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Pa. took $8.7 million from Philadelphia School District, gave it to charters

By Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Feb 20, 2013 05:29 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School has successfully challenged the School District on the imposition of enrollment caps.

Updated | Feb. 21

The Philadelphia School District’s losing fight to limit enrollments at individual charter schools has a new price tag: $8.7 million and counting.

Over the past 18 months, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has withheld that amount from the District, redirecting the money to six area charter schools that enrolled more students than the District called for in their contracts.

The state’s policy is to send the money to the charters first, then allow traditional school districts to ask questions later.

This makes Philadelphia school officials furious.

“The critical issue here is that withholdings are being done without giving us the opportunity to review the payments that the charters are requesting,” said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Despite the District’s complaints, charter operators say state law is on their side. The Pennsylvania Department of Education agrees.

PDE has given the largest chunk of money -- $5.5 million -- to the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter in Northern Liberties. The school’s founder has won a series of court cases challenging the School District’s right to unilaterally impose so-called “enrollment caps” on charters.

Two of the charters -- Mariana Bracetti Academy and Discovery -- agreed to caps on their enrollment, then turned around and asked the state for more money anyway. They got it, to the tune of $800,000.

District officials also believe – without yet detailing their evidence – that some charters are receiving money for students who aren’t actually on their attendance rolls.

“We are concerned that some of these payments are being made unnecessarily,” Gallard said. 

And what really has Philadelphia officials outraged is that millions of dollars are being taken out of its coffers and given to charters without any due diligence by the state.

“We believe that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has not even reviewed the charter requests themselves,” Gallard said.

State officials say that is in fact the case.

Timothy Eller, the PDE press secretary, said Pennsylvania charter school law requires the department to automatically reimburse any charter school that claims it has not been paid by a traditional school district.

“The department’s role is to work to make that charter school whole, and then have the district object to that ruling,” Eller said.

UPDATE: Eller pointed to a 2010 Commonwealth Court ruling that PDE "has a mandatory, non-discretionary duty to withhold subsidies to a school district based upon the estimated amount documented by the charter school."

Any district objections are supposed to be considered in administrative hearings.

To date, though, PDE has not scheduled any of the hearings that the Philadelphia District has requested.

Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer, said the current system is untenable.

“We need clear policies and predictable financial transactions if we’re going to make all the public schools in the city stable,” Shorr said.

“It worries me when this much responsibility is out of the hands of the people who are closest to what’s happening in the city.”

Enrollment caps are the issue

Charter schools are publicly funded but independently managed. 

In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission gets to decide whether a new charter to form a school should be granted. The SRC also decides whether to renew existing charters that are expiring. But it has limited say over what charter schools do in the interim.

In Philadelphia, charters receive about $8,100 for every regular-education student and $19,700 for every special education student on their rolls. That money comes from the School District of Philadelphia, which gets more than half of its per-pupil spending from the state.

Seeking to contain its charter costs, the District has tried to manage the growth of existing charter schools. Despite a string of courtroom losses, the District has refused to pay charters who enroll students over their caps.

In response, six city charter schools have gone directly to the state to receive payment. The state has paid the charters, withholding a corresponding amount from its basic education subsidy to the Philadelphia District.

Broadly speaking, that’s how the state’s charter school law says it should happen.

No one knows that law better than Pennsylvania charter school pioneer Walter Palmer.

Since the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, his school, the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter, has received $5.5 million directly from PDE. That money has been deducted from the state subsidy to the District.

Palmer, whose school now enrolls roughly several hundred students more than his charter agreement spells out, says he’s entitled to every penny: “The legislation states very clearly that charters cannot be capped.”

He also says that other charters are starting to catch on: “Many schools are starting little by little to add on students.”

That’s what has District officials so concerned.

Each month, they get another letter from the state, saying they’ve lost hundreds of thousands more dollars to charters exercising their right to unfettered expansion.

Palmer says the push from charters to keep growing is necessary to counter the forces – the teachers' union, White liberals, and the media – that he believes are invested in maintaining the status quo that denies educational opportunities to poor students of color.

“We’re supposed to be a threat to the School District,” Palmer said.

“The whole idea of charters was to try to create a free market, competition, to force an improved situation.”

Going over the cap

Despite their string of courtroom defeats, District officials are holding out hope that the state Supreme Court will hear their latest appeal on the broader issue of charter school enrollment caps.

In the meantime, they’re fuming about the actions of charters like Mariana Bracetti Academy in Kensington.

Although state charter school law prohibits a district from imposing caps, it also says that contractual limits on student enrollment are valid if they were mutually agreed to by a district and a charter after July 1, 2008.

That’s apparently what happened in November 2011, when then-interim SRC Chairman Wendell Pritchett and Bracetti CEO Angela Villani each signed Bracetti’s renewal agreement.

The document reads:

“The charter school may enroll students in grades 6 through 12 with a maximum of 1,155 students.  Under no circumstances may the charter school enroll more students or enroll students in different grades without SRC approval by resolution.”

Months later, though, Bracetti began petitioning PDE for payment for 96 students enrolled over that limit. Between July 2012 and February 2013, PDE deducted $435,617.90 from its payments to the District, instead sending that money to Bracetti.

Villani declined to comment.

The city’s Shorr said it “goes against the spirit of that agreement” for a charter to commit to an enrollment cap, then go to the state for additional funds anyway.

Gallard said the deductions are hampering the District’s ability to budget and plan.  The SRC already had to borrow $300 million this year just to pay its bills.

And it’s not just Bracetti.

Officials from Discovery Charter in West Philadelphia signed a charter renewal agreement in September 2008 that called for a “maximum of 620 students.”  In the first few months of this year, Discovery enrolled 73 students over that cap.  The charter successfully petitioned PDE for $360,160.72 in direct payments between July 2012 and February 2013.

Discovery officials also declined to comment.

Phantom students alleged

Gallard said the District also believes that some charters have sought reimbursement for students they do not actually enroll.

In a preliminary review, he said, the District found a number of instances in which it is being billed for the same student by two different charter schools. In other cases, the District believes it is being billed for students whom it’s already paying to educate in its own schools. 

The District has so far declined to release specifics.

“We’re still doing the analysis, but we are preserving the right to the [administrative] hearings,” Gallard said. “That’s why we have filed the appeals.”

For the time being, however, that will mean more waiting.

Philadelphia is the only District in the state dealing with the issue of charters going over their caps. But it’s not the only school system that thinks it’s being wrongly assessed for charter students.

The state Department of Education has a backlog of 136 such cases pending. Ninety-nine of those have yet to be docketed or assigned to a hearing officer.

“The department is committed to having these hearings held,” said Eller, the PDE spokesman.

No timetable has yet been set.

And Eller didn’t offer much in the way of encouragement for traditional school districts hoping to recoup their losses.

According to the state Department of Education, the law is clear.

PDE’s role, said Eller, is “to prevent the possibility of a charter school being bled dry from a school district not wanting to pay its bills.”

This story was reported through a partnership in education coverage between WHYY/NewsWorks and the Notebook.

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Comments (127)

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:00

It is more important than ever that the District become more efficient in its core instructional costs - $8,100 per child is TOO much. The State only provides about $6,000 of this. City taxpayers provide the rest. Even though "rightsizing" poses some risks, it MUST be done -these ineffecient/overblown costs must come down. If all teachers had minimum class sizes of 20, and we only had the administrators we really needed, I'm sure we could bring the per child expenditure down by at least 20%.

Waiting, that is a moratorium, would only prolong the bleeding!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:39

Ms. Cheng,

$8,100 is too much? Have you lost your mind? Try telling that to parents in Lower Merion, a District that spends $26,000/pupil with most of that money coming from local property taxes. Try telling that to districts like Jenkintown, Cheltenham, Upper Merion, and Pittsburgh, all of which spend $20,000+ per student!

What is killing the District is 3 things: (1) Unfettered expansion of charters, (2) More students to educate, namely those who used to attend Catholic schools and now attend District or charter schools, (3) and pension costs.

