Archives for category: Pennsylvania

In December, the York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch tried to meet with representatives from Charter Schools USA, the Florida for-profit chain that has been selected by the district’s receiver to take control of the city’s financially strapped public schools. The company canceled the meeting. The newspaper submitted 36 questions. The company did not respond to 12 of them.

“Those questions include the following: Will Charter Schools USA allow employees to unionize? How much does the average teacher make at a school operated by Charter Schools USA? What is CEO Jonathan Hage’s annual salary? How much profit does Charter Schools USA expect to make on the York City contract?

“The Dispatch recently reiterated those questions to the company.

“Due to the current status of contract negotiations, Charter Schools USA will not be visiting our market for one-on-one media interviews until more information is known regarding the future of a potential contract in York,” Kernan wrote in response. “Should the situation change indicating potential movement on the contract, Charter Schools USA will welcome face-to-face interviews regarding the students of the York City School District. Charter Schools USA continues to be focused on providing educational opportunities for students.”

Kernan said Charter Schools USA would also decline phone or email interview requests.”

Meanwhile CSUSA has hired a prominent lobbying firm to represent its interests in Harrisburg.

“Malady & Wooten lists a diversity of clients on its website — from major retailers like Walmart, Target and Rite Aid to smaller interests like the Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners Association and several schools for deaf and blind children.”

“Calls to Malady & Wooten were not returned.”

Two questions occur:

First, how can any corporation make a profit managing a district with a tax base too small to support its schools?

Second, doesn’t the state have a constitutional obligation to provide public education to all children? If the district can’t afford to maintain its schools, doesn’t the state have an obligation to subsidize its schools rather than giving them away to a company whose first responsibility is to make a profit?

The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, are on a precipice. They have a deficit. The state, contrary to its constitutional obligation, refuses to help. The district is in receivership. A judge approved the receiver’s plan to hand the schools over to a Florida-based for-profit corporation. How the corporation can make a profit from a district in financial distress is not clear. The district school board wants to appeal. The judge will decide in the next week whether he will permit an appeal from his ruling.

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Judge: Ruling on York City School District’s receivership appeal to come next week

York Dispatch by MOLLIE DURKIN 505-5432/@YDHealth 01/06/2015 01:58:20 PM EST

A court ruling on the York City School District’s appeal of receivership will have to wait until next week. York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh held a hearing about the appeal on Tuesday, a week and a half after granting the state Department of Education’s petition to appoint David Meckley as the school district’s receiver. Meckley has served as the district’s chief recovery officer for about two years. For several months, he’s advocated for a full conversion of the district’s eight schools to operation by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit charter company.

The appeal: Marc Tarlow, an attorney representing the district, filed an appeal to Linebaugh’s decision and is pushing for a stay that would prevent Meckley from officially becoming the receiver until the appeals process is finished. But Clyde Vedder, attorney for the state Department of Education, argued that the district has no authority to appeal and that only the directors of the school board may file appeals. “Which, as we pointed out in our motion, they have not done,” he said. Linebaugh said he is “somewhat troubled” by the assertion that an entity affected by a decision has no right to appeal.

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_27264505/judge-ruling-york-city-school-districts-receivership-appeal

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Judge considers appeal questions in York City receiver case

State wants court to strike appeal from York City School District

By Angie Mason amason@ydr.com @angiemason1 on Twitter 01/06/2015 06:05:01 PM EST

David Meckley could know as early as next week whether a judge will clear the way for him to move forward with the York City School District’s recovery plan, or whether appeals filed over his appointment as receiver will keep district control in limbo. On Tuesday, York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh heard arguments on the state education department’s motions to strike the school district’s appeal in the case and remove an automatic stay of receivership triggered by that appeal. Linebaugh gave the attorneys until Friday to file any supplemental documents and said he could rule early next week, unless he determines there’s need for a hearing.

