Monday, April 18, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 18: EdVotersPA: End Harrisburg’s School Funding Hunger Games

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 18, 2016:
EdVotersPA: End Harrisburg’s School Funding Hunger Games

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

End Harrisburg’s School Funding Hunger Games
Education Voters PA Opinion Posted on April 14, 2016 by EDVOPA
Over the past five years, Harrisburg has mastered the art of pitting school districts, parents, and students against each other in order to draw attention away from the damage their policies and the lack of adequate state education funding have inflicted on children, schools, and communities throughout the Commonwealth.
In the 2015-2016 budget, lawmakers tossed out a handful of crumbs in new state dollars to school districts desperate for state funding. They then proceeded to encourage school districts and parents to fight over these crumbs by telling Pennsylvanians that there would be winners and losers in the 2015-2016 budget, depending on how this new money was distributed.
Creating a school funding Hunger Games and manipulating schools districts and parents to fight against each other for crumbs has been a brilliant political move for lawmakers who don’t support funding education.  So many school districts and parents have been focused on who gets more and who gets less, that most have failed to notice that every single school district in Pennsylvania is a loser with the 2015-2016 budget, no matter how the funding is distributed.

Superintendent’s Letter to Lower Merion SD community regarding high-stakes testing
LMSD Announcements Posted: April 16, 2016
Dear LMSD Community,
Later this month I will join a cadre of educational leaders from around the state at a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) stakeholder session focused on re-examining educational policies in the Commonwealth. One of the key topics to be addressed is assessment practices, including the role of statewide standardized tests like the PSSAs and Keystone exams. I am hopeful that this gathering -- the first in a series of workshops and discussions on these issues -- will yield progress in eliminating high-stakes testing from our schools.  Over the past few years, parents, educators and elected officials in Lower Merion School District and across the country have consistently voiced their opposition to high-stakes testing for a variety of sound educational and developmental reasons. Weeks of instructional time are lost as a result of testing. Day after day of long testing hours can impact student wellbeing and mental health. Linking teacher performance to test results increases the pressure to emphasize test prep at the expense of more meaningful learning experiences. Perhaps most importantly, many standardized assessments have proven to be of limited use in evaluation and enhancing student achievement.

West Chester Area SD Superintendent’s Message to Parents - PSSA Testing
Dear Parents,
The week of April 11 begins a long stretch of state testing. We begin with the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and conclude with Biology Keystone Exams in late May. I have been very vocal with our legislators and community about my feelings that there are simply too many standardized tests and too much pressure put on our students to do well on these exams.  For the past two years, our school performance scores have been among the top 10 in the state (among 500 school districts.) We know how to help our students achieve high scores on these tests.  But at what cost?
The amount of time and worry spent on these tests is dizzying. We are stressing out our students, teachers, administrators, and parents, and I believe it is simply time to stop and do what we feel is best for our students. This year I asked our administrators and teachers to focus less on these tests and instead focus on teaching our district-wide standards for each grade level and subject, measuring progress in the classroom, and trying to provide a more relaxed atmosphere as we head into these state-mandated tests.
I believe our school district’s worth and the value of our students and what they’re learning should not be measured by a single test on a single day. Certainly we need tools for evaluation, but our current testing climate is simply toxic. You won’t find students in the many elite private schools in our region spending weeks taking standardized tests. Yet our students are asked to endure that in the quest to measure what they have learned.

Wolf discusses Pennsylvania's challenges during Edinboro visit
By Ron Leonardi  814-870-1680 Erie Times-News April 15, 2016 05:43 AM
EDINBORO -- Gov. Tom Wolf spent about 20 minutes Thursday evening discussing challenges that Pennsylvanians and the political system face during his visit to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.  Wolf, addressing a capacity crowd of more than 300 in the Frank G. Pogue Student Center, reiterated his concerns about a looming $2 billion deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year and a need for increasing education funding.  "The big problem is we have to figure out how we're going to eliminate that gap because we need to fund education, and we need to fund the human services,'' Wolf said. "If we don't do that, we're basically going to be taking many of those services away or shifting the funding to the local level, probably a combination of those two things."