The District can't really control any of these costs. They can't do anything about pension costs because this is a state issue. The District wants to cap charters but charters keep fighting the caps and the state agrees with the charters, and the District can't control the rising cost of Catholic school tuition, which pushes more and more families to put their kids in publicly funded schools.

Have you been in a neighborhood District school lately, besides one of the elite schools like Penn Alexander, Meredith, J. Jenks? These schools are cut to the bone! There isn't money to buy SMARTBoard bulbs in a timely manner. Teachers buy some of their own paper and supplies. And the teachers in Philly make less than in most neighboring suburban districts. Yes, there are some teachers who need to retire or need to leave teaching because they don't do their job well. But most teachers do a good job and there are many AWESOME teachers in this District.

Again, $8,100 is too much? Try telling that to parents in Lower Merion, a District that spends $26,000/pupil with most of that money coming from local property taxes. Try telling that to districts like Jenkintown, Cheltenham, Upper Merion, and Pittsburgh, all of which spend $20,000+ per student!

EGS

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:04

EGS, calm down. Look at the average per child spending in the U.S. some time. Central H.S. (yes I know this is an extreme, but they do it) spends only $5,500 per child. I'm not concerned about "keeping up with the Joneses", because above a certain point, a lot of the spending is not necessary. And YES, the District can do a lot: the "rightsizing" right now will bring down the $8,100. It will also allow the Distric to lobby for more than the meager $6000 that is getting from the State.

I am an arts person who has had to navigate with limited finances, so I learned finances (I also had good math teachers in the public schools I went to.)

If anything this article poignantly illustrates what the League of Women Voters found for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District. School Based Administration, and the "weighted student funding" that was part of it resulted in loss of accountability and unequal distribution of resources, despite the rationale that it would create better "equality". They recommended a return to the template method of funding the District had used previously. SBA is really the same movement that led to charters.

Look parents are not fools. If the SDP becomes more responsive to the needs of the kids, rather than their own career advancement, they will choose the SDP "in a heartbeat". I noticed a lot of charters don't have their own music program - they do not have all the advantages.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:33

The right-sizing is necessary and it will help reduce costs, but by how much? The District's budget is over 3 billion. I don't recall what the budget for core academic programming is, but its over $200 million, I think. How much are the school closings going to affect the per-pupil spending?

The District's initial right-sizing plan had a lot of issues to it. The FMP and utilization data is not completely correct. That said, some schools need to close. Having buildings that are 80% empty is not efficient and not a good use of public money. The District cannot go up to Harrisburg and expect the legislature to grant more money to the SDP if the operations of the school is inefficient. At the same time, the District wants to close small schools even though there are a number of small charter schools. The efficiency of charter schools also needs to be under consideration.

Regarding your information about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District and student weighted funding, can you give me links to your sources so I can read them? Thanks.

EGS

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 17:42

EGS thanks for asking. The link was: http://www.goleaguego.org/weightstfureport.pdf , but the paper is no longer online.

Back in 2010, the District under Dr. Ackerman was working on creating their own system of WSF, Weighted Student Funding. She was known for her advocacy of SBA, School Based Administration, of which WSF was part. She had written a well known and erudite paper on SBA, and it was one of the reasons she was chosen to be Superintendent.

I only got involved and did some research because this system was threatening the existence of Instrumental Music programs in the District's smaller schools. Some points I remember from the LWV's paper, were the unintended consequences that Weighted Funding created: unequal distribution of resources counter to the intent, with poorer schools receiving less, and better off/politically connected, more; and a loss of standardization across schools which resulted in less accountability and therefore less ability to lobby for funding from politicians.

The paper was an "eye opener" for me because the case for SBA, which is the case for charters, was so compelling. I think it brought me to consider what the real function of public education is, and to decide that public education can't cater to "differences"; Instead, it must provide a minimal agreed upon standard. I think those who are protesting the reform movement that is using charters/SBA know this intuitively, and at heart I agree with them (I was lucky to be educated in the CA system, waaay back). However, having also been at "ground level" as a volunteer in a neighborhood SDP school, and utterly frustrated at the neglect (yes outright neglect) caused by MISUSE, not LACK of resources, I will for now support change, even if I don't totally agree with the agent.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 18:02

A final comment for you. True there is uncertainty in what savings there might be, but the District must try, and do the best it can. Regarding the small schools, it is a judgement call. Our neighborhood school saw no significant improvement as enrollment dropped: class sizes of 10 or less resulted in no real improvement. To the contrary, the school benefited from a "Safe Harbor" clause which allowed them to make AYP since they had lost "10% or more" of their subgroup population that hadn't made progress (so this reminds us that not only does the State target the lowest tier in the PSSA, but it "bends over backwards" to assist the making of AYP.) So the FMP was not wrong in reading the enrollment trend at our school, and the recommendation to close our school was a good one.

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 21:41

Dear Mrs. Cheng:
You can turn a blind eye to what is happening here, but experience tells me that vision affects the quality of one's comments.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/10/2013 - 18:01

$5,500 per child does not include the student supports and services that are kept within central office budgets. It also does not account for certain land acquisition or building costs, nor are central administrative supports factored in. Your number is not real. It's propaganda.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 05/22/2013 - 08:40

The figure comes directly from the school's budget correlated with enrollment as disclosed on the SDP's website (2010/11 FY). It is not propaganda. Yes, it does not include the central office budget. But the difference between $5,500 and $8,100 is $2,600. Is this really what the central office is spending for each child at Central for student supports and services?

I can't understand the unwillingness to deal with economic realities or the use of affluent school districts as "the standard". This attitude gives the 1%, if they are indeed trying to profiteer, their best tool ever to do so.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:09

Oh, I forgot to correct your understanding: the SDP spends about $14,800 per child total (I believe this includes Spec Ed), $8100 (roughly $10000 blending Special Ed) of which goes to core curriculum cost (deduct transportation, building maintenance, debt service, grant programs). If you want to compare the "greener grass" district spending you need to know what they spend for the other items, transpo, maint., etc.

Submitted by Rosie (not verified) on Fri, 06/07/2013 - 21:16

EGS,

"8,100 is too much? Have you lost your mind? Try telling that to parents in Lower Merion, a District that spends $26,000/pupil with most of that money coming from local property taxes. Try telling that to districts like Jenkintown, Cheltenham, Upper Merion, and Pittsburgh, all of which spend $20,000+ per student!"

Those parents live in an area where property taxes are higher and where the income level is higher. The pay more, so they get more duh....

You are comparing apples to oranges.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 11:54

So the Dept of Ed is seriously doing the District wrong and admitting to what they're doing, and you say a moratorium is not warranted? Are you living in a parallel univererse? this is exactly the point at whcih we should stop the closings and takeovers (as we should have been doing).

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 14:41

I suggest you revisit your math class... someone let you down somewhere along the way.

The Dept of Ed does not run the SDP, and it is only paying charters what the SDP is spending, operating many facilities at less than half capacity. A moratorium supports this wasteful spending, and the continued payment of unwarranted sums to charters. A moratorium is what the charters want most.

The first reason any plea for more money from Harrisburg will be turned down, is the SDP is wasteful. A moratorium says it's o.k. to continue being wasteful.

Submitted by MARK TRAINA (not verified) on Sun, 03/03/2013 - 04:17

REAL SCHOOLS CALL RoLL,CHARTER SCHOOLS USE ROLLS TO WIPE THEIR AZZZESSSS!

CHARTER SCHOOLS CHARGE STATES for MANY STUDENTS WHO SIMPLY "NEVER EVER" SHOW UP FOR CLASS!

CONDUCT HEAD COUNTS @ CHARTER SCHOOLS, PAYiNG FOR
STUDENTS WHO "NEVER EVER" ATTEND!

REAL SCHOOLs CALL RoLL-> CAHRTER SCHOOLS KEEP THE RoLLS HIDDEN IN THE BATHROOM!

FACT: COMMUNITY CRIME RATES INCREASE WHEN CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE ALLOWED TO COME IN!

FACT: CHARTER SCHOOLS PUT DISRUPTIVE STUDENTS IN THE STREETS!

