Archives for category: Pennsylvania

The arrogance of the charter industry is getting to be boundless. They want the authority to expand without limits, with no accountability or transparency.

If the Democrats don’t stand up to this brazen effort to privatize public education, who will?

Steven Singer writes here about the latest raid on the public treasury in Pennsylvania.

Singer writes:

Fund my charter school.

Come on, Pennsylvania.

Let me just swipe tax dollars you set aside to educate your children and put them into my personal bank account as profit.


I’ll be your best friend. Or at least I’ll be your legislator’s best friend.

Chances are, I already am.

That’s why lawmakers in Harrisburg are once again looking to pass a school code bill (House Bill 530) that would let charter schools expand exponentially almost completely unchecked and without having to do any of that nasty, sticky accountability stuff you demand of your traditional public schools.

Sure there are a few provisions in there to make charters fill out more paperwork, but the benefits for privatization and profitization of your child’s education are huge!

For me, that is. For your child, not so much.

For instance, the proposed legislation would set up a charter school funding advisory commission. This august body would have many duties including the ability to authorize charter schools in your local school district.

No longer would prospective charter operators have to come before your duly-elected board members and plead and beg to set up shop and suck away hard to come by education funding. They could just appear before the commission and sidestep your local democracy completely.

Who will be on this commission? I’m glad you asked.

We’ve got eight legislators. Got to give THEM a voice. But they’re usually pretty cheap. A few bucks in the re-election campaign and we’ll be golden. We’ll also have the state secretary of education and the chairman of the state board. We’ve got to make the thing look legit, right?

But here’s the best part! We’ll have four public education representatives and FIVE representatives of the charter school industry!

Isn’t that great!? There are significantly more traditional public schools throughout the state, but they’ll have less representation on the commission! It’s stacked with charter friendly votes! The forces of privatization have a built-in majority! Ring the dinner bell, Baby! Once this bill gets passed, it’s charter school time all across the Commonwealth!

Once a charter school is authorized, it can expand as much as it wants, without the local district’s permission. It can even enroll students from outside the district and charge the district!

Worse, the bill authorizes “education savings accounts,” a euphemism for vouchers.

Is the Pennsylvania legislature is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALEC and the privatization movement.

The Network for Public Education is encouraging people who live in Pennsylvania to be informed and get involved. Don’t let them destroy public education that your community paid for. The schools belong to the public–or they should. Don’t let the privatizers take them away.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please, contact your legislators and ask them to oppose this terrible bill. The Network for Public Education has made it very easy. Just click HERE and you can shoot off a letter to your representatives in moments.

Oppose HB 530. Fight for public education.

This is one of the strangest stories of the week or year. Back in 2008, a group of parents at the Agora Cyber Charter school in Pennsylvania began questioning the financial affairs of the corporation that owned it. Agora was paying rent and management fees to another company, the Cynwyd Group, which June Brown, the founder of Agora, also owned.

In January 2009, the owners of Agora filed suit against the parents:

As parents tried to gather records and sort out the business relationships at Agora, they circulated emails expressing their concerns. They also complained to the state Education Department when the school did not provide information they requested.

In the suit filed in January 2009, Brown and Cynwyd Group charged that the parents had made statements that defamed and libeled Brown.

The complaint also alleged that the parents’ group had tried to interfere with Cynwyd’s contractual relationship with Agora “by spreading untruths about Dr. Brown and by implying that she had improperly used public funds.”

Brown and Cynwyd sought more than $150,000 in damages from the six parents for libel, slander, and civil conspiracy.

The parents denied the allegations and said they had merely sought information about the taxpayer-funded school their children attended.

Brown said the parents had defamed her and she had to defend her reputation. The parents had trouble paying for legal representation.

The suit dragged on, but in 2012, “federal grand jurors indicted Brown and charged her with defrauding Agora and her other charters of $6.7 million.”