Clyde Vedder, attorney for the state, argued Tuesday there’s a “fundamental distinction” between the school district and the school board. The appeal was “allegedly” filed by the district, he said, but the district was placed under Meckley’s control when he was named receiver Dec. 26. The board itself, Vedder argued, has not filed an appeal.

http://www.ydr.com/ci_27268935/judge-considers-appeal-questions-york-city-receiver-case?source=rss

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Politics is as politics does in York school debate (letter)

York Daily Record Letter by Jeff Kirkland UPDATED: 01/06/2015 02:34:03 PM EST

Jeff Kirkland is a former York City School Board President.

In response to the letter by state Reps. Seth Grove and Stand Saylor, and state Sen. Scott Wagner:

When it comes to assessing what is good for the York City School District, these guys are as delusional as they were when they participated in the decimation of the district. It is obvious this is a political hack piece as these arrogant “do-gooders” attempt to support their crony, Tom Corbett, and cover their own tracks in undermining urban education across the state.

When it comes to concern about the education of the kids of York, these charlatans have proven over the years they have no real interest in the education of city youth.

Both Saylor and Grove supported the destabilization of the city district by pushing the failed Edison Charter school experiment. The Edison group, like Charter Schools USA, made many similar empty promises of savings, improved academics and even free computers for families who fell for their false promises. When they could not squeeze enough profits out of this community to satisfy their greed, Edison left town in a hurry, leaving a disrupted and unstable district in its lurch. Where is the accountable Mr. Grove and Mr. Saylor? Where were you as your experiment with our children failed?

http://www.ydr.com/letters/ci_27266986/politics-is-politics-does-york-school-debate-letter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at

http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Visit us on Facebook at KeystoneStateEducationCoalition

Sorry I missed this great post when it came out in November. Jersey Jazzman, one of the nation’s best education bloggers, foretells the handover of the York City public schools to a for-profit charter chain and excoriates the state officials who are permitting this travesty to happen.

 

He digs into the stats on York City to show that it is performing about where you would expect given the socioeconomic disadvantage of its students. York City, he says, needs help, more resources, not a for-profit charter chain to siphon money out of its budget.

 

He writes:

 

Let’s recap:

Tom Corbett abdicated his responsibilities to the children of York and defunded their schools.
He sent in his personal hack to force the district to turn those schools over to a private, for-profit corporation through a shell non-profit.
The hack — as if he were a made man — told the district if they didn’t take his offer, he’d take over.
No one knows how much money the charter company is going to make on this deal.
Trust me, folks, we’re just getting started…

 

Meckley believes this plan is warranted because York’s schools aren’t performing up to snuff. But the truth is that they are exactly where we’d expect them to be, given the demographics of the city.

 

Do you want to see a photo of Jon Hage’s gorgeous yacht? Look here. He is the CEO of Charter Schools USA. The yacht was up for sale recently. He lives well. His business is very profitable with taxpayer dollars.

 

Jersey Jazzman asks:

 

And what kind of performance have the good people of Florida received for all of that money?

 
The chain was considered high-performing until this year. And on Tuesday the Orange School Board voted 7-0 to deny its applications for three new campuses.

 
Because charters are publicly funded per pupil, Charter Schools USA would receive about $27 million a year to run the three schools at capacity if approved.

 
“Their performance in Orange County is abysmally poor,” board Chairman Bill Sublette said of the Renaissance schools. “They’re underperforming the schools in the area that they’re drawing from. How can we look taxpayers in the eye and approve them?”
But Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA, said he is proud of all of the company’s schools, including Chickasaw.

 
“We do an excellent job over time, even with the lowest-performing students,” he said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn those scores around in a year.” [emphasis mine]

 
JJ: I guess David Meckley knows better than the entire Orange School Board. Maybe CSUSA’s history in Indiana convinced him:

 
“The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.
On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.
Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.
Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs. But for some, the price tag is proving too high. Earlier this month, Tindley shocked state education officials by threatening to pull out of Arlington shortly after the start of the school year unless the nonprofit could get $2.4 million in additional aid.”

