Friday, May 31, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 31: Here’s 3 on charter reform; PA House & Senate are back in session on June 3rd

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
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“The legislation would allow all charter schools, even the poorest performers, to expand without the authorizing District's knowledge or approval. These unpredictable expenses would not only create short term fiscal challenges for the District, but make it impossible to reasonably utilize multi-year budgeting - the very approach to budgeting which has allowed the District to make the strategic, sustainable investments which are resulting in improved academic performance across our schools. These bills undermine the fiscal stability promise of local control.
Newly proposed charter legislation also frees charters from oversight that is necessary to ensure they are meeting academic standards. They make it harder to close underperforming charters and allow unfettered expansion of charters -- even those with failing performance -- without regard for their ability to successfully operate. The proposed standard charter application form lacks information on an applicant's’ experience, finances, past performance and operational ability, all of which are necessary to meaningfully assess whether the applicant can sustain a school that meets the needs of the very students it aspires to serve.”
Philly school officials: Pa. urgently need charter school reform | Opinion
Dr. William Hite and Joyce Wilkerson, For the Inquirer Updated: May 30, 2019 - 11:15 AM
The quality of Pennsylvania’s schools, both district and charter, is vital to the Commonwealth’s future prosperity. For Pennsylvania to attract new businesses and grow job opportunities for residents, its public schools must provide a high-quality education that prepares all students to become the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. But the Commonwealth’s current charter school law undermines this possibility for thousands of public school students.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called the 1997 charter law “the worst in the nation.” We couldn’t agree more. Our message to the General Assembly is clear: The need to overhaul Pennsylvania’s charter school law is real and urgent. School districts need better tools to hold charter school operators accountable to families and taxpayers. The Commonwealth has an ethical and moral responsibility to its public school students to ensure charter schools are held to the same state academic standards as District schools. It also has a fiscal responsibility to taxpayers to ensure funds invested in charters are a good investment and are safeguarded against misuse. Current charter law falls woefully short on these fronts and many others.
Legislation currently pending in the General Assembly pushes the charter law in the wrong direction. House Bills 356 and 357 create more risk for students, local Districts and taxpayers. We vehemently oppose these bills.

“During brief remarks, they called on the state to invest more in its public schools, particularly in programs like PlanCon for capital improvement and building projects. They want lawmakers to reject proposed legislation they believe will weaken school district oversight on charter schools they want to prevent the expansion of the Education Improvement Tax Credit program.”
Pittsburgh Public Schools leaders call for better school funding, oppose charter school legislation
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette MAY 30, 2019 5:25 PM
Allegheny Traditional Academy, a K-5 school on the North Side, needs about $10 million worth of “significant” capital improvements just so it can remain functional and safe for teachers and students.  Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet highlighted the building, which was built in 1904, during a news conference at the school Thursday in which he and several other local educators and advocates called on the Pennsylvania Legislature to provide better funding for  public schools.  “To do what is right for our kids, we must acknowledge the financial stressors that our district is under,” Mr. Hamlet said. “I look forward to working with members of the Legislature, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and to ensure students in Pittsburgh Public Schools receive the valuable resources they deserve.” He was joined by state Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-West View, PPS board member Sylvia Wilson; Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis; and Angel Gober, an education organizer with ONE Pennsylvania.

PASBO Finance experts call for charter school funding reforms
Trib Live by DEB ERDLEY   | Wednesday, May 29, 2019 4:24 p.m.
Echoing complaints of school superintendents across Western Pennsylvania, public school finance experts Wednesday warned that charter school costs are reaching a breaking point for many of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. Finance experts with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) said lawmakers must change the way charter costs are assessed to local school districts or accept that some school districts are not going to be able to continue to bear the cost of paying hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars in charter school tuition. The call for change comes as the General Assembly weighs a variety of bills aimed at altering the way the state regulates and finances charter and cyber charter schools that now enroll about 140,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Hannah Barrick, of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers, said charter school costs, which are borne almost entirely by local school districts, totaled $1.8 billion last year and accounted for 37 cents of every new dollar raised in local property taxes.
In some school districts, the costs are even higher.

Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million, $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively. We will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.