The case against the parents remained active, to be addressed after the conclusion of the criminal trial. Brown’s criminal trial ended in a hung jury in 2014, and a retrial was canceled in 2015 after Brown’s lawyer said that she suffered from dementia. So, she escaped legal action, kept the money, but the parents were in limbo, still facing the charges of defamation that Brown had lodged against them.

Earlier this month, the charges were dismissed. The parents were relieved. One had used the family’s mortgage payment to pay a lawyer and lost her home fighting the lawsuit.

It does seem unjust that the parents were dragged through legal proceedings for more than seven years, accused of defaming Brown, even while she was under federal indictment for defrauding her charters of millions of dollars.

Steven Singer writes here on the theme: Online courses for the poor, teachers for the rich kids. (This is familiar to me; I discussed this subject near the end of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, recalling an article by the technology editor of Forbes, who predicted this development more than 30 years ago.)

Singer writes:

Pennsylvania has a long history of under-resourcing its public schools.

State Rep. Jason Ortitay has a solution.

The Republican representing Washington and Allegheny Counties envisions a world where poor kids learn from computers and rich kids learn from flesh-and-blood teachers.
It’s all in his proposed legislation, H.B. 1915, passed by the state House on Monday. It now moves on to the Senate.

The legislation would assign the Department of Education the task of organizing a collection of online courses for use by students in grades 6-12. Some classes might be created by the state and others would be made by third parties with approval for state use. If anyone so desired, the courses could be utilized by anyone in public school, private school, homeschool and beyond. The online learning clearinghouse thus created would be called the “Supplemental Online Course Initiative.”

The purpose of the bill is to help financially stressed districts, not by funding them but by giving them a cheap alternative.

This bill provides an alternative for schools where the local tax base isn’t enough to fund traditional classes presided over by living, breathing teachers.

In the distant past, the state used to made up some of the slack to level the playing field for students born into poverty. However, for the last five years, the legislature has forced the poor to make due with almost $1 billion less in annual state education funds. This has resulted in narrowing the curriculum, the loss of extra-curriculars, increased class size, and plummeting academic achievement.

While the majority of voters are crying out for the legislature to fix this blatant inequality and disregard for students’ civil rights, Ortitay’s proposed bill lets lawmakers off the hook. It allows legislators to provide a low quality alternative for the poor without necessitating any substantial influx of funds.

Where is the curriculum coming from?

Internet-based classwork – like that which would be collected in the clearinghouse – makes up the curriculum at cyber charter schools. Moreover, these online schools have a proven track record of failure and fraud.

A recent nationwide study found that cyber charters provide 180 days less of math instruction than traditional public schools and 72 days less of reading instruction.
In addition, researchers found that 88 percent of cyber charter schools have weaker academic growth than similar brick and mortar schools.

They have an “overwhelming negative impact” on students, according to researchers.

And THAT kind of curriculum is what the state House voted to increase using public money!

Singer reminds readers that Pennsylvania cybercharters have experienced major frauds, and two cybercharter leaders are currently under indictment. Cybercharters have a sorry track record in Pennsylvania and everyone else.

That makes them just right for children who live in financially distressed districts. No one in the legislature cares about educating THEM.

Peter Greene reports on the latest terrible news from Pennsylvania. Because of the highly inequitable funding formula for the state, because of the legislature’s inability to pass a budget for almost a year, because of the burgeoning charter movement, school districts across the state are in dire condition.


Erie is considering closing all its high schools and sending its students to other districts. The decision may be made today. Peter predicts that the end result of this crisis could be the end of public education, as the free-market mania consumes everything in its path:


The district is looking at a $4.3 million gap, and like many districts in PA, it has no possible response except to cut, “including eliminating sports, extracurricular activities, art and music programs, district libraries, and the district’s police department.” Plus cutting various administrative positions out the wazoo.



PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has taken a look at Erie finances and determined that the crappy state funding formula and the loss of money to charters are a huge part of the problem. DePasquale has actually been saying this a great deal, all over the state, because from Erie to Philadelphia, bad funding and a terrible charter law are guttting school finance.