 
– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/11/york-pa-and-death-of-public-education.html#sthash.wCR7cUKg.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, a judge handed the schools of York City, Pennsylvania, to a receiver, David Meckley, a businessman, to do with as he pleases. He has said he will turn the district over to a for-profit charter chain, Charter Schools, USA. There is still a glimmer of hope, as the school board is appealing the decision. 

 

The local newspaper published a terrific editorial. It asks questions that the judge never considered: What are the for-profit corporations plans for the children with special needs? How can anyone justify diverting money to “profit,” when the district is in dire financial need? Does the for-profit corporation actually have a plan for improvement? My questions: why isn’t the state responsible to assist districts whose property tax base cannot support public schools? How many more districts will be handed over to entrepreneurs? What is the purpose of public education? Does the voice of the community matter? Whatever happened to democracy?

 

This is what the local newspaper said:

 

Meckley, a Spring Garden Township businessman who has led the district’s financial recovery process for two years now, intends to convert all eight schools to charters operated by a for-profit company, Charter Schools USA.

Such a conversion has never been tried in Pennsylvania, and the company’s plan for York City appears half-baked.

For instance, in response to questions submitted by The York Dispatch, a company representative showed limited knowledge of the district’s student population and couldn’t even describe plans for the 21 percent of students with special needs.

The community clearly opposes the plan. Yet while they have no say in the matter, city property owners’ tax dollars now will be used not only for education but to boost the profits of Charter Schools USA.

Since the district is struggling financially, how can anyone justify diverting even a penny away from the students?

Unfortunately, Linebaugh, York County’s president judge, was not allowed to consider these or any other aspects of the charter conversions.

Earlier today, I posted about the decision by a judge in Pennsylvania to declare the York City School District to be in “receivership,” meaning that it will now be controlled by the state. The district is being punished because its board refused to follow the receiver’s orders. Parents and educators fought the decision, but their voices did not count.

 

 

Here is a comment from one reader (Chiara), who also noted that Vice President Joe Biden’s brother, Frank, came to testify on behalf of the for-profit charter takeover (he works for a for-profit charter in Florida called Mavericks):

 

 

York isn’t the first public school district that was completely privatized by a politically connected for-profit charter management company.

 

Muskegon Heights MI was the first.

 

It was privatized but it’s never mentioned by ed reformers (unlike say, New Orleans) because the charter management company pulled out and left town when they determined they couldn’t turn a profit. Muskegon Heights doesn’t fit the ed reform narrative so it simply isn’t discussed.

 

“MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI — Mosaica Education Inc. will no longer manage the Muskegon Heights charter school district, and plans will begin immediately to seek a replacement company.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon said the separation came down to an issue of finances. Mosaica, a for-profit company, was running a deficit budget and not making a profit.”

 

I think they dump the for-profit charter chains in states where there’s no regulation, lawmakers are completely captured and there’s no national media focus – states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL get all the ed reform garbage. It washes up here.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL should serve as a warning to other states not to lift charter caps and deregulate further, but it won’t. They’ll all end up like the least regulated states. It’s a race to the bottom.

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2014/04/mosaica_out_as_manager_of_musk.html

 

 

Another, 2old2teach, wrote this pointed question:

 

 

It really makes you wonder how these folks dare to appear in public. How do they teach democracy in York, now?

Last Friday, a judge cleared the way to put the York City schools into receivership, meaning under state control. The Pennsylvania Department of Education previously announced its intention to hand over the entire school district to the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools of America.

Be it noted that today’s education “reformers” don’t much care for democracy. They would rather turn public schools over to a for-profit corporation that siphons off 20% in management fees and pays itself outlandish rental fees rather than trust parents and local citizens to do what’s best for their children.

Choice? There will be no “choice” for the families of York City. Their children will have to attend a charter school whose headquarters are in Florida. Yes, it is the death of local control and democracy in York City.

The news story says:

“State officials have said they would, if approved for a receivership, bring in Charter Schools USA to operate the district.

“So this means York likely will be the first city in the Commonwealth – and only one in the nation – where public education is provided exclusively by a private company.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association plans to appeal, according to a statement released by the statewide teachers union immediately after the ruling Friday morning.