Data Source: PDE via PSBA
Big Spring SD
Carlisle Area SD
Cumberland Valley SD
South Middleton SD


This morning there are 68 bipartisan cosponsors on this bill; has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Philly adopts $3.4B budget, says no — again — to a new charter
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Maddie Hanna, Updated: May 30, 2019- 9:28 PM
The Philadelphia school board on Thursday night unanimously approved a $3.4 billion budget for the 2019-20 school year, approving new money for math support, school nurses, and teachers for English-language learners. The budget represents a 7.1 percent increase in expenditures over the current $3.2 billion spending plan, with cost increases largely driven by payments to charter schools and planned salary increases driven by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract. It projects a modest surplus at the end of fiscal 2020, but the picture is more problematic in the final years of the district’s five-year plan. By 2023, the district is projecting a $262 million budget deficit. The school board cannot raise its own revenue, but depends on the city, state, and federal governments to fund operations for the 200,000 students in district and charter schools. Uri Monson, the district’s chief financial officer, noted that the budget is a best guess based on city and state projections, but that two bills soon coming up for hearings before City Council — one increasing the homestead exemption rate to $50,000 and another enacting a tax rate each year that would be “revenue neutral” — could alter the district’s finances considerably. If both are enacted, they would cost the district $42 million next year, and nearly $500 million over the next five years.

The teacher strike is off, but Harrisburg’s senator still is calling for state control
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison May 31, 2019
Harrisburg teachers may have called off a one-day strike they’d planned for Friday, but one of the city’s leaders in the General Assembly is still calling for the struggling district to be put under state control. Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, told the Capital-Star on Wednesday that the one-day strike planned by the Harrisburg Education Association teachers’ union offered further proof that the district lacks leadership and should be under the control of a state-appointed receiver — sooner, rather than later. “I’ve learned to say, ‘what else can go wrong?’” DiSanto said Wednesday. “The last thing I thought we would have is a strike, and now there’s a strike… I think a lot can continue to go wrong.” The teachers called off their strike late Wednesday night, once they’d reached an agreement with the district’s labor counsel.   But according to DiSanto, his position on receivership — which would put the district under the executive control of a court-appointed administrator — hasn’t wavered since he and other elected officials first launched the call for state control last month. In April, DiSanto joined Harrisburg state Rep. Patty Kim and Mayor Eric Papenfuse, both Democrats, in asking the state Department of Education to put the district under the control of a court-appointed receiver, who would run all of the district’s financial and administrative operations for at least three years.

Dissent among Philly school board members over potential sale of Belmont charter school
A teacher resident in Relay Graduate School of Education criticized the institution amid bid for new contract
The notebook by Greg Windle May 30 — 11:43 pm, 2019
The Board of Education Thursday night denied the revised charter school application from American Paradigm schools while unanimously renewing three other charters. The renewal of a fourth, Belmont Elementary Charter School,  was approved another with strong dissent. The school has proposed to buy the District building it is currently renting. Belmont has been operating without a signed charter agreement since 2017 due to disagreements with the District over conditions. “I object,” said School Board Member Chris McGinley, referring to Belmont’s renewal. “And I’ll be voting no, because the terms and conditions, while they don’t specifically refer to the sale of the building, this is all part of a deal that will obligate the board later to sell that building.” The school, run by the Belmont Charter Network, would use a nonprofit to buy the building from the District. It’s valued at $2.4 million and Belmont will but it for $2.8 million. In the process, the District will unload the remaining debt on the building’s construction of roughly $1 million. Financially, it seems like a fine deal for the school district. Board member Lee Huang, who voted in favor of the renewal, said “it is my understanding that the transaction is contingent on the renewal.” But the charter has a catchment area and so functions like a neighborhood school. If it were to lose its charter, the District would lose that neighborhood school and have to buy or rent the building back – or take on millions in debt to build a new school. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to sell that building but I further I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to sell a neighborhood,” McGinley said. “By selling the building, we are permanently removing our presence in that neighborhood.”

