Tuesday, December 31, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Dec. 31: EdVotersPA: We just paid a cyber charter school $250.00

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 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, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Dec. 31, 2019

Happy New Year!  School Leaders: Make a resolution to be a stronger advocate for your students and your schools. Sign up for @PSBA @PASA @PAIU Advocacy Day at the Capitol on March 23rd. For more information: https://psba.org/event/advocacy-day-2020/… or register at http://mypsba.org

“The school choice wars will only flare hotter in the weeks and months to come. In January the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the most consequential voucher case in a generation, Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue. With such right-wing heavies as former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker weighing in as “friends of the court,” the case takes aim at constitutional prohibitions on tax-payer funding for religious schools that are on the books in 35 states, essentially arguing that states must fund religious education. Meanwhile, Trump’s justice department, joining forces with Betsy DeVos, is siding with a Christian school that wants public funds but not gay students. The Espinoza decision, which the Court will hand down this summer, promises to be maximally disruptive—and not just because of its height-of-campaign-season timing. Forcing states to fund religious education is extreme culture-war stuff.”
The Democrats’ School Choice Problem
Charter schools find their most vocal Democratic support among the least progressive members of the party: centrists and Wall Streeters.
The Nation By Jennifer C. Berkshire YESTERDAY 7:00 AM
When seven of the Democratic presidential candidates descended on Pittsburgh recently for a day-long forum on public education, one of Pennsylvania’s unlikeliest new political stars was on hand to greet them. Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks, a black single mom from North Philly, won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council this fall, stunning the political establishment. At the heart of Brooks’s insurgent campaign was her resistance to Philadelphia’s two-decade-long experiment with school privatization, including the explosion of charter schools and the mass closure of neighborhood schools. “If we as community members don’t commit to this public institution that we fought so hard for generations ago, we’re going to lose control of it,” says Brooks. Her message resonated with Philly’s voters, and thrilled the audience of teachers and activists who were on hand in Pittsburgh to hear a long list of presidential hopefuls weigh in on the future of the country’s schools. But just outside of the convention center, on a rain-slicked plaza, the resistance to the Democrats’ leftward swing on education was on vivid display. Over 100 charter school parents, part of the same school choice network that disrupted an Elizabeth Warren campaign event last month, came armed with a message of their own: Black Democrats support charter schools. Welcome to the Democrats’ school choice wars.

Blogger note: Education Voters of Pennsylvania is a project of Pennsylvania’s left-leaning Keystone Research Center.
Education Voters PA Website Published by EDVOPA on December 28, 2019
On Christmas Eve we mailed a check for $250.00 to Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), one of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter schools. We filed a Right to Know request in September to learn how much taxpayer money CCA spent on advertising during a three-year period and how CCA spent this money. In October, CCA partially granted and partially denied this request stating, “CCA must deny your request, insofar as it seeks records which would contain or reveal legally protected trade secrets and confidential proprietary information.”
We appealed this denial and received a 13-page Final Determination from the Office of Open Records on December 23rd. On p. 12, it states that the OOR has generally held that a charter school’s marketing strategy cannot be withheld and cites Hacke v. Pa. Cyber Charter School, OOR Dkt. AP 2017-1684, 2017 PA O.O.R.D. LEXIS 1773:
“However, the OOR cannot conclude that the Charter School engages in a trade or that the Charter School’s marketing plan is the type of information from which economic value can be derived where the primary activity of the Charter School is providing the essential governmental service of education and its ‘competitors’ are primarily other local agencies.”
The OOR determined that CCA is required to provide us with copies of marketing plans in addition to other materials requested within 30 days of receiving our payment. At $.25/copy, we expect to receive about 1000 pages of information. We will share what we learn with you.

Blogger note: The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is a national, right-leaning, libertarian economic think tank. You might think of it as a big brother to Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation. Dr. Antony Davies is the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at FEE. James R. Harrigan is the F.A. Hayek Distinguished Fellow at FEE.
Public education’s problems won’t be fixed with more funding | Opinion
Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan, For The Inquirer Updated: December 30, 2019 - 6:58 AM
Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan is managing director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona.
For decades, teachers unions, and the politicians they support have been telling voters that the key to improving public education is to spend more money. At the beginning there wasn’t much evidence to go on, but it seemed to sound right to most people. What little data existed indicated that private schools educated students at a lower per-pupil cost than public schools while achieving better outcomes (as measured by standardized tests). There were, of course, reasonable rejoinders to these results. Because higher income households can more readily afford private school, and because children who grow up in higher income households tend to perform better academically, the results may have been simply the result of selectivity bias: private schools performed better because better students ended up in private schools. But as the decades rolled by, data accumulated to the point where we no longer have to compare private to public schools. We can compare public schools in years of less spending to public schools in years of more spending. Shockingly, though, now that we have solid data, spending proponents are not only ignoring the data, they are distorting it.