Governor to push for fair school funding
Indiana Gazette by CHAUNCEY ROSS on April 16, 2016 10:58 AM Indiana, PA
Gov. Tom Wolf said he will again push for the state to fund Pennsylvania schools in the fairest way possible in the 2016-17 budget, and said he set aside the proposals of a commission designed to do just that because the group’s work began on a poor foundation.  In a conference Friday with the Indiana Gazette editorial board, Wolf said the final 2015-16 budget — enacted about nine months late — provided less money for Indiana County schools than the budget he proposed soon after taking office early last year.  Still, Wolf said, area schools are getting more than the previous year.  “You are not going to take a hit,” Wolf said. “This is relative. My budget proposal would have given Indiana County schools about $1.3 million more than what came out in this budget.  “I was asking for $400 million more in basic education funding and we ended with $200 million — a compromise,” Wolf said.

Democrats stand up for their school districts in opposing Wolf funding plan
WHYY Newsworks by KEVIN MCCORRY APRIL 18, 2016
Pennsylvania's protracted budget negotiation ended nearly a month ago, but the fight continues over how $150 million in new education spending will be divided amongst the state's 500 school districts.  Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to restore funding to districts hurt most by past cuts suffered a major blow last week. And now he faces another critical veto decision.  Wolf's "restoration" funding plan prioritizes districts still suffering from disproportionate funding cuts under his predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett.  Philadelphia, Chester-Upland and Pittsburgh fare especially well in that plan, and all districts would see an increase, but the overwhelming majority of districts would get a bigger boost under the new student-weighted funding formula plan as passed by the legislature.  Wolf vetoed that last month. Last week, however, lawmakers passed it again within a larger fiscal code bill — this time with veto-proof majorities in both the House andSenate.

Wolf painted himself into a corner, approaches early lame-duck status
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Saturday, April 16, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's lone-wolf governor overplayed his hand.  Legislative votes on a fiscal code bill last week emerged with veto-proof majorities. It was an ominous sign for Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf.  Democrat lawmakers are beginning to see that their unswerving loyalty to Wolf last year brought them little more than a nine-month budget impasse, school districts running out of money and human services agencies stretched to the max.  A fiscal code bill sounds pretty arcane but it determines how the state can spend money in the state budget. If Wolf persists in past patterns, he could become the first governor in recent history to have a veto overridden. It's more significant potentially as a message to Wolf on the 2016-17 budget. Work on it will get under way in earnest after the April 26 primary.  After last year's fiasco, lawmakers of both parties are hopeful for a timely, if not early, budget.  It's true Republicans were as much to blame as Wolf for the impasse, but there were several opportunities for Wolf to grasp a compromise and settle for a piece — but far from all — of his complex budget proposal. But he kept insisting on a tax increase.  It's equally true that the generally accepted strategy is for a first-year governor to propose four years' worth of programs in hopes of getting a chunk at a time when he has the most political capital.

Head of Philly charter office says non-renewals of four Renaissance charters show oversight is working
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 15, 2016 — 6:34pm
The District's controversial program to turn struggling schools over to charter operators is robust and being well-evaluated, according to the head of the charter office.  Recent recommendations against renewing four charter schools' contracts prove that the Renaissance program does not need an overhaul, according to DawnLynne Kacer.  Kacer said in an interview that the non-renewal recommendations follow the requirements of the state charter school law. Her office also strictly evaluated the commitments made by the charter organizations on the goals they would meet for swift improvement in the historically underperforming District schools, she said.  “I don’t think this signals anything significant about the Renaissance program’s strength,” she said. “We defined the number of years that they must produce outcomes, and if they don’t, they are in violation of their charter, and we can move forward with other options for students so they can move into higher-quality seats as quickly as possible.”  Those other options include returning to District control, being turned over to other charter operators, or going under contract to a provider without becoming a charter, similar to most of the District’s alternative schools.
She said she thought the five-year period to show significant improvement – the term for charters before renewals – was realistic.