I am encouraging Tax Payers all over America to go On-Line and Review the Information on Charter School Website's of Charter Schools in your area. Find out how many Students the Charter School is Charging your State to Educate and then do as I do. Get up early, stop and get a Big Cup of Coffee, Drive over and park in front of the Charter School of your Choice and simply take a HEAD COUNT, don't be SURPRIZED if you find a "SIGNIFICANT DESCREPENCY", because that's just another Method that CHARTER SCHOOLS have used Nationally to Scam Communities out of Millions and Millions of Dollars and Students out of a Publicly Funded Education.

fatuous1 is MARK TRAINA an outspoken Civil Rights Activist/Certified School Psychologist from South East Louisiana. Additionally, he is currently the President of the Prestigious “LOUISIANA BLOGGERS CLUB”! Some describe Mr. Traina as a Racist; however, he describes himself as a “REALIST”.

OCCUPATIONAL HISTORY: Mr. Traina worked as a School Psychologist for the Jefferson Parish Public School System for nearly 30-years. He is currently retired and spends his days reading articles on-line and writing about current events from his personal perspective.
Mr. Traina has is the Author of “THE REALIST”, a book published in 2012, shortly after his retirement from the JPPSS. He is also very famous for his so-called TRAINAISMS, for example, “Good parents know that structure, discipline and respect for authority must start in the home or it will never end up in the School!” Mr. Traina writings have been Published in News Papers, Magazines and Blog Sites across the Globe!
FACTS: Mr. Traina grew up in New Orleans attending only Publicly Funded Schools. Mark graduated from Marion Abramson Senior High School in May of 1975 and obtained his B.A. in Economic (1979). Mr. Traina also obtained an M.A. in Counseling Psychology (1983) from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The fatuous1 can be reached at FatuousCRA@aol.com or by cell at (504) 231-3056. His personal website is (www.marktraina.webs.com )
“People say fatuous1 is CRAZY, but I say fatuous1 is about as CRAZY as a FOX in a HEN HOUSE

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:11

This is a huge scandal in the making.

Republicans say they believe in local control. But when it comes to Philadelphia having local control, apparently Corbett, Tomalis, and co. but aside their beliefs.

If charters are allowed to enroll more students than their cap allows, and PDE supports them, the state is supporting the charters in breaking contracts. The state is showing contempt of its own laws.

Why are the charters so motivated in taking on extra students, especially when the money isn't guaranteed? Do the CEOs get a bonus for each additional student? How is there so much financial incentive to over-enroll? This sounds like the profit motive.

Dr. Hite needs to request that the Commonwealth refund all $8.7 million of that money to the District!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:58

EGS---I love your enthusiasm as I've said before but you seem to keep giving these cretins some creds when they don't deserve it. Over and over and ................they prove they don't care nor are even remotely interested in fair play but still, you seem shocked by their behavior. UNLESS the folks stop this, it won't stop no matter how shocked, disappointed, dismayed, repulsed, and disgusted we are at them. THEY DON'T CARE.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:09

Joe,

I'm not giving them credit. I guess I just don't understand what compels people to be so dishonest. All I can say is that God is the ultimate judge and even here on earth. Ultimately, all of this hanky pank may very well be the downfall of charter schools. The very people who were pushing for charters are the ones who will make the system collapse. We shall see what happens.

EGS

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:53

Money is the answer to your question. Henry Ford once said that the answer to every question is money. I think old Hank was on to something.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:26

No, I agree that money plays a big factor. I guess money is not so important to me that I'd cheat and rip off somebody the way some of these charter fat cats are ripping of the SDP, and I know I'm not alone in my thinking. Money motivates some people more than others. For other people, it's more important to live with a clear conscience than to make a ridiculous amount of money.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 09:14

Corporate types--charters--are always looking at the profit margin. Businesses are in the business of making money often at the exclusion of all other things like decency and justice. That's why they're stepping over one another bull rushing the easy money.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:15

There's a little thing called the law and with bipartisan support, this state voted on eliminating the cap on charters. He district fought it in court and lost big time. They should have known better.

Submitted by tom-104 on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:22

There's a big thing called the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania which all government officials have sworn to uphold when they take office!

Article III, Section 14
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. (emphasis added)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:31

Maybe you've heard of PUBLIC charter schools (emphasis added)

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:42

Some of the charter schools show good financial stewardship and play by the rules. But many of the CAOs/CEOs of these charter schools are not acting like they are in charge of a public school, but like they are running a business on the public dime.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 00:14

Sorry, the only thing public about charter schools is that they get taxpayer money. They are privately manged and in some cases owned. That is their very reason for being. Anyone concerned about the students in low income areas would be demanding the legislature fund the public schools equitably, not privatize them.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 16:33

Tom 104----Many of the more smug but less aware posters here, simply don't get the real deal. None of this is about helping the poor but rather helping the rich get richer. It is precisely those poor who will be used and then abused, of course. Eventually, all of this will turn around but likely not any time soon. The poor have always been marginalized and punished for being poor but the elections of 2010 was a giant green light for corporate types to make easy and abundant money from the most vulnerable among us. I was asked to partner on 3 occasions. Yes, I admit, I have an agenda and that agenda starts and ends with equity and justice for all of the kids, not just some of the kids. This "reform" movement will function as a caste system, dooming certain kids--and guess which kids---to menial work at best and very likely the Prison System. Does anybody really think Corbett's building 3 new prisons, 2 of which are privatized, is accidental or incidental. Connect the dots. All thinking people should be disgusted by this reality. This is evil pure and simple and the same people whom it is ALLEGEDLY designed to help, will be carpet bombed and made more marginalized than they are now. Where were these folks BEFORE there was money to be made from the poor? Did they have an epiphany to help the poor or did they have an epiphany to help themselves?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 23:13

Joe K.,

I find these words of yours to be very poignant:

"Where were these folks BEFORE there was money to be made from the poor? Did they have an epiphany to help the poor or did they have an epiphany to help themselves?"

EGS

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 23:35

EGS---I've been called many things but poignant not so much. Only kidding, thank you. It's just so obvious that even I can see through it and I have a hard time finding my way home in the dark. This is a scary time for the good ole U.S. of A, isn't it? Besides the obvious caste system that would be a natural extension of their agenda, the corporations would love to turn back the clock on worker's rights too, making all the large urban centers even more of a wasteland than they already are. It would effectively and functionally end any hope the inner city people could ever dream to have. Maybe I'm being too extreme but as Thomas More once said, "Betting on human kindness is a sure way to go broke."

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 23:48

EGS--Willie Sutton also had lots of epiphanies. His epiphanies consisted of robbing banks because "that's where the money is."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 22:01

Are you kidding me? The parents in low income areas are demanding more charter schools. Obviously you don't live near one. I do, and my kids attend a Renaissance School.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 22:29

Live near one... I live IN one. And you're lying. Watch tonight's SRC meeting. I didn't hear a single person saying "Yes, please close my school and give it to people who want to handpick students and make money off of them."

Your comment exemplifies what is wrong with Renaissance schools. They are SUPPOSED TO BE regular public schools run by partners. This is in no way what they have turned into. In reality, they are publicly funded private schools, just like every other charter in Philadelphia.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:16

“We’re supposed to be a threat to the School District,” said Palmer.
“The whole idea of charters was to try to create a free market, competition, to force an improved situation.”
--
Walter Palmer's logic here is grotesque and flawed. This is not a free market nor is it fair competition because charter schools like his have an upper hand over the District. If charters like his go to the state, the state will give them money. However, if the District goes to the state, the state won't give the District money.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:21

Well grad student look at the explanation given, this a real kicker:

"According to the state department of education, the law is clear:
PDE’s role, said Eller, is “to prevent the possibility of a charter school being bled dry from a school district not wanting to pay its bills.”

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:02

I know, isn't that a scam? I didn't even read to the end of the article before making my 2 previous comments; I had to make those comments right then and there.

There are some honest charter schools out there, and I feel bad for those charter schools that do the right thing by their students and manage their finances honestly. But there are also a ton of LEECHES among the charter school ranks!