“PPS District Solicitor Ira Weiss says the district’s growing budget is largely due to retirement costs, contractual salary increases, and payments to charter schools. “This school district paid over $100 million [in 2019] on charter schools. It is an illogical, outrageous system,” said Weiss.  “And it doesn’t appear it’s gonna be fixed very soon.”
Pittsburgh school district raises property taxes, cuts costs, dips into savings for 2020 budget
By Sarah Boden/WESA  DECEMBER 28, 2019 | 8:06 AM
 (Pittsburgh) — Real estate taxes are going up for residents of the Pittsburgh Public Schools district, but more must be done  to ensure the district’s long-term fiscal health.
The PPS board voted 6-3 on Friday to increase the millage rate from 9.84 mills to 9.95 mills, which means property owners will now pay an additional $12 each year, per $100,000 of assessed value. Even with a tax increase, the district must still pull from its rainy-day fund to cover a budget deficit, which Ronald Joseph, the district’s chief financial officer, said exceeds $20 million. “Next year we’re still going to be back in the same position,” said Joseph. “So, throughout the course of this year we’re going to have to identify [cuts.] Whether it be programs or positions, or just the way we deliver services.” The district will also be making more than $800,000 in cuts, mostly to its equipment and supply budgets.

New case tests big question: Can Philly kids sue after getting sick in school buildings?
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent December 30, 2019
Dean Pagan became a poster child for Philadelphia’s school infrastructure woes when The Philadelphia Inquirer featured his case of lead poisoning in an investigative story last year. Pagan’s tale helped kick-start a storm of controversy and agitation over the conditions inside Philadelphia’s public schools — one that continues to swell. Now, the elementary school student from Northeast Philly is at the vanguard again, testing a critical legal question:
When children like Pagan suffer life-altering consequences after exposure to toxins in their public school buildings, can the School District of Philadelphia be held legally liable?
If the answer is yes, Pagan’s case could trigger a cascade of similar lawsuits. But the question is far from settled. Earlier this month, Pagan and his parents filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia “caused a public health crisis” and failed to protect the then-first-grader from hazardous conditions inside Watson T. Comly Elementary, the K-5 school he attended in Northeast Philadelphia.

“The more than 2,000 students from the Bethlehem Area School District attending charter schools are costing the district or the taxpayer about $30 million a year. That means we pay as much as $15,000 per student, with no controls over the charter school spending. This is a lot of money for a high school student, whereas, in the 2018-2019 academic year public college tuition cost an average of $10,230 annually. The public taxpayer needs answers and some final action from the Harrisburg legislators to solve these huge problems of school taxes.”
Readers React: Some parents consider race when choosing charter schools
Letter by Tim McNally, Bethlehem THE MORNING CALL | DEC 30, 2019 | 1:53 PM
The Bethlehem Area School Board has issued a statement supporting Superintendent Joseph Roy, who has come under fire for comments he made regarding charter schools, poverty and race.
I find myself in agreement with Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy’s suggestion that race affected some parents’ choices of sending their children to charter schools. Let’s not forget back when then-Gov. Ridge was in office and was pushing for vouchers, which never passed the state House. The reform if passed would have provided “vouchers” ― public funds that students may have used for private school tuition. Charter schools are funded by public money but operate with freedom to act independently. Meaning, for example, if you dislike a public school you can send your child to a charter school and at times must bus them to another area.

Top 10 Notebook Stories of 2019
Did your favorite Notebook article make it on the list?
the Notebook December 30 — 7:35 am, 2019
This past year saw the crisis of the Philadelphia School District’s aging buildings come to a head as more were closed due to feared asbestos contamination. The story gained a painfully human face with the diagnosis of a longtime teacher with a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. In the face of devastating news, efforts to pry more money from the state to help the District modernize its infrastructure — from Democratic legislators, City Council members, advocacy groups and union activists — intensified. But so far there is no sign that Harrisburg will heed these pleas by funding programs it has already enacted to help Philadelphia and other districts make sure their buildings are free of health hazards. Many of the most vital stories of the year were also the most popular with Notebook readers. In April, the District launched its Comprehensive School Planning Review (CSPR), which was the subject of our winter print edition, and one of those stories — about progress integrating schools in one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods — drew high readership. The CSPR has the potential to reshape the face of the District as it embarks on this five-year process, starting in neighborhoods located in South, North, and West Philadelphia.