It is, of course, the same death spiral visible across the country. If Erie does hang in there, how well can the public schools compete with the charters if the public schools must cut all sorts of services? This is one of the most baloney-stuffed parts of the Free Market Competition Mantra– competition will spur Erie schools to become greater and more competitive by stripping them of the resources they need just to function. Is that how it’s supposed to work?



No, this is how charter eat public schools from the inside out, like free market tapeworms. The more the eat, the weaker public schools become, and the weaker public schools become, the more charters can attack them and eat more….


Particularly in the long term, closing down the high schools and farming out the students qualifies as a viable solution. It also qualifies as a breakdown of the public education system. If the schools shut down (a process that would take over a year), what happens to the students? While there would be public and charter schools that could, maybe, take those students, there’s no guarantee that there would be enough capacity to absorb those students and more importantly, none of those schools would have an obligation to absorb the Erie students (and Erie’s only remaining obligation would be to pay tuition– it would actually be to their benefit if a student is not placed anywhere). Whether the student is expensive to teach or a behavior problem or can’t get transportation or the receiving schools are just out of desks and don’t want to hurt their own programs through overcrowding, there will be students that nobody takes responsibility for….


The bulldozing of public schools in order to make room for the free market presumes that the free market has the chops to absorb what the public system turns loose. What if we burn down the public school to make room for a shiny charter, and all we end up with is a vacant lot? The biggest danger of a botched conversion to a charter choice system is not that we’d end up with a bad charter choice system, but that a city could end up with no system at all.



Steven Singer hangs a dunce cap on Pennsylvania’s legislature. Facing a budget crisis, they voted to eliminate seniority and cynically called their bill “The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”

He writes:

“If you live in Pennsylvania, as I do, you must be shaking your head at the shenanigans of our state legislature.

“Faced with a school funding crisis of their own making, lawmakers voted this week to make it easier to fire school teachers.

“Monday the state Senate passed their version of an anti-seniority bill that was given the thumbs up by the House last summer.

“Thankfully, Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto it.

“As usual, lawmakers (or more accurately their surrogates at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who actually wrote the bill) spent more time on branding the legislation than appealing to logic, sense or reason. The bill called HB 805 was given the euphemistic title “The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”

“Yes, this is exactly how you protect excellent teachers – by making it easier to fire them.

“Currently, if teachers are furloughed, those with least seniority go first. Under this new law, teachers would be let go based on their academic rating. Teachers can have one of four ratings: Distinguished, Proficient, Needs Improvement and Failing. Under the new legislation, teachers rated Failing would be furloughed first, followed by those under Needs Improvement, etc. Within those categories decisions would be made based on seniority.

“It sounds great – if you know absolutely nothing about Pennsylvania public schools.

“First off, in 2015 our rating system found 98.2% of state teachers to be in the highest two rating categories. So at best this bill is next to meaningless.

“Second, like virtually all value added rating systems across the country, our rating system is pure bull crap. It’s a complicated measure of meaningless statistics, student test scores and mumbo jumbo that can be twisted one way or another depending on the whims of administrators, dumb luck and the phases of the moon.”

Be sure to read Peter Greene’s take on this legislation.

After nine months of feuding over the state budget, the Pennsylvania legislature–dominated by Republicans–and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf finally reached a deal. Wolf wanted a $400 million increase for education, mostly targeted to help the beleaguered cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The final deal included only half that amount. Pennsylvania will remain the state with the most inequitable funding for the foreseeable future.


Pennsylvania has a long way to go to make up for the heavy cuts that former Governor Tom Corbett imposed on the schools.


To keep up with the news from Pennsylvania, read the Keystone State Education Coalition’s daily briefings.

The Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, school board gave a $30,000 contract to a consulting firm for advice. The advice was to turn a certain number of elementary school teachers into “at-large” teachers in their school. This would make them into floaters, permanent subs.


Guess what? Teachers are furious. They will lose their classrooms.