“The original state law that created charters in 1997 hasn't been reformed since. The practical outcome of the law is that an alternative education system was built as quickly as possible, with few controls and no extra money to fund or manage it. Since that law was passed, 176 charter schools educating 120,000 students have opened; 86 in Philadelphia. And yet, the structure for proper monitoring and oversight is virtually nonexistent at the state level, and, according to the audit, very minimal at the local level.”
DN editorial: State charter-school system could not be any worse
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: APRIL 15, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
THE CHARTER-SCHOOL system is supposed to provide quality alternatives to traditional public schools. Many individual schools do just that. Some don't, including four schools that the Philadelphia School District announced Thursday it is not recommending for renewals.
But as a system, the network of charter schools around the state is structurally unsound.
This observation is not new. But a new audit of the oversight of Philadelphia charters released this week by the auditor general's office illuminates just how broken the system is, with gaps in oversight and monitoring, as well as unfair and irresponsible practices from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Agassi's fund cashes in on N. Phila. charter-school venture
by Jacob Adelman, Inquirer Staff Writer  @jacobadelman Updated: APRIL 18, 2016  3:01 AM
Former tennis pro Andre Agassi's charter-school investment fund is poised to turn a $1 million profit when it sells a North Philadelphia classroom building this week to the charter operator that has leased it for five years.  The sale to KIPP Philadelphia Charter School is one of the first by Agassi's partnership with the California-based financier Bobby Turner since they set out in 2011 to deliver attractive returns to investors with a country-spanning portfolio of charter-school properties.  The deal sheds light on a growing niche in real estate that aims to help charter operators secure space they would struggle to acquire on their own by appealing to yield-hungry investors, rather than a more traditional roster of philanthropists and foundations.  "If you want to treat a problem, then philanthropy is fine," Turner said. "But if you want to cure, really cure, you've got to harness market forces to create sustainable solutions that are scalable. And that means making money."

“The meetings, which begin on April 28, will be facilitated by PDE and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the nonpartisan, national association of state education leaders. Meetings will include two large stakeholder sessions, as well as the smaller workgroup meetings. The workgroups will focus on four key areas of ESSA: accountability, assessment, educator certification, and educator evaluation.”
Rivera Outlines Education Department's Process For Developing Pennsylvania's Every Student Succeeds Act State Plan
Apr 15, 2016, 14:31 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a Joint House and Senate Education Committee hearing this week, Secretary Pedro A. Rivera provided lawmakers with the Department of Education's (PDE) blueprint for developing Pennsylvania's plan to implement the federally-approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  In addition to providing an overview of ESSA and outlining the department's plan, Rivera also sought to assure committee members that the General Assembly would be an important partner in the implementation of the landmark federal law that replaces No Child Left Behind.  "ESSA provides a once-in-a-decade opportunity to implement thoughtful education policy that will impact every public school student in the commonwealth," Rivera said. "While we await further guidance from the federal government, the department's vision is to engage diverse stakeholders in a productive, inclusive, and transparent process to develop our state plan."  Rivera said PDE is planning a series of stakeholder sessions and workgroup meetings to maximize stakeholder engagement in developing the state plan. Workgroups of 15 to 25 members are being formed using nominations from state lawmakers, professional associations, and education leaders around the state in an effort to reflect  Pennsylvania's diversity.

Brian O'Neill: Savvy schoolkids show Harrisburg how to get things done
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 17, 2016 12:00 AM
The state budget impasse lasted nearly nine months, coincidentally the length of the typical pregnancy, but nobody felt like passing out cigars or putting out a party balloon at the belated birth of our kinda sorta spending plan.  Nearly three weeks ago, Gov. Tom Wolf allowed an appropriations bill to become law by, fittingly enough, not signing it. There’s a whole lot of not doing in Pennsylvania government. Sometimes I tune in the Pennsylvania Cable Network because I can’t wait to see what our oversized Legislature doesn’t do next.  This is the way you don’t want your government to run. So when I heard about 600 high school and middle school students from 26 delegations across the commonwealth converging on the statehouse last week, I was concerned.

Western Pennsylvania schools, communities fend off cuts to music programs
Trib Live BY JODI WEIGAND | Saturday, April 16, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
The bands play on in Western Pennsylvania public schools despite tighter budgets and lackluster state funding.   School districts have taken cost-saving measures such as merging arts courses and finding creative ways to make ends meet, but music programs — among the most popular in many districts — have remained relatively unscathed by budget cuts.  Music educators say community support and booster groups play a major role in sustaining quality music programs.  “People in the community are able to step back and see the value of these programs because they see the changes in the students,” said Mark Despotakis, chair of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's Advancement of Music Education Council.