A tiny Indiana town saw promise in virtual charter schools. Then things started to unravel.
Chalkbeat By Stephanie Wang    December 23, 2019
When Indiana’s largest charter network collapsed earlier this year after an enrollment scandal that triggered state and federal investigations, the resulting mess left hundreds of students scrambling for transcripts, dozens of teachers unpaid, and $40 million still owed to the state. The downfall of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy also placed under the microscope Daleville Community Schools, a tiny rural district that runs just two brick-and-mortar schools serving fewer than 1,000 students in total. Despite having no experience as a charter authorizer, Daleville took on an oversight role when Indiana Virtual School opened in 2011 and, over the years, accepted more than $3.2 million in state funding to monitor them and ensure their success. Daleville officials saw it as a unique opportunity to help students who were failing in traditional schools or those who had medical conditions and needed flexible schedules. But the district struggled to rein in the fast-growing, low-performing virtual charter schools, which in July were found by auditors to be artificially doubling their enrollment and collecting state funding for thousands of students who they weren’t educating. A Chalkbeat review of thousands of pages of charter records and multiple interviews with the authorizing school district show that, until recently, Daleville relied largely on informal or undocumented conversations to monitor Indiana Virtual School.

America’s schools are more diverse than ever. But the teachers are still mostly white.
Washington Post By Laura Meckler and Kate Rabinowitz Dec. 27, 2019
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Ricardo Alcalá’s parents, born in Mexico, carried less than a second-grade education when they came to California to work the fields. His older siblings dropped out of high school. One was sentenced to prison for life and killed behind bars. Ricardo was 13 then, living in poverty. But when he was 14, something changed. A Latina teacher told him he was too smart for pre-algebra and should move up. “For some reason, that simple act and belief changed my entire perception of schooling, and life really,” he said. “She was the first person who saw something good in me.” Now, Alcalá is a high school Spanish teacher, looking for the good in his students, most from Latino and poor families like his. He nudges boys drawn to gangs toward the wrestling team instead, and serves Mexican hot chocolate on a Monday afternoon, hoping that small treat will dissuade students from skipping class. Not many teachers at Elsie Allen High School can connect with students in the same way. While 80 percent of students are Latino, just two of 56 teachers are — 3.5 percent. Nationally, a Washington Post analysis of school district data from 46 states and the District of Columbia finds that only one-tenth of 1 percent of Latino students attend a school system where the portion of Latino teachers equals or exceeds the percentage of Latino students. It’s only marginally better for black students: 7 percent were enrolled in a district where the share of black teachers matches or exceeds that for students. Among Asian students, it was 4.5 percent. Meanwhile, 99.7 percent of white students attended a district where the faculty was as white as the student body, The Post found.

Education Spending: What Democratic Candidates Want vs. Reality, in Charts
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa December 27, 2019
Democratic candidates for president in 2020 are making big promises about what they'll spend on K-12 education. In fact, four candidates have made the same pledge to triple Title I, the single-largest program for public schools at the U.S. Department of Education, which has a $72.8 billion budget. Another candidate has pledged to quadruple Title I. But what's less prominent is how much those areas already get in federal funding; quadrupling Title I would bring spending on that program alone to $65.2 billion. So what are those gaps between grand plans and reality? We highlighted six Education Department programs and compared how much money they get now to how much some of the 15 Democratic presidential candidates want to give them. We focused on four top-tier candidates based on polling—former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.—and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who's promised to dramatically increase funding for a program and who hasn't gotten as much attention. We singled out their promises on relatively big programs (Title I and special education) and for a relatively small program (community schools). Figures have been rounded and are in the millions of dollars.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: December 18 -24, 2019
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on December 24, 2019 - 2:06pm 
Seasons Greetings!   No matter how you celebrate the end-of-year holidays, the FairTest team wishes you joy for the final days of 2019 and best wishes for a happy, successful new year with less testing and more learning.