Is anyone keeping a running log of the charter schools like Bracetti, Walter Palmer, Truebright, Universal, and others that are sleazy? I'm curious to see which percentage of charters are sleazy.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 04:15

grad student: leeches. maybe you haven't seen some of the largess conducted on the public dime by gove rnment run school employees. the misdeeds of charter operators are few, but well documented. they've almost always resulted in arrests. compare that with the wate, fraud, and mismanagement that occurs daily in tha district with nobody held accountable. bogus contracts, inflated salaries, special arrangements, grant money spent and undocumented, and stealing from student funds have all happened in the district. who went to jail? your smug attitude is quite interesting since you can only regurgitate the propaganda you're learning in grad school. maybe you aspire to be a district employee some day. the you can get paid the big bucks to explain why minority children can't succeed in schools you wouldn't send your children to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 11:49

NOBODY has ever said that district management and operations are stelllar or that there aren't moochers or opportunists, however this statement is dispicable;

"your smug attitude is quite interesting since you can ONLY regurgitate the PROPAGANCA you're learning in grad school. maybe you aspire to be a district employee some day. the you can get paid the BIG BUCKS (?) to explain why minority children can't succeed in schools you wouldn't send your children to. "

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 14:07

reformer,

You don't know what information I'm using to form my opinions. You are making assumptions about me that are wrong. Saying that all I can do is "regurgitate the propaganda you're learning in grad school" is a completely inaccurate statement. First of all, much of the information I've learned in graduate school comes from field experiences and student teaching. Field experiences and student teaching can take place in a variety of schools--traditional public, charter, Catholic, private, or approved private schools. And I have done field experiences and student teaching in traditional public, charter, Catholic, and approved private schools. My interactions with classmates and instructors in graduate school classes has informed my opinions. And then my attention to education issues, media coverage, scholarly journals, and trade publications have all influenced my views about schools.

I am well aware of the corruption in school districts. I, like most people, was outraged at Dr. Ackerman's $900,000 buyout. I have skimmed through parts of teachers union contracts and don't agree with all of the provisions in them. I have mixed feelings about teachers unions and about charter schools. I see the positives and negatives of both, and my posts reflect this. I also see that much of the school reform movement comes from people who have little background in education, and whose primary interest is increasing market shares for businesses. This includes people like the Waltons (Walton Family Foundation), Jeb Bush, and K12 Inc. Emails from Jeb Bush reveal his motives (http://www.thenation.com/blog/172551/e-mails-show-jeb-bush-foundation-lo...).

You point that most charter operators have gone to jail for misdeeds is simply untrue. What about the visa issues at Truebright Academy CS? How about Universal Companies not paying rent at Audenried and Vare? What about the exorbitant salaries of some charter school CEOs/CAOs, who make more than the superintendents of districts which enroll more students than their charter school(s) do(es). Everyone knows that teachers and administratos and where applicable, their unions, have a vested interest in jobs. This is true at any school, traditional, public, or charter. No one wants to lose his/her job. But don't act like the school reformers are completely altruistic. School reformers have their interests too, and as I mentioned earlier, many of them (e.g. Jeb Bush, the Waltons, the Gateses) have vested interests in school reform also.

If you can't recognize that a charter like Mariana Bracetti, which appears to have blatantly violated its contract with the District, did something incredibly shady and unethical, then I don't know what to say.

Here is the salary information from http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp.
2011-2012
$221,495 - Scott Shafer - Business Manager - Lower Merion SD
$219,949 - Naomi Johnson Booker (her salary was $199,500 in 2010-2011)
$218,405 - Lawrence Mussoline - Superintendent - Downingtown SD
$210,889 - Christopher McGinley - Superintendent, Lower Merion SD
$206,000 - Joseph Venditti - CEO - Franklin Town CHS
$211,077 - Vincent Cotter - Superintendent - Colonial SD
$187,377 - Janet Samuels - Superintendent - Norristown SD
$181,500 - David Hardy - CAO - Boys Latin CS
$178,464 - Larry Sperling - CEO - Philadelphia Academy CS
$172,010 - Joanne Barnett - CAO - Pennsylvania Virtual CS
$170270 - Joseph Bruni - Superintendent - William Penn SD
$170000 - John Swoyer - MAST Community CS CEO
$163,200 - Joseph Proietta - CAO - Community Academy of Phialdelphia CS
$163,000 - Angela Villani - CAO - Mariana Bracetti CS ($155,981 in 2010-2011)
$160,00 - Rosemary Dougherty - Principal - Christopher Columbus CS
$160,000 - Michael Slade - CAO - Laboratory CS
$156,000 - Jurate Krokys - CAO - Independence CS
$131,250 - Wanda Novales - CAO - Pan American Academy CS
$98,500 - Daira Frinks-Hinson - CAO - Walter Palmer Leadership CS
$98,345 - Meghan Allshouse - CAO - Ad Prima CS
$96,000 - Jennifer Faustman - CAO - Belmont CS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:37

Do you think he is worth all this time. He is a troll here to disrupt. He is anti-teacher and anti-public education. He is on 24/7. It would be interesting to know who he is working for and who is paying him. Alas, that is the nature of this medium. People can say whatever they want and you really have to context for where they are coming from. You can only go on the pattern of their statements and, based on that, the best thing to do is ignore him.

Submitted by Jane (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:41

Palmer is the CEO and founder of the school. I'd love to know his salary.... When the SRC renewed the school in 2010, the school was to decrease its enrollment and get rid of the high school it started without permission. Why was it renewed by the SRC in 2010?

Submitted by Jane (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:49

And the school also carries his name. No ego there...

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:52

Palmer has been a cruel joke for 25 years and counting, another political buddy of Nutter and before him, Street. Kenny Gamble's double and the beat goes on. Palmer is too dumb to keep quiet. Hopefully, this will blow up in his face as things have before. Guy can't stop talking.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:11

Lol, I agree Joe. Karma can be a witch!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 13:57

I don't CARE about his salary, I just don't want my tax money contributing to it. The whole concept of "public "charter schools" is flawed and not dealing with that is the mistake. If he wants to raise money for his schools fine, but NOT from taxpayers who don't know him or those others from a hole in the ground.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:55

Let's not forget the self-investigated PSSA cheating scandal Palmer!

http://thenotebook.org/blog/125392/state-pssa-cheating-investigation-now...

Submitted by tom-104 on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 19:59

Mr. Palmer, you are on the side of Corbett and Tomalis. The only future they offer for African American students is low wage jobs, unemployment, or prison.

Do you really think they have suddenly taken an interest in the well being of the African American community? They come from the political forces that have been underfunding urban schools for decades.

You haven't figured out yet that they are using you to help finish the job of destroying public education?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/19/report-u-...

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:05

Corbett comes from the same party that was pushing voter ID. PA House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that voter ID measures would help Pennsylvania go for Mitt Romney.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:45

Tom-104----------------I was with you until you said that Palmer was being used as a pawn in Corbett's scheme to destroy Public Ed. Palmer, Nutter, Gamble, Evans, John Q. Porter and Seth Williams are fully involved and enthusiastic participants in this carpet bombing. None of them are unwitting boobs and all of them are snickering on their way to the bank.

Submitted by tom-104 on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:16

That may be, but the fact remains their greed blinds them to the fact that they are being used to advance the privatization of schools which will decimate low income communities.

Add to the list State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams who was the guest of our reactionary Sen. Toomey at the State of the Union address.

http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=868

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:25

Tom 104--------One man's blind greed is another man's snickering to the bank, I guess. I have such disdain for these slithering, Uncle Toms that I can't muster enough charity to see them as pawns, pond scum, but not pawns, warts on the ass of life but not pawns.

Submitted by Rob (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:35

Palmer's actions sound like suicide. There is no way that his charter will be renewed. It makes no sense to bite the hand that feeds you. It seems as though his greed outweighs sense.

Submitted by tom-104 on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:46

Don't be so sure they won't renew his charter. World Communications Charter was renewed. They have not made AYP and the nepotism in administration is well known. Charter are being judged by a different standard than public schools. They must just exist to create "empty seats" in the public schools.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 20:46

The contract between the District and Bracetti alone should provide the District with a strong case for legal action. Rich, maybe you could speak about this. The District needs to go to the courts to get their money back and hold the charters accountable for their contracts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:18

You can't contract away the law. Maybe you should take some more classes.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:32

I've never attended law school; I was in graduate school for education. And my statement is valid in light of the following information in the article:

Although state charter school law prohibits a district from imposing caps, it also says that contractual limits on student enrollment are valid if they were mutually agreed to by a district and a charter after July 1, 2008.