“York’s citizens don’t want this, the elected school board doesn’t want this, and parents and educators don’t want this,” said PSEA President Michael Crossey.

“Citing the district’s financial problems, PDE declared York schools in recovery status and appointed David Meckley chief recovery officer, or CRO, in late 2012.

“State law triggers a receivership petition if officials in a recovery school district act against the wishes of the CRO or in violation of their approved recovery plan, which is supposed to be collaboratively developed.

“In this case, one action was the board’s refusal to vote on a charter school operator contract until the company provided more information.

“The other was its vote on a teachers and staff union contract that didn’t cut as much as set out in the recovery plan.”

This is what we would expect from the outgoing Corbett administration, which actively promoted privatization.

What will the new Tom Wolf administration do?

Here are some thoughts from Mark Miller, a local school board member in Pennsylvania and an officer of the Pennsylvania School Boards Assiciation:

“PSBA was disqualified as a party of interest in the case despite the fact we are a state chartered agency with a membership of 4,500 elected officials sworn to uphold the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all children. On that count alone, how can the court force any child to attend a charter school?

“Linebaugh also disqualified NAACP, PASA and twenty-two parents of children with special needs who combined their money to retain special education counsel. Commonwealth Court upheld the ruling on NAACP, PSBA, PASA and parents did not appeal as we were saving our war chest for this new fight.

“There was never any question in my mind that Linebaugh was going to hand the district over to privateers. Governor Elect Wolf is a resident of York County and a political ally of the Receiver (David Meckley). While he did ask for the courts to leave this matter wait until his term of office begins, he has been absolutely silent on his position in this matter.

“Wolf’s wife Frances resigned from the Board of York Academy Charter School two months before he declared for office. some observers think that CSUSA will sub-contract to York Academy and CSMI (Charter School Management Inc is Vahan Gureghian’s company) as CSUSA does not have the resources at hand to run these schools.

“York Academy and CSMI have been silent and CSUSA non committal http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_27186647/charter-schools-usa-mum-york-city-schools-special (Although Vahan Guerghian is building a $28MM mansion within a 45 minute drive to CSUSA headquarters in Florida.

“Obviously, we are going to file an appeal of the ruling handed down today.”

The state of Pennsylvania is being sued by the following petitioners:

WILLIAM PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT; PANTHER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF LANCASTER; GREATER JOHNSTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT; WILKES-BARRE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; SHENANDOAH VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; JAMELLA AND BRYANT MILLER, parents of K.M., minor; SHEILA ARMSTRONG, parent of S.A., minor; TYESHA STRICKLAND, parent of E.T., minor; ANGEL MARTINEZ, parent of A.M., minor; BARBARA NEMETH, parent of C.M., minor; TRACEY HUGHES, parent of P.M.H., minor; PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION OF RURAL AND SMALL SCHOOLS; and THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE—PENNSYLVANIA STATE CONFERENCE.

The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania.

Here is the summary of their challenge to the state:

PETITION FOR REVIEW IN THE NATURE OF AN ACTION FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

Petitioners, by and through their counsel, for their Petition for Review in the Nature of an Action for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against Respondents, state and allege as follows:

INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by Wise men in all Ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country.1

1. From the earliest days of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania has recognized a societal interest in public education—a charge that Respondents here are sworn to carry out. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Respondents have an obligation to support a thorough and efficient public school system that provides all children an equal opportunity to receive an adequate education. Through legislation and regulation, Respondents have established state academic standards that define precisely what an adequate education entails. But rather than equip children to meet those standards and participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities, Respondents have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts.
In adopting this arrangement, Respondents have violated Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the “Education Clause”), which requires the General Assembly to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” They have also violated Article III, Section 32 (the “Equal Protection Clause”), which requires Respondents to finance the Commonwealth’s public education system in a manner that does not irrationally discriminate against a class of children.