A special meeting of the Upper Darby School Board Thursday night to discuss the educational specifications committee turned into a standing room only plea to keep teachers in their classrooms.


Purple T-shirts with “Let us Teach” filled the board room at the high school as teachers let the board know that they want to teach in their own classrooms and not be designated floaters throughout the district under proposed new elementary school schedules.


These schedules, made up by the consulting firm District Management Council for $30,000, are slated to be presented to the public on Monday night, but teachers who have seen or heard about the schedules are against an alleged idea of having five teachers being “at-large” in schools.


“I cannot see myself going back to being a teacher-at-large,” said Primos Elementary teacher Kristina McBrearty, “which, to me, is a glorified building sub. I want a classroom, that’s where I want to be, that’s where I’m going to make the difference.”


Somebody better start coming up with ideas about how to help teachers, how to retain teachers, how to make teachers feel appreciated.


How can we have better education if we drive away our teachers?

Now here is a conundrum: Why would the charter school lobby donate $50,000 to a candidate for State Attorney General who is already backed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the teachers’ union?


Steven Singer poses that question here. Pennsylvania is a state that is rife with charter school scandals. Such scandals would normally be investigated by the State Attorney General. Duh. If Josh Shapiro gets elected, let’s see how vigorous in investigating the scandals that Singer links to in his blog, and how vigorously he prosecutes the charlatans and frauds who are profiting off the gullibility of parents.


Singer asks:



What’s the best way to avoid a charter school scandal?

In Pennsylvania, apparently you bribe the Attorney General.


That may be why Students First PAC donated $50,000 to Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for the position.


This political action committee is not to be confused with the infamous national group founded by Michelle Rhee. Students First PAC is a state organization that typically contributes to charter school friendly candidates.


And $50K is quite a chunk of change in a State Attorney General race – the office in charge of prosecuting charter schools for breaking the law.



Charter school scandals have been an almost weekly occurrence throughout the Commonwealth. Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick-and-mortar organization, is under investigation for pocketing $1.2 million “in improper lease-reimbursement payments.” As Philadelphia public schools are being closed due to a miserly state budget, “nonprofit,” charter operator Aspira Inc. was caught using public money to boost its real estate holdings instead of using those funds to educate children. Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter, an institution that operates exclusively over the internet, “was charged with fraud, for funneling $8 million of the school’s funds into his personal companies and holdings.”


It’s easy to see how having the state Attorney General on your side would benefit an industry rife with fraud and malfeasance.


Shapiro, chair of the Montgomery Country Board of Commissioners, is the odds on favorite to succeed Kathleen Kane as the state’s highest ranking law enforcement officer.


He is running for the Democratic nomination against Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, and Allegheny Country Attorney General Stephen Zappala.


Despite strong corporate education reform ties, Shapiro has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the largest teachers union in the Commonwealth.


Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislature have been deadlocked over the state budget for months. Public schools are near bankruptcy. Some borrowed money to stay open, incurring heavy interest debt.


But the legislature finally passed a budget that Governor Wolf will neither sign nor veto. It will become law without his veto.


It increases education funding, as the governor hoped, but added no new taxes, as he had hoped. Pennsylvania is extraordinarily generous to the fracking industry, which pays minimal taxes while extracting the state’s resources and polluting its waters.



Lawrence Feinberg produces this comprehensive summary of news about education in Pennsylvania every day. It is an excellent redource, especially valuable during the state’s prolonged budget crisis. The failure of the legislature and governor to agree on a budget has wreaked havoc on the state’s schools.


Keystone State Education Coalition

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 18, 2016:

All daily postings are on our blog site at

“School districts are in the business of preparing kids to be productive members of society. The reduction in staff (450-plus positions) and budget cuts ($102 million) of the last five years left us with fewer services for Allentown students who have the greatest needs. The end result is we have fewer positions for remediating academic needs, increased class sizes, less social-emotional support, fewer electives, and fewer opportunities to build one-on-one relationships that all kids need, especially ours.”