Western Pa. schools craft policies to protect transgender students
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Sunday, April 17, 2016, 10:50 p.m.
Ira Weiss encourages his clients to be proactive when it comes to transgender students.
His law firm represents 14 local school districts, and he is working with each of them to develop policies to support and accommodate students who were assigned one gender at birth but identify with the other. Weiss said those policies should be in place before problems arise, as they have in cities where districts have been sued for denying transgender students access to certain bathrooms or locker rooms.  “Aside from the legal consequences, which we all want to avoid, it's a civil rights issue,” said Weiss of Weiss Burkardt Kramer. “It's protecting individuals and giving them their rights.”  School districts across Western Pennsylvania are slowly changing their policies to better protect transgender students from discrimination and bullying. Some, such as North Hills School District, have updated non-discrimination policies to include gender identity and expression. Others, such as Southmoreland School District, will rely on solicitor's advice if there are issues.  “It's becoming more widely considered, and I think districts are advised to deal with it,” said Weiss, whose firm represents districts including Pittsburgh Public Schools, Sto-Rox, Belle Vernon and Baldwin-Whitehall.

Commentary: Those feeling brunt of soda tax will also feel benefits
Philly Daily News by Marc Steir Updated: APRIL 18, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
THE SUGARY-DRINK tax proposed by Mayor Kenney, also known as the "soda tax," is controversial because it takes a greater share of the income from poor families than rich ones. And since we at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center are fundamentally committed to economic justice, we are always inclined to be suspicious of taxes that do that.  So it may come as a surprise that we have concluded, overall, that the sugary-drink tax proposed by the mayor is a good idea. Though the costs fall more heavily on those with low incomes, for two reasons, more of the benefit of the tax will go to low-income Philadelphians, as well.  The first benefit of the tax flows from how the new revenue will be spent - on pre-K education, community schools, and parks and community recreation centers.

Ligonier Valley School District considers 1.8-mill tax increase
Trib Live BY JEFF HIMLER | Sunday, April 17, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Ligonier Valley School District should receive about $295,000 in overdue state reimbursements for capital projects and a $43,762 increase in its 2015-16 subsidy as a result of legislation approved last week by the General Assembly.  The funds might allow Ligonier Valley to finish the school year in a slightly better financial position than anticipated.  But it won't be enough to eliminate a projected $1.6 million deficit in the district's 2016-17 budget, a shortfall that could be addressed, in part, with a proposed 1.8-mill property tax hike.  According to Christine Oldham, the school district superintendent, administrators are suggesting that the school board consider the levy — an increase equal to Ligonier Valley's state-calculated index of 2.4 percent — when it acts on a tentative 2016-17 spending plan next month.

“Salary raises, union and non-union, and the mandatory increase in PSERS pension payments account for $1.6 million of that $2.5 million increase.
Combine that with a $1.3 million jump in tuition rates — mostly for charter school enrollments — and you’ve got your spending hike. (The current budget does not provide $712,000 in charter school tuition reimbursement that Wolf’s original budget had called for.)  In fact, Adams’ analysis showed, even though the district’s basic education funding goes up under both the Wolf and General Assembly budgets, decreases in special education and vocational education funding completely wipe out the windfall, leaving the district with $70,723 less in state education funding than the year before.”
Pottstown School District would need 3.4% tax hike to balance $59.6M budget
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 04/16/16, 4:36 PM EDT | UPDATED: 18 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Property taxes would need to increase by 3.4 percent to come close to balancing the $59.6 million 2016-17 school budget, officials were told Thursday night.
Business Manager Linda Adams offered a presentation that she said was an attempt to make local sense of the chaotic budget conditions in Pennsylvania.  Just two months before the end of the fiscal year, it is still unclear which funding formula will ultimately be used to determine state funding, she said.  Adams said the preliminary budget draft she presented to the school board’s finance committee Thursday follows the methodology laid out by Gov. Tom Wolf.  As The Mercury reported last Sunday, Wolf had vetoed the fiscal code that accompanied the Republican-crafted budget he allowed to take effect in March without his signature.  He argued that before the fair education funding formula takes effect, significant cuts from the term of former Gov. Tom Corbett which hit low-income communities harder than the rest of the state should be restored.