Black teachers matter. How do we get more in the classroom? | Opinion
Sharif El-Mekki, for the Inquirer Updated: May 30, 2019 - 12:03 PM
Districts and schools search incessantly for meaningful, sustainable, and effective school-based interventions — and those efforts often fail. Tons of money has been spent on countless reform concepts: “whole language,” “small schools,” “schools within schools,” “small classrooms.” The list goes on. But what if one of the best interventions is sitting in our schools right now? Research and experience yields that one of the best, most impactful interventions has been largely lost over the years. The Association of American Educators Foundation, The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, the Center for Black Educator Development, and 73 other education organizations signed a letter dated May 22 calling for more awareness, funding, and policy to increase teacher diversity. Imagine if we could decrease black dropout rates by 40% through a tried and true, researched-based intervention. What would your response be? Would you slowly walk to that intervention or would you run? Would you wait for the arc of educational justice to bend, or would you try to hammer that arc?

Governor’s proposal on school attendance will help students succeed | Opinion
Penn Live By Karen Farmer White Posted May 30, 8:53 AM
Karen Farmer White is Chair of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.
Parents are often advised that children need structure in their lives, from the time they are toddlers through their teenage years. While their minds and bodies are growing and maturing, children don’t always possess the knowledge, skills and experience to make fully informed decisions. Governor Wolf understands that formal schooling provides this critical structure, but he also recognizes that Pennsylvania’s requirements for when students must start school and how long they have to remain in school are outdated and must be changed to better serve our students.  The State Board of Education agrees with the governor, unanimously adopting two resolutions on May 8 supporting the proposal to amend the Public School Code. Governor Wolf’s proposal would lower Pennsylvania’s school attendance requirement from 8 years to 6 years. Pennsylvania is one of just two states in the nation (Washington State is the other) that allows children to wait until age 8 to enroll in school. This compulsory age requirement was established in 1895 and does not reflect the needs of children or families in the 21st century.

This program in rural Pennsylvania is teaching kids about robotics
PA Capital Star By  Sarah Anne Hughes May 31, 2019
Timothy Heffernan is the gifted support teacher at Franklin Area High School in Venango County, a rural part of northwest Pennsylvania. Each year, he lets his students tell him what they’re interested in and designs their learning around that topic. Four years ago, it was robotics. So he did what any good teacher would do, Heffernan joked to the Capital-Star: He went online and started looking for good ideas to steal. That’s when he found VEX Robotics, a STEM education program that provides robots to schools and gives students a chance to compete with their creations. Now, in 2019, that class has grown into the five-county Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative, which has placed 180 robots into the hands of hundreds of students. On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced that the initiative will receive an $188,300 Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career grant, in part, for a summer workshop. In its first year, the workshop will serve approximately 20 students from schools across the region who have already participated in the initiative, Heffernan said. It will include robotics and programming lessons, as well as a trip to Carnegie Mellon University.

Stay in high school, and participate in its reinvention to meet your needs | Opinion
By Stephen Herzenberg  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor May 31, 2019
Stephen Herzenberg is an economist and the executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a progressive think tank in Harrisburg. 
I don’t usually cite researchers at the conservative Manhattan Institute favorably, but I’m doing that here to highlight opportunities for bipartisan problem solving that exist in Pennsylvania via reinventing the end of high school for students not planning to go to four-year college. Too many students today drop out because they don’t see the point of staying in school — more than 4,000 17-year-old Pennsylvanians each year. Gov. Tom Wolf wants them to stay in school. He has proposed raising the dropout age from 17 to 18 because students without a diploma end up with lower earnings and have greater difficulty navigating the 21st-century economy. That makes sense — but here’s the powerful closing argument: Wolf and the Legislature have launched a reinvention of grades 11-14 (high school plus two years of postsecondary education) so that potential dropouts, and many others, do see the point of staying in school. Manhattan Institute researcher Oren Cass made the case for this reinvention in “How the Other Half Learns,” a chapter in Cass’ book “The Once and Future Worker.” Cass highlights that high school focuses on preparing students for college even though those who will graduate from four-year schools represent less than half of young people nationally (much less in Pennsylvania). That college focus has gone along with the declining status of vocational education and an erosion in its connections to family-sustaining jobs. Recently, however, the stars have aligned behind a reinvigoration of voc-ed, now rechristened as career and technical education (CTE).