Allentown’s Mayo: It’s more about the kids than state budget | Opinion

C. Russell Mayo is superintendent of the Allentown School District.

The financial crisis for the Allentown School District and other districts, created by the absence of a state budget for this 2015-16 fiscal year, is devastating. Needless financial costs and evaporated services are appalling, but that does not compare to the loss of hope — which is the essence of this crisis. Of course, our district suffers from additional financial costs and expense restraints from having no state budget. (The state funds 54 percent of our annual budget.) This past fall, we spent about $47,000 in fees and interest in borrowing $50 million. We covered unpaid bills remaining from the first semester and paid back the borrowed funds when a portion of the state money arrived in January. Since then, we have had to exhaust our fund balance and local taxes collected. In spite of spending on only essential items, delaying hiring for positions, and reducing payments to charter schools, the district now has to borrow $64 million to stretch to our next round of local taxes. Assuming the court approves this loan, we will incur at least $90,000 in additional fees with the potential for $500,000 in interest payments. Additionally, a lower Standard and Poor’s bond rating is likely. Even though these financial concerns are staggering, the major problem is the concern for our students.

Local school districts facing financial collapse
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter


Local school districts on the brink of a financial collapse faced yet another roadblock on Wednesday in their efforts to secure months-overdue state funding. The latest hurdle came as Gov. Tom Wolf promised to veto a supplemental budget that would have restored funding to several programs, including education. The Senate and House passed the measure earlier in the day. Under that plan, House Bill 1801 would have increased education funding by $200 million and restored a majority of the $6 billion in funding cuts by Wolf’s line-item vetoes. The $30.031 billion spending plan would use existing revenues without a tax increase, according to Republican Senate officials. Now, school districts are back to square one, and that’s a position that doesn’t bode well for several area districts, especially the Austin Area School District, the smallest public school district in the state. That district could be left with only $54,460 in the general fund by the end of April, Business Manager Peggy Derr told The Era on Wednesday.
“The resolution relates to a high-profile case filed November 2014 in Commonwealth Court by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center, on behalf of six school districts, including William Penn, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.


The case was filed against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor “for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.”



Haverford board votes to support William Penn School District in lawsuit
Delco Times By Lois Puglionesi, Times Correspondent



In an uncharacteristically divided tally, school directors voted 5-3 with one abstention to adopt a resolution expressing support for plaintiffs in the William Penn School District lawsuit “as they seek to enforce Pennsylvania’s constitutional guarantee of a thorough and efficient system of public education.” The resolution also urges the General Assembly to provide school districts with adequate revenues, based on a fair and predictable formula calculated to grant all students resources they need to meet state standards and lead productive lives. School director Larry Feinberg, who serves as legislative liaison, chair of the Delaware County School Districts Legislative Council and co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, introduced the matter in January, when it sparked lively debate. School directors voted to table the measure in February, pending revisions Feinberg made.
For more info on the above lawsuit:
Thorough and Efficient
Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation Website: The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution


Gov. Wolf Video: ‘Pennsylvania is running out of money’ Video Runtime 2:54 UPDATED 5:43 PM EDT Mar 17, 2016
Governor Wolf brought his message to Pittsburgh Thursday focusing on the importance of education funding


“Wolf said he would veto the current budget proposal by Republican legislative leaders to release education funding. He has called it “irresponsible and unbalanced” and said it does not properly fund schools or fix the deficit. “We’ve got to get this right. And fixing this for another three months, four months, then coming back and having exactly the same conversation in July, August, September, is not going to get us much,” Wolf said.”