“The pension fund plays a huge role in the preliminary budget. Bob Cochran, the district’s business manager, said 25.84 percent of payroll expense goes toward pension costs, and it will increase to 30 percent shortly. Using the pension reserve eases the impact to taxpayers, he said.  “The retirement rate is the single biggest increase at $1.8 million,” Cochran said. “Although we are somewhat out of the woods and the rate of escalation appears to be slowing down in the next year or two, I don’t think we are truly out of the woods completely. The PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) reserve is $2.5 million in an assigned fund balance, and we are using $191,051 of that to balance this budget.”
Property owners in Unionville School District face 2.8 percent tax hike
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News POSTED: 04/16/16, 4:20 PM EDT | UPDATED: 10 HRS AGO
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Taxes will be going up for property owners in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District by 2.8 percent, according to the 2016-17 preliminary budget unveiled at Monday night’s work session.  “This budget maintains our current high level program and service to students that we expect and are proud to provide,” said John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. “There are initiatives in this budget that are going directly to the classroom and our children. It also invests in our students and their future.”  Taxes are set to go up 2.8 percent for property owners in Chester County, and 3.15 percent for property owners in Delaware County, creating a weighted average increase of 2.88 percent.  Although the tax increase exceeds Pennsylvania’s Act 1 limit of 2.4 percent, district officials are using $284,000 in exception funds for special education and $191,000 from the pension reserve fund, negating the need for a referendum on a tax hike.  The preliminary budget includes an increase of $150,000 for the district’s special education program, with the full budgetary reserve set at $588,941.

Downingtown School District plans 2016-17 budget without a tax increase
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 04/15/16, 6:23 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
EAST CALN >> The Downingtown Area School Board approved the 2016-17 proposed preliminary school district budget without a tax increase, during a meeting on Wednesday.
The board members expect to adopt the district’s final budget during the June school board meeting. If adopted, it will be the fourth consecutive year that the Downingtown Area School District budget has been approved with no property tax increase.  The unanimous vote supports the $210.7 million budget which shows a 1.6 percent increase in expenses over this school year’s budget. District employees said it reflects the district’s efforts to control costs despite larger increases in areas such as healthcare and special education costs.

Brown Bag Discussion Series on Community Schools with the Mayor's Office of Education
Want to learn more about #CommunitySchools? Join us for a Brown Bag Discussion with @sgobreski.
Select one (or more!) *
Tuesday, April 19 at 4pm
Thursday, May 5 at 12pm
Thursday, May 19 at 4pm
Thursday, June 2 at 12pm
Thursday, June 16 at 4pm

“Right now, 13 states are defending themselves in school-funding lawsuits: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.”
Why America's Schools Have A Money Problem
NPR Heard on Morning Edition April 18, 20165:00 AM ET
Let's begin with a choice.  Say there's a check in the mail. It's meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639?
It's not a trick question. It's the story of America's schools in two numbers.
That $9,794 is how much money the Chicago Ridge School District in Illinois spent per child in 2013 (the number has been adjusted by Education Week to account for regional cost differences). It's well below that year's national average of $11,841.  Ridge's two elementary campuses and one middle school sit along Chicago's southern edge. Roughly two-thirds of its students come from low-income families, and a third are learning English as a second language.  Here, one nurse commutes between three schools, and the two elementary schools share an art teacher and a music teacher. They spend the first half of the year at different schools, then, come January, box up their supplies and swap classrooms.  "We don't have a lot of the extra things that other districts may have, simply because we can't afford them," says Ridge Superintendent Kevin Russell.  One of those other districts sits less than an hour north, in Chicago's affluent suburbs, nestled into a warren of corporate offices: Rondout School, the only campus in Rondout District 72.  It has 22 teachers and 145 students, and spent $28,639 on each one of them.

Teachers talk back: The effect of being evaluated by student test scores
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss April 17 at 12:41 PM  
Just about every time you turn around, you can find, somewhere, a new survey or report or brief or poll that includes “teacher voices.” They are usually funded by a foundation that has some small or, often, huge investment in corporate school reform, and the reports somehow find a way to validate some reform tenets. Here is a new survey that includes the voices of teachers from an entirely different source — with different results.  Anthony Cody, a veteran educator who co-founded the nonprofit Network for Public Education with education historian and activist Diane Ravitch, assembled a team of teachers and administrators from across the country to write a report on the effect of teacher evaluation systems that require student standardized test scores to be a factor.  The team created a survey and received nearly 3,000 responses from teachers and administrators in 48 states. Based of the responses, the team wrote a report, titled “Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation.” The report, released this weekend at the national conference of the Network for Public Education in Raleigh, N.C., finds widespread dismay at how test-based evaluation systems have affected students, teachers and schools.

