to the candidates running to succeed him, on Thursday laid out for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce a seven-year history of measured accomplishments and continuing challenges.

2015 Education Outlook: Issues to Watch
Economy League/World Class Greater Philadelphia By Jen Egmont Jan 28
2015 may mark the beginning of some big changes in education in Greater Philadelphia -- many of which align with the priorities laid out in our shared World Class agenda. From key policy issues like fair funding to debates over curricula and teacher evaluations, here are a few key areas to watch this year:

Lincoln Charter School agrees to ambitious five-year goals
ERIN JAMES / The York Dispatch 505-5439 / @ydcity POSTED: 01/29/2015 07:32:49 PM EST
Lincoln Charter School officials have agreed to dramatically improve their students' standardized test scores in reading and math over the next five years - or face revocation of the school's charter.  Swiftly and without discussion, the York City school board granted a five-year renewal of Lincoln Charter School's charter Wednesday.  Tucked into the new agreement is a list of requirements for the school's next five years of existence. Failure to meet any of those requirements could give the York City school board cause to shut the school down when the next renewal process comes around in 2020.

Are York school officials resting after recent small victories?
York’s school board quietly ran through its meeting agenda in about 30 minutes Wednesday.
Quite a departure from recent public sessions that stretched for hours, with testimony from students, parents and teachers protesting the proposed charterization of the struggling school district.  But a judge recently affirmed the district’s right to appeal his own ruling that granted the Pennsylvania Department of Education petition for receivership .  Gov. Tom Wolf – who has opposed sweeping privatization of public education in his home county seat – took office last week. And earlier Wednesday, York elected officials met with him about city schools as part of his ongoing review of the matter.  Board President Margie Orr says there's no complacency.

York NAACP appeals to Wolf on city schools
Organization asks governor for a new, more 'neutral' receiver
By Gordon Rago @gragoYDR on Twitter UPDATED: 01/29/2015 11:39:57 PM EST
Gov. Tom Wolf should expect to see a letter on his desk soon from York NAACP President Sandra Thompson, who is asking him to make two "immediate" changes to York City School District's ongoing financial recovery process.  The first step Thompson wants Wolf to take is removing David Meckley as the district's chief recovery officer.  Thompson argued Thursday night during a meeting at Crispus Attucks in York that Meckley has "tunnel vision" when it comes to saving the district financially through conversion to charter schools.  "If we had a more neutral person, that may be good for the school district while these appeals are pending," Thompson said, saying NAACP's position is against a conversion to charter schools.

"... He also cited the climbing employee pension contribution rate as a major contributing factor, at an added annual cost of $3.9 million."
WCASD early budget eyes 3.2% property tax hike
West Chester Daily Local By Bill Rettew Jr., POSTED:01/29/15, 5:53 PM EST |
WEST GOSHEN >> At Wednesday’s meeting, the West Chester Area School Board voted to release a preliminary 2015-2016 district budget with a 3.2 percent property tax increase, or $8.9 million more in spending. Superintendent Jim Scanlon pointed to increased costs for “unfunded mandates,” including for special education instruction at an additional $679,000, next year. He also cited the climbing employee pension contribution rate as a major contributing factor, at an added annual cost of $3.9 million.

"Even without any pay hikes resulting from a new teacher contract, the district faces an $823,000 increase in payroll; a $1.3 million increase in pensions obligations — which will accompanied by a $680,000 in state aid to cover half the cost of the hike — and a $320,000 hike in charter school tuition, Nester said.  From a percentage standpoint, Pottsgrove is facing a 3.1% increase in wages; a 21.1% hike in pension costs and a 20.3% hike in charter school tuition, said Nester."
$65.1M Pottsgrove schools budget draft could hike taxes by 3.56%
By Mercury Staff POSTED: 01/28/15, 4:19 PM EST | UPDATED: 16 HRS AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> A draft $65.1 million schools budget that carries the potential to raise property taxes as much as 3.56 percent — or $160 for a home assessed at $120,000 — was reviewed Tuesday by the Pottsgrove School Board.  Business Manager David Nester told the board that as it stands now, the district is facing a $2.5 million shortfall if property taxes are not raised.  The state “index” for Pottsgrove, which sets a ceiling on tax hikes, would keep a tax hike to 2.4 percent, which would raise property taxes by $108 on the median home assessment.

Interboro board approves teachers pact by Kathy Boccella LAST UPDATED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 2:31 PM
PROSPECT PARK The Interboro school board unanimously approved a contract with its 305-member teachers' union, whose salaries will increase 5.54 percent over the three-year agreement.  In return, teachers have agreed to some cost-saving changes to their medical and prescription benefits plans, according to the board.

Palmyra administrators express concern about Project Based Assessments
By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on January 29, 2015 at 8:41 PM, updated January 29, 2015 at 8:51 PM
High school students who fail to achieve proficiency on Keystone exams after two tries can instead take what is called a Project Based Assessment in order to graduate.
The way the program works worries some administrators in the Palmyra Area School District.
Assistant superintendent Bernie Kepler described the program, which will affect this year's sophomores, to the school board Thursday night.

5 ideas that could change Philly education — and one that won $5,000 to get started
Billy Penn By Anna Orso January 28, 2015 at 10:01 pm
Jeff Kilpatrick says he has 144 heroes, and they’re all under the age of 15.
The Port Richmond art teacher at the Memphis Street Academy spends his time teaching his 144 middle schoolers how to harness entrepreneurial skills through art — and now, because of a pitch he made to a room of 100 people tonight, he has $5,000 to realize his dreams for his Philly Artrepreneurs program.   Kilpatrick was the winner of SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurship in Education) 4.0, an annual event presented by PhillyCORE Leaders, a group of education leaders collaborating to come up with ideas to better education in the city. Here’s how SEED 4.0 worked: Representatives from five education startups had three minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges who then asked questions, and after each pitch, the crowd voted for their favorite pitch.

Senate Ed. Panel Unlikely to Require Teacher Evaluations in NCLB Overhaul
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on January 27, 2015 1:40 PM
Washington - Although members of the Senate education committee agreed at a hearing Tuesday that teacher evaluations are essential for a thriving public education system, it's unlikely that the forthcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act will include specific requirements.  Republicans, including Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Washington shouldn't mandate such policies, while Democrats, including ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., were wary of increasing the role student test scores play in evaluations and how those evaluations are used to compensate teachers.  The lack of language in the reauthorization requiring teacher evaluations will likely stop in its tracks the Obama administration's efforts to push states to adopt evaluation systems based in part on student test scores and performance-based compensation systems, both of which were at the heart of U.S. Department of Education's NCLB waivers.

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 21, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA  15120
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

PILCOP: Children with Emotional Problems: Avoiding the Juvenile Justice System, and What Does Real Help Look Like?
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
This session will help you navigate special education in order to assist children at home not receiving services, those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system. CLE and Act 48 credit is available.  This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice, a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers.  Click here to purchase tickets  

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

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