Gov. Wolf addresses prospect PA budget battle could force some school district shutdowns

WTAE By Bob Mayo


PITTSBURGH —Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited Pittsburgh Brashear High School to spotlight its career and technical education programs Thursday, but also to warn of continuing danger to state education funding in the ongoing budget battle between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled state Legislature.. “We have a choice. And it’s a really stark choice,” Wolf told students, teachers, and staff after his tour of the school. The choice, Wolf said, is between the state making a commitment to raise revenue to support and expansion education or continuing on a path he said would risk education cuts in the long-term. “Pennsylvania is running out of money. We have been using smoke and mirrors in our budgets. We have been spending money we don’t have,” Wolf said. The governor said if the state’s budget isn’t resolved by July — the start of the next fiscal year — Pennsylvania will face a $2-billion deficit that could lead to a billion dollar cut in education funding.
No Wolf veto yet on GOP-backed Pa. budget bill


GoErie By Kevin Flowers 814-870-1693 Erie Times


Gov. Tom Wolf took no action Thursday on his threat to veto a new, $6 billion Republican-backed spending bill approved by the state Legislature aimed at ending the 8-month-old state budget fight. Wolf was at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on Thursday, outlining a proposal for government reform that includes calling on the state Legislature to ban gifts, contracting, reforms, more oversight of lobbying and other moves to increase transparency. He did not indicate when a veto might happen. On Wednesday, Wolf said he would officially reject the new spending bill, designed by Republicans to be part of a $30 billion spending package that would help finish the partially completed 2015-16 state budget. The bill would increase spending from the state’s main bank account by about $870 million, and deliver half the public school aid increase, or roughly $200 million, that Wolf had initially sought for fiscal year 2015-16, which began July 1.


Reading School Board told state budget impasse’s cost: $1,000 per day in interest
Reading Eagle


The Reading School District is racking up $1,000 per day in interest payments thanks to the ongoing state budget impasse, and district officials are fed up. At the Reading School Board’s workshop meeting Wednesday night, several board members expressed dismay about the impact the impasse is having on the district, which was forced to borrow $20 million to make up for state funding that has been held up. “It’s just so frustrating to be in this position,” said board President Robin Costenbader-Jacobson. Costenbader-Jacobson expressed anger toward state officials, saying more pressure needs to be put on local members of the Legislature to get a deal done.


– See more at:


Auditor General to research how budget crisis is costing schools


WITF Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania



– Schools have already had to borrow nearly $1 billion to cover operating costs while Governor Tom Wolf and state lawmakers fight over a completing this year’s budget.

Now, state’s top fiscal watchdog is planning to put more pressure on those who have failed to get a deal done. It’s round three for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. His office has already released two reports on how the budget crisis is affecting schools. Now, he’s planning to do a third, just as some districts are warning they may have to shut down or declare bankruptcy.
Red Lion in York County recently said it faces that option. DePasaquale says it is not alone.
“Allentown talked about borrowing, certainly seen that it in Erie as well, those are two others. And we’re starting to see how others are affected. April’s a pretty big month if there isn’t a budget by then,” says DePasquale.

Education Advocates: PA Budget Bill Falls Short


Public News Service

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The budget passed by the General Assembly on Wednesday falls far short of providing what Pennsylvania schools need, according to education advocates. More than eight months after the budget was due, lawmakers have sent Gov. Tom Wolf a supplemental budget bill that would increase K-through-12 school spending by $202 milion over last year, far short of the $400 million the governor had sought. Cheryl Kleiman, staff attorney for the Education Law Center, said that just isn’t enough. “We have called for an increase of at least $600 million between this year and next,” she said, “and this budget simply doesn’t get us there.”
Wolf also has said the bill, which passed on an almost party-line vote, does not adequately fund education and doesn’t address the looming $2 billion deficit in next year’s budget. He has said he will veto the bill. –
See more at:

Vogel Supports Restoration of Funding for Schools, Agriculture, Hospitals


HARRISBURG — Senator Elder Vogel Jr. (R-47) issued the following statement today in response to the Senate’s passage of legislation to restore approximately $6 billion in funding for education, agriculture, and hospitals that Governor Wolf eliminated from the state budget in December: “Today, I voted for and the Legislature restored the $6.05 billion in funding that was vetoed by Governor Wolf back in December. If Governor Wolf signs it into law, our public schools will remain open, the 1,000+ folks that work for Penn State Extension will not be laid off, and we can finally move past this ugly situation and do the work that Pennsylvanians expect from their government.