That’s apparently what happened in November 2011, when then-interim SRC Chairman Wendell Pritchett and Bracetti CEO Angela Villani each signed Bracetti’s renewal agreement.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 22:27

You are incorrect. That has been overturned.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:58

The SRC clearly has a responsibility to hold the charter schools responsible for wrongdoing and holding them accountable to fulfill their charters and duties to act in the best interests of its pupils. The SRC certainly has the legal "standing" to sue on behalf of the school district, the students, their parents and the people of Philadelphia. They are probably bound to proceed through administrative procedures though, which are PDE hearings.

The problem though, is this. Three members of the SRC are appointed by the governor. The governor is the Secretary of Education's boss. Do you really think the SRC is going to zealously pursue legal actions against the DPE?

As to whether the SRC can enforce a contract where the charter school's board of trustees agreed to limit enrollment, that is arguable. Walter Palmer did win a case where the court ruled that the SRC can not impose caps. It is true that a contract can not supersede a law, but the law may allow such contracts. That is up to how a court interprets the Charter School Law. Certainly charter schools may voluntarily limit enrollment in agreement with the SRC.

But you know what? It is good to see Lori Shorr angry about this. We need to deal with all of these issues which are smacking us in the face.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:39

Rich,

Your point about 3 of the members of the SRC being state-appointed is interesting. The potential loyalty issues involved, which you described, is interesting. This is all the more important reason for the District to have an elected school board.

That said, Pedro Ramos and others on the SRC have been outspoken about the need to cap the growth of charter school enrollments in order to control the District's budget.

I know that Walter Palmer CS has not agreed to caps, but it would seem that the District would have a good case if a charter school broke the mutually agreed upon contract with the SRC by enrolling more students that the contract allowed. This is the situation with the Mariana Bracetti Academy. I hope that the administrative hearings are fair to both sides. And if that doesn't work, then I certainly hope that the courts are fair to the District and the charters involved. But who knows...the charter school law seems to favor the charters.

EGS

Submitted by Jane (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 03:28

Ramos is a big backer of charters - just look at his support of Esperanza Charter and Aspira. They were given a huge increase in "seats" and allowed to open a cyber charter last year.

The SRC is not a "friend" of the School District. Lori Shorr is not a friend of the School District. Nutter, Williams, etc., etc. are not friends of the School District. There are few friends of the School District.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 10:03

Both you and EGS are poignant in your comments. All of the appointments to the SRC are political appointments and that is a flaw of appointed school boards. Alluding to the work of Jonathan Kozol, our school children have always been "Beneath the Wheel" of politics. Loyalties and conflicts of interest are always factors in political dynamics.

Pedro Ramos has long been involved with community affairs in the Esperanza/ASPIRA area. When I first moved into administration in the late 1990's, I was Apprentice Principal at the old Kensington H.S. I worked for ASPIRA as principal of their after school and evening programs for struggling students. I loved the ASPIRA community and have nothing but positive things to say about them. ASPIRA is running Olney as a "charter operator." I do believe Dr. Jose Lebron is the principal or is involved with that endeavor and he is one of the most respected principals I have ever met in Philadelphia.

Esperanza was started as one of the original "true charter schools." I visited Esperanza last year after I visited Mastery Smedley and was supposed to write a blog about them, too, but I got sidetracked with other work. Esperanza was a wonderful school and I was impressed with David Rossi and their entire team.

I originally met Pedro years ago when he was president of the school board when the state took the district over. I have always liked him personally and still do.

What I would really love to do is sit down with him at a local bar some day and have a heart to heart "Migliore conversation" with him. I know most of you have never seen me in action in the heat of the trenches, but I assure you it would be an "honest conversation."

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:08

I have been with the SDP for 21 years [18 as an appointed art teacher in a middle school and the rest was long term substitute teaching]
I bought supplies when started and have bought supplies ever since to do my job. When I was at the bottom of the scale and now at the top.

I have neither chick nor child in the SDP.
I pay my taxes.
Money is taken from my check to support the SDP.

Schools that are half empty must close. Money is being spent to heat, light, clean, flush water, in addition to adminstrate and teach. My old school is closing.

Life moves on an so should we. Holding up the process is how we got in this jam. Charter schools or no, until the SDP is funded by some other means keeping the SDP with another 25 million going out the door this year and next serves no purpose whatsoever.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 08:46

Well said. Thank you Linda K.

The amount the SDP will have to pay per child to charters will go down, as it "rightsizes". With the huge inefficiencies in the SDP's spending right now, charters have a windfall.

You are an art teacher - kudos to you! Check out the Picasso Project and Children Can Shape the Future for grant opportunities. The Picasso Project favors visual arts, while Children Can Shape the Future's board has funded equally in music, dance, and cultural arts; the board is made of some really awesome educators.

My public school art teachers get all the credit for my love of the arts, a resource in trying times (can't stress this enough). Thanks to them and you for continuing to provide access in public schools!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:10

Lori Shorr Is the Mayor's representative on the Great Schools Compact Committee, which calls for creation of more charters as part of school "reform".

You can't put the genie back in the bottle.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:19

Just for interest, there are some charter CEOs/CAOs (Chief Administrative Officer) in Philadelphia who make more than the superintendents of sizeable districts. Others make more modest and reasonable salaries. Here is the salary information from http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp.

2011-2012
$221,495 - Scott Shafer - Business Manager - Lower Merion SD

$219,949 - Naomi Johnson Booker (her salary was $199,500 in 2010-2011)

$218,405 - Lawrence Mussoline - Superintendent - Downingtown SD

$210,889 - Christopher McGinley - Superintendent, Lower Merion SD

$206,000 - Joseph Venditti - CEO - Franklin Town CHS

$211,077 - Vincent Cotter - Superintendent - Colonial SD

$187,377 - Janet Samuels - Superintendent - Norristown SD

$181,500 - David Hardy - CAO - Boys Latin CS

$178,464 - Larry Sperling - CEO - Philadelphia Academy CS

$172,010 - Joanne Barnett - CAO - Pennsylvania Virtual CS

$170270 - Joseph Bruni - Superintendent - William Penn SD

$170000 - John Swoyer - MAST Community CS CEO

$163,200 - Joseph Proietta - CAO - Community Academy of Phialdelphia CS

$163,000 - Angela Villani - CAO - Mariana Bracetti CS ($155,981 in 2010-2011)

$160,00 - Rosemary Dougherty - Principal - Christopher Columbus CS

$160,000 - Michael Slade - CAO - Laboratory CS

$156,000 - Jurate Krokys - CAO - Independence CS

$131,250 - Wanda Novales - CAO - Pan American Academy CS

$98,500 - Daira Frinks-Hinson - CAO - Walter Palmer Leadership CS

$98,345 - Meghan Allshouse - CAO - Ad Prima CS

$96,000 - Jennifer Faustman - CAO - Belmont CS

Submitted by Jane (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 03:25

Check the Walter Palmer Charter web site. Daira Frinks-Hinson is not listed as the CAO - she is listed as
Hinson, Ms. D. F.
Lead Administrator Operations/Administration - School wide

Palmer is the CEO - What is his salary?
This list also doesn't include Scott Gordon - Mastery.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:01

Walter Palmer was not in the database. Scott Gordon was in the database, but he was listed under a couple of different Mastery schools, mainly Master Charter High School. Let me look a little deeper and see what his salary is.