2. The General Assembly’s delegation of much of these duties to local school districts cannot elide its ultimate responsibility under the Education Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. Through this lawsuit, Petitioners seek to hold the General Assembly responsible for and accountable to its constitutional mandate.

3. Respondents are well aware that the current school financing arrangement does not satisfy that mandate. In 2006, recognizing its constitutional duty to ensure adequate school funding, the General Assembly passed Act 114, which directed the State Board of Education to conduct a comprehensive statewide “costing-out” study to determine the “basic cost per pupil to provide an education that will permit a student to meet the State’s academic standards and assessments.” Upon the study’s completion in 2007, Respondents learned that 95% of the Commonwealth’s school districts required additional funding, a shortfall that totaled $4.4 billion.
In response, the General Assembly approved a bill in 2008 that established funding targets for each school district and a formula for distributing education funds in a manner that would help ensure that all students could meet state academic standards. Even with a financial crisis sweeping the nation, Respondents were able to rely on that funding formula to begin to more equitably distribute state funds and federal stimulus money, which collectively increased funding for school districts by more than $800 million over three years. Beginning in 2011, however, Respondents abandoned the funding formula, slashed funding to districts by more than $860 million, and passed legislation to severely restrict local communities from increasing local funding. Meanwhile, the cost of meeting state academic standards continued to rise, opening a perilous and widening gap between the actual resources provided to school districts and the resources necessary to provide children in Pennsylvania an adequate education.

4. These funding cuts have had a devastating effect on students, school districts (especially less affluent school districts), teachers, and the future of the Commonwealth. The latest figures from the 2012–13 school year indicate that more than 300,000 of the approximately 875,000 students tested, including the children of the individual Petitioners in this action, are receiving an inadequate education—by Respondents’ own definition—and are unable to meet state academic standards. Specifically, these students are unable to achieve proficiency on the Pennsylvania System of Standardized Assessment (“PSSA”) exams, which the General Assembly modified in 1999 to track state academic standards and measure student performance in reading, writing, math, and science.

5. Because of insufficient funding, Petitioner school districts are unable to provide students with the basic elements of an adequate education, such as appropriate class sizes, sufficient experienced and effective teachers, up-to-date books and technology, adequate course offerings, sufficient administrative staff, academic remediation, counseling and behavioral health services, and suitable facilities necessary to prepare students to meet state proficiency standards. In fact, the superintendent of the state’s largest school district has stated publicly that school staffing levels in 2013-14 were insufficient to provide students an adequate education.

6. Nor do Petitioner school districts have adequate resources to prepare students to pass the Keystone Exams, which measure student performance in math, science, and English. Achieving proficiency or higher on the Keystone Exams (or an equivalent project-based assessment) is a graduation requirement for all Pennsylvania students in the class of 2017 and beyond. Yet over 50% of students in the Commonwealth are currently unable to pass the Keystone Exams. Many of those students will leave high school without a diploma, hindering their ability to enter the workforce or “serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” The existing system of public education is therefore neither thorough nor efficient, as measured by the Commonwealth’s own academic standards and costing-out study.

7. What is worse, the very low levels of state funding and unusually high dependence on local taxes under the current financing arrangement have created gross funding disparities among school districts—an asymmetry that disproportionately harms children residing in districts with low property values and incomes. In fiscal year 2011, local sources provided 60% of the money that funded public education, while state appropriations accounted for only 34%. That year, only three states contributed a smaller percentage of the cost of public education than Pennsylvania.

8. As a consequence, total education expenditures per student now range from as little as $9,800 per student in school districts with low property values and incomes to more than $28,400 per student in districts with high property values and incomes, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2012–13 data.2 This unconscionable and irrational funding disparity violates the Equal Protection Clause because it turns the caliber of public education into an accident of geography: Children in property- and income-poor districts are denied the opportunity to receive even an adequate education, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts enjoy a high-quality education.