CCIU executive director announces retirement after 46 years in education
MediaNews Group May 25, 2019
DOWNINGTOWN — Chester County Intermediate Unit Executive Director Joseph J. O’Brien announced that he will be retiring on July 31 after more than 12 years of service to the intermediate unit and 46 years in public education. “This has been the best job in education — it will be hard to leave,” O’Brien said. “Education is highly valued in southeastern Pennsylvania; and, I believe over the years that we have built the best staff and best IU in the Commonwealth in order to meet the high expectations and demands of our customers.” O’Brien is credited with transforming the CCIU into a dynamic, entrepreneurial organization. His innovative thinking paved the way for regional education programs that seek to meet the needs of every child while reducing the financial impact of these services on local school districts. An indication of the CCIU’s financial success: the IU budget increased nearly $120 million during his tenure.
Under his leadership at the CCIU, three new dual-enrollment career and technical high schools were opened: the Chester County Technical College High School (TCHS) Pennock’s Bridge Campus in 2008 and the TCHS Brandywine Campus in August 2012; and the renovated TCHS Pickering Campus in 2017. The dual-enrollment career and technical high schools are models for the Commonwealth. In addition, under his direction, the CCIU implemented the “administrator on assignment" program that temporarily places administrators in dozens of school districts throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. He also implemented the CCIU executive search services and has assisted over 30 school districts with finding and hiring their superintendents, including the current superintendents in Avon Grove, Downingtown, Great Valley, Octorara, Owen J. Roberts, Oxford, Phoenixville, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Unionville.

“The vanguard of this unrest is organized teachers, political progressives and public education activists. Yet public opinion, even if it is moving more slowly, is tilting in the same direction. According to the school-choice-favoring EdNext Poll, support for charters slipped noticeably in 2017. Though it rebounded a bit in 2018, it did so mainly among Republicans, with “only 36 percent of Democrats now supporting their formation” — a phenomenon likely due to the polarizing influence of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The most recent polling on charters in Los Angeles County found that 75 percent of residents favor “improving the existing public schools” over pursuing “additional charter school options.””
School’s out - Charters were supposed to save public education. Why are Americans turning against them?
Washington Post By Jack Schneider MAY 30, 2019
The charter school movement is in trouble. In late December, the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times observed that the charter movement in the Windy City was “in hot water and likely to get hotter.” Among more than a dozen aspirants for mayor, “only a handful” expressed any support for charter schools, and the last two standing for the April 2 runoff election both said they wanted to haltcharter school expansion. In February, New York City’s elected parent representatives — the Community and Citywide Education Councils — issued a unanimous statement in which they criticized charters for operating “free from public oversight” and for draining “substantial” resources from district schools. A month later, Mayor Bill de Blasio tolda parent forum that in the “not-too-distant future” his administration would seek to curtail the marketing efforts of the city’s charters, which currently rely on New York City Department of Education mailing lists. After a six-day strike in January, Los Angeles teachers forced the city’s Board of Education to seek a state moratorium on new L.A. charters, an outcome that reverberated across California and then repeated itself in Oakland. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who previously said he supported charters, responded by appointing a task force to investigate their financial impact on traditional public schools. Now the state legislature is advancing bills that would cap charter school growth and limit where they can open. Meanwhile, on the national level, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren call the schools a problem.

Where the Presidential Candidates Went to School
Education Week By Alyson Klein and Maya Riser-Kositsky May 29, 2019
The presidential candidates may not be talking much about education so far, but they’ve all had personal experience with it. After all, they were students themselves at one time or another. And the parents among them choose schools—public or private—for their own children. So what did that experience look like? Did the candidates go to public schools, religious schools, or private schools? Where did they decide to send their own kids? And how much does any of it matter, when it comes to both politics and actual policymaking? At least 16 candidates—all Democrats—went to public school for at least part of their careers, including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Fla.; Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Rep. Eric Swalwell of California; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; author Marianne Williamson; and businessman Andrew Yang. Just one—Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii—was homeschooled for part of her career.
And at least 10 candidates have sent at least one child to public school, at one point or another, including Bullock; Castro; de Blasio; Hickenlooper; Inslee; Klobuchar; Messam; O’Rourke; Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and former Massachusetts governor William Weld, a Republican. (These findings come from an Education Week Library analysis of public records and reports. We reached out to other campaigns for missing information and noted when we didn’t hear back.)
Still, among the children of all the current candidates and each of their schools, about half are attending or have attended private schools.