For Scott Gordon, when I looked him up by name or school, his salaries are as follows:
2010-2011 - CAO - Mastery Charter HS - 16% - $25,600
2009-2010 - CAO - Mastery Charter HS - 25% - $10,000
2009-2010 - CAO - Master CS-Thomas Campus - 25% - $8750

I think I saw him listed at something over $100,000 for Mastery Charter HS when I scrolled by salary, but that doesn't come up when I look by school. I tried looking through the database by salary again, but didn't see his name up in the 6 figures area. It's a slow process to scroll through by salary, so maybe someone else can try again and see if they can find him at http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 05:07

oh, no! you didn't go there did you?
west philly hs. mary dean, principal-$149,890, raqueebah burch, avp-$107,592, robin jackson,avp-$100,671, paul salmon, avp-$107,592. now let's see what about $465,000 in management produces: 800 students on roll, only 600 show up each day, persistently dangerous list, 4- year graduation rate: 44%, pssa results: reading:19% math-13%, college enrollment rate 24%.

now I can do lots of these and this isn't the worst case, but I ask you, who's wasting money?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:26

I listed a range of charter school CAO/CEO salaries. I am well aware of what District principals make. However, most of their salaries are comparable to what other districts are paying. My point in listing the salaries of the CAOs/CEOs was to point out that the most highly paid of these individuals who oversee schools make more than superintendents of districts with thousands of students. Some of these individuals may function in multiple roles, e.g. CAO and principal, so there may be some justification for a higher salary.

My concern is that this is public money and there needs to be scrutiny of the salaries of all employees who receive payment with public money. Some of the salaries for the charter school CAOs are quite high, especially when these CAOs make more than school districts which have more students that the charter schools in question.

I am well aware of the issues with student performance at the comprehensive high schools in the District, like West Philly HS. The principals and vice principals are paid well, and they do have a big impact on the environment at schools. However, reformer, your use of data suggests that they are directly responsible for the low test scores, college enrollment, and graduation rate. There is no question that leadership in a school starts at the top and that a principal really sets the tone for the school's culture. But to put complete responsibility on the principals for school performance is ridiculous.

West Philadelphia HS is a high school with many difficult students, a high poverty population, school safety issues, among other things. There are some great programs there as well, such as the automotive program. There are some students who do very well as WPHS. That said, the pay for the principal is not unreasonable when compared with other districts. In order to attract good people to be principals, they need to have adequate pay. The SDP already has problems attracting good principals to head difficult schools. How would they be able to attract good principals to difficult or high-needs schools if the pay was much less than the pay in neighboring districts?

A number of factors influence college enrollment, including academic performance and ability of the family to pay tuition. There are students who cannot enroll in college because their families can't afford it. Students don't always receive enough financial aid. In high school, students have had many years of formal education. Those who are behind may be years behind and they cannot catch up in one year. Yes the graduation rate is low, but it's important to think about why it's so low. Data doesn't speak for itself. There has to be context and an understanding of the factors that create the data. Behind the data are individual students who are unique individuals.

Don't throw around data without looking at the context. The data don't tell the story on their own.

EGS

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 13:45

first, the jobs of district principal and charter ceo are not comparable. a charter school ceo must have a much wider range of skills to be successful. they not only have responsibility for the educational outcomes at their schools, but they also have fiscal responsibility, facilities, personnel, public and governmental relations, safety, everything. when there is an issue at a charter school, one person must shoulder that responsibility. in this stream of posts, people have blamed walt palmer for everything bad they could uncover about his school. but, when i suggest that the west philly management team is reponsisble for what goes on at that school, you rush to their defense saying that their kids are somehow different than those attending charter schools. hogwash! as for the suburban districts you point out, those superintendents often have larger staffs than most charter schools faculties. there is a context here. you are not knowledgable enough to understand the context. and, contrary to your opinion, the data can tell the story. just one more comparison: how can motivation, a special admissions hs, draw from the top 10% of all philadelphia students, have 75% low income students and send only 62% to college when mastery shoemaker with open enrollment and 93% low income sends 68% to college. the difference is nobody will accept or even make excuses for scott gordon. you, however, will always be there to provide them for nonperforming district employees. if you are at all interested in the fairness you say you are, you will have to acknowledge that point.

Submitted by dbelleti on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:20

I am a huge supporter of public schools and believe in preserving and improving the public school system. I also have had the great fortune of being a student of Walter Palmer's and of visiting his charter school.

I can tell you with great confidence that Palmer is a brilliant man that cares deeply about his students and about the issues of race and education. His school is testament to that fact - having visited myself, the children there are amazingly well-behaved and self-assured. They all know Palmer and run to him for hugs.

I just felt it was important to speak up for Walter Palmer - I don't believe he's the monster he is sometimes said to be, by any stretch of the imagination.

Submitted by Rob (not verified) on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 23:48

He may be a very nice man but his actions are questionable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 00:22

Closures or no closures, this should "make Philadelphia school officials furious," as well as those of us who would have had little or nothing without PUBLIC education. Which means most of us.

Now, what do we do about it?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 08:55

Our State reps would be a good place to start. Fraudulent funding, schools claiming students they are not teaching, in any district, should be a concern to every resident taxpayer.

Also, the issue of whether the SRC, as a State run entity, should be allowed (through special case exception to State law) to set caps on charter enrollment for the sake of fiscal soundness (for which reason they were appointed after all) of the SDP. Our State reps should take this up in Harrisburg. Perhaps they can pass an amendment to the law.

Submitted by Darnel Charles Tanksley (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 08:51

PUBLIC TELEVISION also was a target for Republican theory
CABLE TELEVISION with it's promise of no commercails was attractive to many

We happily switched to cable with it's non commercail promise.
But when the commercails came we tried to go back to PUBLIC TELEVISION
But we could not go back to PUBLIC TELEVISION
It had been destroyed beyond recognition
By a Republican theory that affected
Philadelphia AND Pennsylvania
AND America

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 12:01

AGREED Darnel.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 09:39

With all due respect, Walter Palmer has a very checkered past especially with his big mouth. Sorry but the facts have to mean something. He never knows when to just shut up.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 09:57

So let's see, $8,100 per student per year is EXCESSIVE for Philly students but $28,000 a year is appropriate for Lower Merion students and some wonder why Philly Parents are tired of the abuse, injustice and utter disrespect. HUH ????

Submitted by SCULLY (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 11:16

I worked with Mr. Star at Sayre for years. I am still there and Sayre has changed since he left in a big way, a disgraceful way. I hate coming into the building every day. Mr. Star runs a tight ship, fair but firm. Back then, he always reported the truth too. Only in the School District can right be the wrong thing to do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 12:04

THE BASIC STRUCTURE IS THE PROBLEM. These privately run schools should be private schools not having anything to do with the public sphere. I'm outraged as a taxpayer that my money is being used to fund them.

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 13:11

It is important to look at the data and the data for the Walter Palmer Learning Leadership Charter School has some troubling elements.

According to the 2011 990 tax return, available through Guidestar at http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/233/052/2011-233052612-085728..., CAA Daira Frinks-Hinson earns $130,843 as CAA of the school plus $24,963 from “related organizations;”The school spent $434,910 on legal fees; Walter Palmer discloses no salary but his foundation received $162,208 for “curriculum development;” his daughter earns $49,927 as a Pre-K instructor; and his son earns $63,286 as a provider of “student support services.”
The audit from June 30, 2009, included in the school’s Annual Report, available at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/annual_reports_..., shows a net deficit of $551,669( p. 208 of Annual Report).
The school’s AYP status for 2011 was Corrective Action II, 5th Year. See http://paayp.emetric.net/District/Overview/c51/126513490.
Does this information mean that it is a bad school? Not necessarily. But it does merit further inquiry before more public money is transferred from the District at the whim of the school without input from the broader community.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:50

Susan,

I'm not a big fan of AYP, but if the Walter Palmer CS has been in Corrective Action II for 5 years, then it's doing no better than the average District school and may be doing worse.

I'd never heard of guidestar.org before, but I will have to take a look and see what I can find there.

I don't know from where openPAgove.org gleans their data, but some schools are clearly not reporting the true salaries of some of their employees. These schools appear to be mostly charter schools. I can look up anyone who is an employee of the SDP and see their salary, e.g. Penny Nixon, Arlene Ackerman, Leroy Nunery. I can't do that for some of the CEOs/CAOs of the charter schools, e.g. Scott Gordon, Walter Palmer. Scott Gordon is in the database, but not for 2011-2012 and only part of his compensation is visible for previous years.