This funding disparity is not justified by any difference in student needs. To the contrary, those students with the highest needs (e.g., English-language learners, students living in poverty) receive the fewest resources to prepare them to succeed. Nor is it justified by a desire to maintain local control over education. Any such “control” is illusory under the current financing arrangement because districts with low property values do not actually control the amount of resources at their disposal or the standards to which their students are held. In fact, many low-wealth districts have higher tax rates than property-rich school districts. In other words, it is not tax effort that explains the difference in funding. Rather, these underfunded districts are in areas so poor that, despite their high tax rates, they simply cannot raise enough money to improve education without more assistance from the state.

10. Petitioner Panther Valley School District (“Panther Valley”), a property-poor district, is a prime example of the funding disparity. In 2012– 13, Panther Valley’s equalized millage rate of 27.8—the 27th highest of the Commonwealth’s 501 school districts—raised revenue of approximately $5,646 locally per student. Property-rich Lower Merion School District (“Lower Merion”), on the other hand, raised revenue of approximately $23,709 locally per student—four times more than Panther Valley—with an equalized millage rate of just 14.7, almost half of Panther Valley’s.

11. Although the state has made some effort to close that gap, contributing twice as much per student to Panther Valley as it did to Lower Merion, that still left Panther Valley with less than half the combined state and local funding of Lower Merion: $12,022 per student versus $26,700. Respondents cannot reasonably claim that $12,022 is adequate to educate a Panther Valley student—not when the State Board of Education’s own costing-out study showed that Panther valley needed $13,427 per student based on 2005–06 costs. Over the past nine years, of course, those costs have only grown.

12. Given Respondents’ failure to address the funding crisis—and the ongoing harm their failure has inflicted on children throughout the Commonwealth—Petitioners ask this Court to declare the existing school financing arrangement unconstitutional and find that it violates both the Education Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. An objective framework for such an inquiry already exists. The state academic standards and student performance measures developed by Respondents beginning in 1999, as well as the costing-out study they commissioned, provide judicially manageable standards by which the Court can assess whether the General Assembly has maintained and supported “a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth,” as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

13. Petitioners also seek an injunction compelling Respondents, after being given sufficient time to design, enact, and implement a school financing arrangement consistent with the Constitution, to halt any funding arrangement that (i) does not provide necessary, sufficient, and appropriate funding that ensures all students have an opportunity to obtain an adequate education and meet state academic standards, and (ii) irrationally discriminates against children who live in school districts with low property values and incomes.

1 Benjamin Franklin, Proposal Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (1749), available at http://www.archives.upenn.edu/primdocs/1749proposals.html.

2 Unless otherwise noted, throughout this Complaint, “per student” is based upon Average Daily Membership (“ADM”) as reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. ADM refers to “all resident pupils of the school district for whom the school district is financially responsible.” It includes students in charter schools. See http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/financial_data_elements/7672.

I read a story about a charter school in Germantown, Pennsylvania. It is called Imhotep Charter School. It has a new $10 million facility. I can’t figure out who is in charge and where the money goes. Isn’t there an auditor? Stories like this are happening with increasing frequency as charters multiply and accountability shrinks.

 

There seems to be a tug of war between the school and the nonprofit to which it is connected about who owns the building. Meanwhile the founder of the school has been fired by a board, whose chairperson is the founder’s daughter.

 

I bring this to your attention because I can’t understand what is happening. I know that this school is publicly-funded but it seems to be in more than the usual turmoil, not what you are likely to find in your neighborhood public school.

 

“Sankofa Network Inc., a related nonprofit that owns Imhotep’s campus, filed a Common Pleas Court lawsuit last week alleging the charter owes $1.2 million in rent, interest, and fees.

The court action comes after the school, which opened in 1998, was rocked by months of turmoil, including the ouster in late June of M. Christine Wiggins, Imhotep’s founding chief executive.

The Imhotep board voted not to renew Wiggins’ contract after the School District’s charter office said in April that it would recommend not renewing the school’s charter on several grounds, including poor academic performance.

 

The lawyer for the school said the lawsuit was frivolous and that all bills were paid.