Break Ground on PlanCon 2.0: Contact Your Senator!
PASBO Website
A year after the PlanCon Advisory Committee issued it's final recommendations for moving forward with a new PlanCon program, their recommendations have still not been implemented. As a result, school districts with school construction needs have no option for obtaining any state support for their projects, meaning that needed projects will be deferred or property taxes will increase. Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)--co-chair of the PlanCon Advisory Committee--is reintroducing legislation to implement the recommendation of the Committee. Those recommendations include streamlining the PlanCon funding formula and making it electronic, developing a small projects grant program targeted to maintenance needs and requiring guidance on what constitutes a maintenance project for the purposes of determining prevailing wage applicability.

Senator Browne’s Co-Sponsorship Memo: Plan Con - Construction and Renovation of Buildings by School Entities and Establishing a Grant Program for Maintenance Projects 

Charter Reform: Pay close attention to House Bills 356 and 357. Tell your legislator charter legislation that removes local authority and leaves out funding reform has missed the mark! Visit our website to send a letter to your legislator:
PSBA Website May 14, 2019

Tell your legislator to vote NO on charter bills fast-tracked for a House vote 
Significant concerns, expansion without oversight
Monday the House Education Committee reported out a package of four bills addressing various charter school issues. The package is expected to be positioned on a fast track, with a vote on the House floor to occur as early as this Wednesday, May 15. Unlike attempts in previous sessions to move one omnibus charter “reform” bill, the plan now is to separate issues into a series of bills and push the package as a whole.  While PSBA supports two of the bills in the package, the other two present significant concerns and are not supported by PSBA.
Please contact your legislators in the House and tell them to vote NO on the charter package. 

Find your State Representative’s Contact Info Here:

Philadelphia Public School Notebook 25th Anniversary!
Please join us on June 4, 2019, at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia! 
Teachers, families, public education advocates – come celebrate with us on the last day of the school year.
Every June, 400 public school supporters gather in celebration at the end of the school year. This festive event features awards for outstanding high school journalism, talented local musicians, a silent auction, and the opportunity to speak with the most influential voices in the local education community.
THE NOTEBOOK is thrilled to celebrate our 25th Anniversary on the final day of the school year! Our annual event will be a celebration of this exciting milestone for our nonprofit news organization. Our amazing community has made our decades of reporting possible, and we want to honor you this year: the parents, educators and advocates striving together in support of equity and quality in our public schools.
Our 25th Anniversary speakers will include:
• Stephen Flemming, English teacher and certified reading specialist at Martin Luther King High School, and an adjunct professor at Delaware County Community College
• Robin Roberts, Vocal advocate for high quality public education, public school parent and Director for Parents United for Public Education
• Dale Mezzacappa, Notebook contributing editor and veteran Philadelphia education reporter.

PA League of Women Voters 2019 Convention Registration
Crowne Plaza in Reading June 21-23, 2019
May 22, 2019 – Deadline to get special room rates at Crowne Plaza Hotel 
                            Book Hotel or call: 1 877 666 3243
May 31, 2019 – Deadline to register as a delegate for the Convention
June 7, 2019 – Deadline to register for the Convention

PA Schools Work Capitol Caravan Days Wed. June 5th and Tues. June 18th
If you couldn’t make it to Harrisburg last week, it’s not too late. We are getting down to the wire. In a few short weeks, the budget will likely be passed. Collectively, our voices have a larger impact to get more funding for Pennsylvania’s students. Legislators need to hear from you!  
Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 18th  for our next PA Schools Work caravan days. We’d love to have you join us on these legislative visits. For more details about the caravans and to sign up, go to: . Please call Tomea Sippio-Smith at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 36 or (C) 215-667-9421 or Shirlee Howe at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 34 or (C) 215-888-8297 with any questions or specific requests for legislative meetings. 

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

PSBA Tweet March 12, 2019 Video Runtime: 6:40
In this installment of #VideoEDition, learn about legislation introduced in the PA Senate & House of Representatives that would save millions of dollars for school districts that make tuition payments for their students to attend cyber charter schools. 

PSBA Summaries of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Statewide Cyber Charter School Funding Reform

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 256

How much could your school district and taxpayers save if there were statewide flat tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed.? See the estimated savings by school district here.
Education Voters PA Website February 14, 2019

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

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.