Vogel Supports Restoration of Funding for Schools, Agriculture, Hospitals

Blogger note: Tim Eller was formerly Press Secretary for Governor Corbett. The Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools is an alliance of brick and mortar charter schools only and does not advocate for cyber charter schools.



Proposed budget dooms Pa. charter schools
The Evening Sun


Tim Eller is the executive director of Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


Supporters of public school choice next year will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law. Since 1997, the number of brick-and-mortar charter schools has grown to 160 and enroll nearly 100,000 students, with tens of thousands more on waiting lists. At a time when the charter school sector should be gearing up to celebrate this significant milestone, instead, it is preparing to battle anti-school choice advocates’ efforts to close down charter schools and force students back into the very schools they fled that failed them year after year. Governor Wolf in February proposed a 2016-17 spending plan that calls for cutting nearly $500 million in funding to charter schools, which would result in the shutting down of virtually every charter school across the state. Without understanding how charter schools are funded, the Wolf administration’s proposal selectively aims to cut by at least 50 percent the per-student funding amount charter schools receive for educating disabled students.

Gov. Wolf should drop veto threat – it’s time to get it done: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek


Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before:
The Republican-controlled General Assembly sends Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf legislation it hopes will end Pennsylvania’s ages-old budget standoff. The bill sails through the House and Senate, mostly along party lines, and lands with a thud on Wolf’s desk. And that’s when it all goes wobbly: Proclaiming it inadequate and not up to the task of righting the state’s fiscal ship and closing the deficit, Wolf vetoes it, resetting the clock and starting the drama anew.


That’s a scenario that’s played itself out at least three times since the Senate GOP sent Wolf a budget bill last June 30. And it seemed likely to play itself out again this week as the chamber teed up yet another spending bill for a swift voyage to Wolf’s desk. But on Wednesday, there were encouraging signs that, at least it as it concerns the current year’s budget, Pennsylvanians might be spared an encore performance of the increasingly tedious budget drama.
Commentary: Policy failures fuel Pa. budget impasse
Inquirer By Berwood A. Yost



Berwood A. Yost is the chief methodologist for the Franklin and Marshall College Poll, director of the Floyd Institute’s Center for Opinion Research, and director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy Analysis.


Why don’t we have a state budget? The answer is neither short nor simple.
Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is the direct result of three state policy failures: the failure to find the reliable funding sources that state government needs to operate, the failure to reduce the spending growth that existing laws require, and the failure to support reforms that make elections more competitive. Corporate taxes as a share of general-fund revenues have steadily declined because the amount of money generated by those taxes has remained, in inflation-adjusted terms, unchanged since 1988. Revenue based on consumption taxes, such as the state sales tax, has grown by 27 percent, and revenue from other sources, such as the personal income tax and table games, has grown by 87 percent. This is policy failure one: not finding a sustainable revenue stream to replace money lost because of changes to corporate taxes.

Education philosophies clash at packed Philly SRC meeting


Thursday’s Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting again became a forum to debate the school district’s plans for drastic intervention at several of its lowest performing schools.
The evening began with a clash of minds on the front steps of district headquarters. Before the meeting, the NAACP joined the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and other traditional public school advocates in a rally against the district’s school conversion plans — all of which would result in dramatic faculty shakeups. NAACP Philadelphia chapter president Rodney Muhammad called for the SRC to be abolished with a reference to the slave trade. “They are nothing but a consultant group for private industry who wants to take over our children and put them back on the auction block,” he said. Muhammad’s statement was directed in part at Mastery charter — one of three nonprofit charter organizations that has applied to takeover three low-performing elementary schools. Those remarks didn’t sit well with Kirby Ames, a senior at Mastery’s Shoemaker campus in West Philadelphia. He stood on the other side of the steps with dozens of other Mastery supporters listening to speakers bash the charter’s motives.