Join us for Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to support public education Monday March 23, 2020!
All school leaders are invited to attend Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) are partnering together to strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. Click here for more information or register at http://www.mypsba.org/
School directors can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at alysha.newingham@psba.org

PA SCHOOLS WORK: Special Education Funding Webinar Tue, Jan 14, 2020 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM EST

Training: Enhancing School Safety Jan. 9th, 8 am – 1 pm Council Rock High School South
The training is provided by the United States Secret Service and the Office PA Rep Wendi Thomas, in partnership with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, Bucks County DA Matt Weintraub and PSEA.
Date: Thursday, January 9, 2020, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Council Rock High School South, 2002 Rock Way, Holland PA 18954
This is the region’s first presentation of the National Threat Assessment Center's (NTAC) 2020 research on actionable plans to prevent violence in schools. The training is provided by the United States Secret Service (USSS) and is based on updated operational research conducted by the USSS and the NTAC. The training will offer best practices on preventing incidents of targeted school violence. This workshop will focus solely on how to proactively identify, assess, and manage individuals exhibiting concerning behavior based on USSS methodologies.
At the conclusion of the training, attendees will be able to:
·     Understand operational research on preventing incidents of targeted school violence;
·     Be able to proactively identify, using USSS methodologies, concerning behaviors prior to an incident;
·     Be able to assess concerning behaviors using best practice standards and use identified methods to better manage individuals who exhibit concerning behaviors with the goal of preventing school violence.

Charter Schools; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The award winning documentary Backpack Full of Cash that explores the siphoning of funds from traditional public schools by charters and vouchers will be shown in three locations in the Philadelphia suburbs in the upcoming weeks.
The film is narrated by Matt Damon, and some of the footage was shot in Philadelphia. 
Members of the public who are interested in becoming better informed about some of the challenges to public education posed by privatization are invited to attend.
At all locations, the film will start promptly at 7 pm, so it is suggested that members of the audience arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the screening.   
Backpack Full of Cash hosted by State Representatives Mary Jo Daley, Tim Briggs, and Matt Bradford
Monday, January 6, 2020
Ludington Library 5 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

PSBA Alumni Forum: Leaving school board service?
Continue your connection and commitment to public education by joining PSBA Alumni Forum. Benefits of the complimentary membership includes:
  • electronic access to PSBA Bulletin
  • legislative information via email
  • Daily EDition e-newsletter
  • Special access to one dedicated annual briefing
Register today online. Contact Crista Degregorio at Crista.Degregorio@psba.org with questions.

Register Today for PSBA/PASA/PAIU Advocacy Day at the Capitol-- March 23, 2020
PSBA Advocacy Day 2020 MAR 23, 2020 • 8:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Join us in Harrisburg to support public education!
All school leaders are invited to attend Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) are partnering together to strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education.
Registration: As a membership benefit, there is no cost to register. Your legislator appointments will be coordinated with the completion of your registration. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefing prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. Staff will be stationed at a table in the Main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance.
Sign up today at myPSBA.org.

PSBA: Required School Director Training
Your trusted and approved source
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has named PSBA an approved provider of required school director training. Your association has more than 100 years of statewide expertise in school law, policy, finance and ethical governance, so you can be sure you’re receiving the highest quality learning, relevant to your role. To learn when you or your board will be required to complete training hours, please refer to PDE’s FAQs here
Act 55 and Act 18
Training requirements specific to you:

•   Newly elected and appointed school board directors –
•   Successful completion of five training hours.
•   Re-elected school board directors –
•   Successful completion of three training hours.
PSBA knows that everyone has unique scheduling requirements and distinct learning styles. Therefore, we have created two pathways in meeting state requirements:

PSBA New and Advanced School Director Training in Dec & Jan
Additional sessions now being offered in Bucks and Beaver Counties
Do you want high-impact, engaging training that newly elected and reseated school directors can attend to be certified in new and advanced required training? PSBA has been supporting new school directors for more than 50 years by enlisting statewide experts in school law, finance and governance to deliver a one-day foundational training. This year, we are adding a parallel track of sessions for those who need advanced school director training to meet their compliance requirements. These sessions will be delivered by the same experts but with advanced content. Look for a compact evening training or a longer Saturday session at a location near you. All sites will include one hour of trauma-informed training required by Act 18 of 2019. Weekend sites will include an extra hour for a legislative update from PSBA’s government affairs team.
New School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration opens 3:00 p.m., program starts 3:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., dinner with break included
Saturdays: Registration opens at 8:00 a.m., program starts at 9:00 a.m. -3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Advanced School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration with dinner provided opens at 4:30 p.m., program starts 5:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Registration opens at 10:00 a.m., program starts at 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Locations and dates

Congress, Courts, and a National Election: 50 Million Children’s Futures Are at Stake. Be their champion at the 2020 Advocacy Institute.
NSBA Advocacy Institute Feb. 2-4, 2020 Marriot Marquis, Washington, D.C.
Join school leaders from across the country on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2-4, 2020 to influence the legislative agenda & shape decisions that impact public schools. Check out the schedule & more at https://nsba.org/Events/Advocacy-Institute

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.