The bottom line is that there needs to be more transparency. The SRC, the District, and the Commonwealth should be challenging the non-profit status of some of these charter schools.

EGS

Submitted by Susan DeJarnatt (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 15:59

I share your concerns about AYP--I do not think it is the end all and be all of how any school should be evaluated. But the traditional public schools are constantly criticized for not making AYP so I want the standards to apply equally to all schools. The only way I know of to glean salary information is through the 990 returns on Guidestar--which are supposed to include the highest paid employees, though not all forms comply with this information--or by wading through the Annual Reports on the Pa DOE website. The good news is that the Reports now do contain lots of financial information. The bad news is that it is poorly organized and the Reports are hundreds of pages long so it is quite time-consuming to go through them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 17:48

PA Charter Law states that the expectation is that charter schools will provide better outcomes(not the same or a little worse). The state sets the measures and the targets, so, yes, all schools should be held to them, if any are.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 13:15

the problem here is that public schools are not for public employees, not public education. the biggest complaints here are coming from teachers, not students or their parents. the token opposition from the parents is strctly a pft production. the fact is, most parents who could find an alternative to neighborhood schools have already done so. what should outrage you are the schools that don't teach anything and te people who still get paid for not doing it. i hope that hite will close some of these useless careers when he closes those schools.

Submitted by Another English Teacher (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 10:50

I just want to say how proud I am of everyone for not responding to this guy/girl/bot. We're learning! Don't feed the troll.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 14:26

This article is extremely misleading. It only casually brushes on what the law says and seeks to absolve the District of any wrongdoing.

We live in a country of laws, not of men.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 18:09

The law is not perfect. That is why we have legislators,and why we have amendments to laws.

The SAG, Jack Wagner pointed out the disparity between what cyber charters were being compensated, and what they actually needed for the instruction they provided, as well as the disparity between PA's compensation and the national average.

A more just measure of charter compensation would not be keyed solely to what the home district spends, because the home district may be struggling with major population changes, as the SDP is. A better measure would be a standard equal to what the State compensates the home district with, in this case, $6000 rather than $8,100. Somehow the State thought the $6,000 was fair for the SDP, it should be fair for the charters in its catchment as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 21:34

Do we?? The evidence in Philly points in a different direction. These folks do whatever they want with no push back legally, at least not now and not much.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 18:10

Reformer dear, this is the 3rd time you've complained about teachers saying this is not a "jobs program." To bring you up to speed the public has moved on from teacher bashing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 20:26

It's like the 10th time and I agree, enough already. This troll needs to get a life of its own.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 20:30

Ms. Cheng, where are you getting your $6,000 number?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 22:38

It was a figure that was in my memory from an article here in the Notebook, but I was not able to locate it to reference, so to check my memory I found the following sources and info:

For FY 2010/11:
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/summaries_of_an...
(Revenues, State Revenue; then find Philadelphia City SD (line 400))
$878,187,976.96 Basic Education
$109,541,354.60 Charter Schools
$127,544,349.80 Special Education

Use total enrollment 206,989 (http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/how-much-do-phil... )

Add the 3 categories to get $1,115,273,681.36
Divide by total enrollment (206,989), and you get $5,388.08

Since this includes Special Ed, it might have been easier to simply divide the figures given in this article $8,100 and $19,700 in half (article states "gets more than half of its per-pupil spending from the state") to get $4,050 and $9,850 for regular and Special Ed respectively.

Long story short - and thank you for having me check this info/my memory, I was wrong, the number is closer to $4,500 not $6,000.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 02:02

Ms. Cheng, you are merely using state revenue. When you use state and local revenue the figure is approximately $14,000 per district student. Charters get federal money directly, so that does not count, but just for kicks that number brings the total to $17,000. I just did the simple division by 206,989 students. The last number is higher, because charter kids would not be counted. The reality is that charters get about 75% of what district students get. Jack Wagner has even confirmed this. Make sure you get your information correct please.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 03:42

Yes, we were talking only about State revenue, not total revenue. I feel a more fair way to determine charter reimbursement should be keyed to State and Local revenue, rather than home district spending.

The SDP spends, not gets (also quoted on http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/how-much-do-phil... ), about $14,800 per student.

For what the SDP gets, you would use the total revenue spreadsheet ( (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/summaries_of_an... ). The figure is $2,835,402,858 , and includes all sources, State, Local, and Federal, which would include grants for things as Title I and facility improvements, tuition for orphans placed in private homes, etc. If I divide $2,835,402,858 by 206,989, I get $13,698.33 - What numbers are you using, and what are the sources?

By law, what the home district, here the SDP, must pay charters per child is what they spend, not get, on basic/core curriculum instruction, i.e. what they spend minus facilities maintenance, transportation, special grant programs (e.g. Title I), and debt service, per child. The percentage of total expenditure can vary depending on what the expenditure is on these particular items.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 07:09

Why not look at expenditure detail which has the district spend number closer to $17,000 per student. In any event, what are you suggesting the charter dollar amount would be?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 09:42

I believe you have made the same mistake that Matthew Brouillette made in quoting numbers (he also quoted $17,000) in his appearance along with Helen Gym on WHYY's "Radio Times". The webpage from which I took enrollment numbers, http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/how-much-do-phil... , explains the error.

I do not think it unfair that both the home district and charters be paid what the State and Local governments are able/willing to pay per child. This is more in keeping with equitable status for both.

As it is right now, the home district bears the burden of lobbying for more funds, while charters enjoy the "spoils" of over generous/overly optimistic or simply overburdened (as in a huge demographic shift) spending on the part of the home district. This puts charters in the status of being protected and sheltered by the home district rather than standing on their own as the equals they wish to be seen as. If the case ever became that State and Local funding exceeded the spending (which might coincide with the "end of the world", who knows?) of the home district; Well, they (both home district and charter) could save and invest in something to further their mission of public education. True I wouldn't hold my breath in the case of the SDP, but some cyber charters are actually doing this with their huge surpluses. See: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june12/cyberschools_02-23.html (the renaissance of Midland, PA).

Finally, I know this has nothing to do with "justice"; however it is an unintended consequence which counters "fair competition": The SDP is having to borrow in order to meet its payment obligations, which includes those to charters. It is a vicious cycle, that promises to put the SDP in a progressively disadvantaged position, no matter how much it does to "rightsize" and become more efficient. This is in my opinion a serious situation that every citizen taxpayer should be concerned with, because ultimately they will be asked to foot the shortfall (it's not likely lenders will take the loss). Charters can continue undaunted by this prospect, but it would only emphasize their hypocrisy when they state their premise is "fair competition". Taxpayers in fact are already footing the bill for their current overfunding; so along with hypocrisy there is certain amount of opportunism present.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 15:30

Bottom line to all this is it's not about money, it's about kids and until the playing field is made even, none of us should be proud of ourselves. Using fuzzy math and playing hopscotch with figures to bolster our arguments, is not productive.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 16:46

Right on: so who's using the fuzzy math?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 18:34

Not accusing you personally but if the shoe fits........................ I may not know much math but when Lower Merion is cut 1/28 of what Philly is cut, that ain't kosher. I also care not about tax base issues. This is still the U.S. and we need to do better to level the playing field rather than finding ways to avoid doing it.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 20:18

Alright Joe, straight from the State (zero fuzzy math):
(http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/summaries_of_an... ) Use State Revenue FY 2010/11

Data for Lower Merion SD
Total State Revenue = $18,908,380.58
Total students = (over) 7,300 (per lmsd.org, "about")
Divide Total State Revenue by 7,300 = $2,590.19 per child

Philadelphia City SD
Total State Revenue =$1,402,498,760.36
Total students =206,989
Divide Total State Revenue by 206,989 = $6776.72 per child

The state is giving Philadelphia SD more than twice per child what it is giving to Lower Merion SD per child. What was that about equity?

And I know some people just tune out math, but you can't say Harrisburg isn't giving Philly more money than Lower Merion. Also, if you want a challenge, sort through what I wrote in reply to Anonymous above. You'll see it's all about equity because right now charters have an unfair advantage when they are paid by the SDP's spending and not its (State and Local) per child revenue.