Plan for 3 more Philly charters draws protests, counterprotests
by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer


Before the School Reform Commission could start its scheduled meeting Thursday, the School District’s plan to hand over several struggling schools to charter operators drew demonstrators and counter-demonstrators to the steps of district headquarters on North Broad Street. On one side, about 150 parents, teachers, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, State Rep. Curtis Thomas, and Philadelphia NAACP president Minister Rodney Muhammad were cheered as they spoke passionately in opposition to turning public schools into charters. “This is a dangerous arrangement for our children, it’s a dangerous arrangement for public education,” Muhammad said. “The NAACP is here to shut the SRC down. They’re nothing but an advertising agency for privatizing education in Philadelphia.” On the other side: About 150 people, including many parents. One of them, Jathiya Singleton, could not comprehend the depth of emotion.
Her three children, ages 7 to 10, attend Wister Elementary in Germantown, one of three schools the district has targeted for charter management.

Emails show effort to sway SRC on Wister charter conversion


Documents reveal the Philadelphia School Partnership moved to influence SRC members. PSP says its preference for Renaissance charters is no secret.


The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr.


Newly released documents shed new light on behind-the-scenes moves by the Philadelphia School Partnership to revive Mastery Charter School’s bid to run Wister Elementary, after Superintendent William Hite had reversed course and recommended that the school remain under District control. The documents, mostly emails, were released by the Philadelphia School District after requests from the American Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) under the state’s Right to Know law. Among them is an email to School Reform Commissioner Bill Green from a senior PSP executive. It indicated that PSP board members planned to call SRC members Sylvia Simms and Feather Houstoun to encourage them to “move for and/or support a resolution to transfer Wister to Mastery.” PSP sent its email just days after Hite, citing some academic improvement at the school, decided to take Wister off the charter transformation list.

Senator eyes legislation requiring public superintendent contracts
The Sentinel by Amanda St. Hilaire abc27 News Mar 16, 2016
Questions have arisen about school district transparency in light of legislation that would require school boards to be more open with taxpayers during hiring processes. “If you can’t defend something publicly, then it’s probably not a good idea,” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said. It’s his mantra, and he believes school districts should follow suit. Often called Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog, DePasquale can now be called the inspiration for a new bill promoting transparency After seeing DePasquale’s scathing audit of Connellsvile Area School District in Fayette County, state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, is getting ready to introduce legislation that would require school boards to publicly post employment offers for superintendents and principals at least two weeks before voting. “At a minimum, I hope it spearheads a discussion on some of the iss es taking place in some of the school districts,” DePasquale said.

Nazareth teachers put off plans for Friday strike; classes are on
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call March 17, 2016
The Nazareth Area teachers union has postponed plans for a strike Friday, preventing at least temporarily what would have been the first teacher walkout in the Lehigh Valley in seven years.
The school district announced on its website that all schools will be open Friday and operating on a regular schedule. “As part of the ratification process, the Nazareth Area Education Association will be presenting a [contract] proposal to teachers early next week,” the district said. The school board had scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Friday. That meeting is still on, the district said. The two sides had a series of bitter exchanges Wednesday, with the union announcing plans for a strike and the district issuing a long rebuttal. On Thursday, they came together in an attempt to hash out an agreement. The district said the teachers had until 7 p.m. to decide whether they still intended to strike. Shortly before 8 p.m., the strike postponement was announced.

Tennessee school funding proposal threatens status quo
Education Dive By Erin McIntyre | March 17, 2016
Dive Bref:


A proposal that passed through a Tennessee House panel and is now set to be considered by a Finance Committee would amend the state constitution to grant the General Assembly sole discretion over school spending.


Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn (R), says the legislation will protect taxpayers from activist judges who might rule the state is not adequately funding education, and from situations in other states where courts have increased taxpayer burdens.


Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943

House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173

Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
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