“The Broad Foundation plan, and others like it, funded by groups such as the Walton Family Foundation, are instead part of a coordinated national effort to decimate public schooling by rigging the system against neighborhood public schools and the students they serve.”
A Coordinated National Effort to Decimate Public Schools
Huffington Post Opinion by Randi Weingarten President, American Federation of Teachers 04/13/2016 01:43 pm ET | Updated 16 hours ago
Late last year, after news was leaked about a well-funded plan to convert half of all public schools in Los Angeles to charters within eight years, the education community balked. The intentions of the plan’s architect — the Broad Foundation — were put into stark relief.
It wasn’t a plan to use charter schools as innovation incubators, as the late AFT President Albert Shanker and other early charter proponents envisioned them — schools that would work side by side with neighborhood public schools, sharing successes and learning from setbacks. Nor was it about charters having a place in a robust and dynamic public education system offering multiple pathways to meet individual students’ needs. (These were our goals when, during my tenure as president of New York City’s AFT local, the United Federation of Teachers, the UFT and Green Dot Public Schools co-founded University Prep, a charter school in the South Bronx. Now in our eighth year, 98 percent of students graduate and almost all go on to college. Many AFT members who work in charter schools in cities across the country have similar stories.)

“Launched with fanfare and promise, online schools such as K12 are compiling a spotty record nationwide, but highly motivated students with strong parental support can succeed in them. In California, however, those students make up a tiny fraction of K12's enrollment. The result -- according to an extensive review of complaints, company records, tax filings and state education data -- is that children and taxpayers are being cheated as the company takes advantage of a systemic breakdown in oversight by local school districts and state bureaucrats.
At the same time, K12's heavily marketed school model has been lucrative, helping the company rake in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years, as well as enriching sponsoring school districts, which have little stake in whether the students succeed.”
California Virtual Academies: Is online charter school network cashing in on failure?
Mercury News By Jessica Calefati, POSTED:   04/17/2016 04:59:01 AM PDT
The TV ads pitch a new kind of school where the power of the Internet allows gifted and struggling students alike to "work at the level that's just right for them" and thrive with one-on-one attention from teachers connecting through cyberspace. Thousands of California families, supported with hundreds of millions in state education dollars, have bought in.  But the Silicon Valley-influenced endeavor behind the lofty claims is leading a dubious revolution. The growing network of online academies, operated by a Virginia company traded on Wall Street called K12 Inc., is failing key tests used to measure educational success.  Fewer than half of the students who enroll in the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state's public universities.  An investigation of K12-run charter schools by this newspaper also reveals that teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding.

An Ed Commissioner’s Confession: How I Tried (and Failed) to Close the Worst School in Tennessee
The74 by KEVIN HUFFMAN k_huff1 December 6, 2015
Kevin Huffman served as Tennessee’s education commissioner from 2011-2015, and in this essay outlines problems he experienced while overseeing the Tennessee Virtual Academy, operated by K12 Inc. To read K12 Inc.’s full response to this essay, please click here.
In April 2011, a short while after I became Tennessee’s education commissioner, the state legislature passed a bill allowing “virtual schools” to open in Tennessee. The concept was forward-looking: Allow public school districts, at their discretion, to open and run online schools.  These e-schools could, over time, take advantage of technological advances in instruction, and they could serve children who couldn’t be served properly by traditional brick-and- mortar schools.  The bill passed amid a flurry of end-of-session horse trading. Some legislators expressed concerns about virtual education generally, and others were worried that the bill included for-profit operators, but as often happens at session’s end, it chugged along largely under the radar. I was new and not fully looped in, but my educational philosophy has always been platform-agnostic; I was less concerned about the kind of school, more concerned about whether the school was good.  From these modest beginnings and with the help of an unscrupulous operator, an inept school district, and the generally screwed-up politics of education, the worst-performing school in Tennessee opened and remains open to this day.
It remains one of the biggest failures that happened on my watch.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 4/18/2016

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Electing PSBA Officers – Applications Due by April 30th
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee during the month of April, an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than two and no more than four letters of recommendation, some or all of which preferably should be from school districts in different PSBA regions as well as from community groups and other sources that can provide a description of the candidate’s involvement with and effectiveness in leadership positions. PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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