 

However,

Sharon Wilson, a lawyer who represents Sankofa Network, said the nonprofit acted after it was told by the bank that as of Oct. 1 it was delinquent nearly $900,000 in repaying a construction loan and a line of credit.

 

In addition to uncertainty about the financial stability of the school, charter authorizers worried about its academic performance:

 

Concerns about academic performance at Imhotep prompted the district’s charter office to express reservations about renewing the school’s charter.

 

Although Imhotep, which has 525 students in grades nine through 12, has been praised for sending a high percentage of its graduates to college, the school’s records show that in 2013, only 9 percent of Imhotep students scored proficient on the state’s Keystone exams in Algebra 1 and 5 percent in Biology 1. In literature, 37 percent were proficient.

 

When I see billionaires throwing huge sums into local and state elections with the hope of opening more charters, I wonder if they believe their claims that charters will improve American education. Do they know that none of the world’s high-performing nations have charters or vouchers?
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20141105_Imhotep_Charter_sued_by_related_nonprofit.html#JH5qSVv1MbVO1cd7.99

 

 

 

 

While Republicans made big gains across the nation, Pennsylvania was a stark exception. Democrat Tom Wolf beat Republican Governor Tom Corbett by a large margin. The main issue of the campaign was Corbett’s devastating cuts to public schools. Other budget-cutting governors won; why was Corbett whipped?

Here is the answer: Parent power. Parents never forgot what Corbett did and they built a grassroots movement to keep alive the voters’ memory and outrage about what Corbett had done to public schools.

Jesse Ramey–the blogger Yinzercation–explains here the victory strategy. Parents were relentless. They never gave up.

“What really dogged Corbett was – us! Ordinary parents, students, teachers, and community members refused to let this issue go. We wrote letters to the editor, op-eds, and blog pieces; we staged rallies and demonstrations; we held mock-bake sales; we wrote petitions and got on buses to Harrisburg to deliver thousands of signatures; we hosted public debates, lectures, and national authors. With “dogged” determination, we took every opportunity to counter Corbett’s attempts to minimize the damage he was inflicting on our schools: we took to social media and made on-line comments on news stories at every chance.

“Some folks had been doing this work for many years and became advisors and mentors to the more recent groundswell of advocacy, as we joined the long arc of the education justice movement. We connected with others across the state, from Philadelphia, to the Lehigh Valley, State College, Shippensburg, Erie, and beyond. I’m especially grateful to parent leaders such as Helen Gym, Rebecca Poyourow, Susan Spicka, Mark Spengler, and Dana Bacher. One take away message from this election is “don’t mess with Pennsylvania parents – or hurt their kids and schools!”

You can be sure that this powerful coalition will not let Governor Wolf forget why he was elected.

Larry Feinberg, who runs the Keystone State Education Coalition of public school advocates, offered the following summary of K12 Inc.’s Agora charter school in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania’s Agora Cyber Charter, managed by K12, Inc. never made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind

· In 2006 its AYP status was Warning

· In 2007 its AYP status was School Improvement 1

· In 2008 its AYP status was School Improvement 2

· In 2008 its AYP status was Corrective Action 1

· In 2010 its AYP status was Corrective Action 2 (1st Year)

· In 2011 its AYP status was Corrective Action 2 (2nd Year)

· In 2012 its AYP status was Corrective Action 2 (3rd Year)

·
In 2013 (no more AYP) Agora’s Pennsylvania School Performance Profile score was 48.3 on a 100 point scale; Acting Sec’y of Education Carolyn Dumaresq has indicated that a score of 70 is considered passing.

In addition to never making AYP, Agora’s 2012 graduation rate was 45% while the Philly SD graduation rate was 57%.
http://thenotebook.org/april-2013/135820/cyber-charter-graduation-rates

School Choices: K12 Inc execs taking $2K per student in salary. 8 execs, 75K students, $21M in salaries. 20% of revenue in 8 pockets.

Morningstar Executive Compensation

http://insiders.morningstar.com/trading/executive-compensation.action?t=LRN

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