Can't expect activists to like math... sigh.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 20:37

Harry Truman said Nixon was the only person he ever met who could speak out of both sides of his mouth while lying out of both sides. Mark Twain said that Facts were the lies we like best. I don't know if your figures are correct or not but if you're saying that Lower Merion is being "shortsheeted" so Philly can be lavished upon, I shall disagree with every breath left in my miserable body.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 20:39

That's Joe, not anonymous. My computer flips back unless I manually change it every time I post something. Hey, it's 11 years old.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:11

Joe, the HUGE difference in spending comes from Lower Merion itself. They are able and willing to chip in from their own incomes. Harrisburg is actually giving us more than they are giving Lower Merion.

Are we asking Harrisburg to give us more money because we make less than those who live in Lower Merion?.. Oh please force the rest of the Commonwealth to give us money so we can keep up with our rich neighbors? Sounds like Communism to me, and we know how much say people get in that system.

Also, sorry but if you don't understand numbers, don't say someone who is trying to make a point using numbers is trying to dupe you. Make the effort to understand. You say you support education, educate yourself.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:31

I told you earlier I wasn't accusing you but ..............you protest too much as Billy Shakespeare once mouthed. Through no fault of my own, I am a VERY rich person so numbers are not foreign to me. I know enough about them that I know how figures lie and liars figure as John Gotti used to say.
Anybody who thinks that John Gleason or whatever his name is, is " a nice looking idealist" needs to think a little harder and as Rich says, "Keep your eyes open real wide." Gleason is a bean counter and it's his beans that matter to him at the exclusion of all else. Idealist my butt !! But that's just me.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 09:35

Joe, this is one of the most important reasons to pay attention in math class. So that we can make a good assessment of numbers, and not be fooled/victimized.

My "protest" are replies/evidence given. To Anonymous, who obviously favors the current charter funding formula with the rationale that because the SDP's spending is high (he wants to believe it is $17,000 per child) that charters deserve to be paid this/equally much. First, he/she said my numbers were not correct... I provide him/her with what I used and the process. He/she has not provided anything to the contrary yet.

Since you are rich "through no fault of your own", you might not have had any use for numbers. Unfortunately, we were poor and naive, so I have had to sharpen my number skills just to "survive". They are not used to fool anyone.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 11:04

Ms. Cheng--"You're not even Chinese and you were born on Long Island;" Mrs. Costanza.
Speaking about poor, I used to ride my bike from Broad and Erie to fight the middleweight champion of the world 3 times a week. Got paid $2.00 a round--3 rounds every time. Maybe, that accounts for my mental lapses lo these many moons later. By the way, no head gear in those days either but don't call me ugly.

Submitted by Geoffrey (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 11:24

This an an utterly absurd comment. You might want to check out Savage Inequalities so you can learn a little about funding inequalities. Lower Merion is almost all taxable real estate. Homes, shopping, etc. Philadelphia has huge swathes of untaxed real estate. Many Lower Merion residents benefit from museums, parks and other untaxed locations. Philadelphians who visit Lower Merion are probably going there to spend money. So, yes, Philadelphia does deserve more money for education than Lower Merion. You keep castigating us for not knowing math, yet you don't align your knowledge of numbers to the facts.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 11:46

Philadelphia IS getting more money per child than Lower Merion FROM the State. YES, they DO NEED it. I make NO JUDGEMENT as to how someone/Lower Merion chooses to use money if they have a lot of it (but you seem to). I also don't believe that a taxpayer exists to be burdened.

What I'm saying is the solution IS NOT GOING TO COME from ONLY lobbying Harrisburg, which is really saying that the State taxpayer needs to pay more, or State employees across the board need to accept less, or other State programs need to get cut (talk to your State rep there). GET A GRIP! Why so defensive? - I'm actually on your side, but I like to see actions that lead to solutions, not a bunch of mob inciting.

I'm also saying that using math is not the same as "talking out both sides of your mouth and lying at the same time". As a teacher, I would hope you would agree on that one. Unfortunately (and I won't retract or elaborate on this one) there is a lot of fuzzy math going around, and it's coming from activists who should know better.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 12:00

Geoffrey, I just peaked at a synopsis of the book, "Savage Inequalities", and it sounds like a case for more social services spending foremost. I would welcome Title I going to those services. It would likely translate to better attention and ability to learn for the kids.

Submitted by Geoffrey (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 12:23

Not at all. It is a scathing indictment of how inequitable funding policies disadvantage the neediest children in America.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 12:49

We're running out of room to discuss. I would like to read this. Briefly (as well you can), what changes do you think need to be done to policies?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:04

Ms. Cheng,

The state gives Philadelphia more per pupil money, as it should. Lower Merion is one of the wealthiest--if not the wealthiest district--in the state. Lower Merion receives a relatively small portion of its funding from the state and a tiny amount from the federal government. This is because the state provides more money per pupil for each pupil who is economically disadvantaged. There is also weighted funding for ELLs and special education students. Philadelphia has a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than Lower Merion does, hence the higher per pupil contribution from the state for Philadelphia.

As a wealthy district, Lower Merion is able to raise a lot more money per pupil than Philadelphia can. The students in Philadelphia are needier, but Philadelphia is also poorer tax wise whereas Lower Merion has fewer needy students but more wealth from property taxes.

Even though the state gives Philadelphia more money per pupil than wealthier districts, the state's additional contribution for Philadelphia is not sufficient to narrow the gap between local property tax revenues. THE INHERENT PROBLEM IS IN A SCHOOL FUNDING SYSTEM WHICH RELIES SO HEAVILY ON PROPERTY TAXES. The 2007 "Costing Out" study, in its Equity Analysis, states that:
"As was noted earlier, local revenue is about twice the magnitude of state aid on average, with the result that it overwhelms whatever equity state aid provides" (43). In addition, "The inequity of the system can be summarized by the conclusion that school districts with higher wealth, and lower needs, spend more than lower wealth districts — and do so while making lower tax effort" (44).

The 2007 "Costing Out" study supports all of my points. Here is the link to the study: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/research_report...

EGS

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 09:13

EGS thanks for the reference. (Interesting study provided by an "Inc." entity - do we want to allude any hidden agenda here? How about the increased money that will go to their educational materials and testing friends? -ha ha, leave it to the conspiracy theorists, not me.)

I would not contest the existence of a minimal level of funding to meet adequate materials and instruction time, etc. What I'm objecting too is the constant use of adjacent rich school districts as the standards to be used to determine this level of spending.

I'm also objecting to the unrealistic (and irresponsible/thoughtless) solution that more funding must come from Harrisburg. Sorry you (mostly retired edcational professionals), a compartmentalized and dependent mindset is not what we need. A community school is a great idea: Make it happen instead of saying that someone else needs to do the work.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 18:02

I think it's fair, just, and necessary for the state to redistribute some local funding from wealthier districts to poorer districts. The reason I believe this is because of the history of inequality in this country, particularly in regards to race. Maintaining the current system, which relies mostly on local property taxes, continues to maintain the past inequities into the current times.

Redlining, restrictive covenants, and discriminatory real estate and lending practices, are some of the relevant practices which impacted the ability of families to build wealth and send their children to well-funded schools. Blacks and other people of color have not always had the ability to move into any suburb of their choice. People need to remember that and understand that past discriminatory practices can still have residual effects today, even if the practices are themselves illegal.

I'm not advocating for dependency or excuses. I am advocating for a level playing field. Socioeconomic status matters. A child should be able to receive a quality education regardless of where he or she is born. Funding education with property taxes creates an uneven, inequitable playing field. The only way to rectify this situation is to redistribute some of the local property taxes into a statewide pot so that across the state, the state distributes 2/3 of funding for K-12 and local districts distribute 1/3 of the K-12 funding. Right now, the state distributes 1/3 and local districts distribute 2/3.

EGS

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 19:19

EGS---Be careful or Ms. Cheng will accuse you of being a communist. By the way, a little thing like 300 years of racism, injustice and discrimination shouldn't enter into this discussion. Poor people are lazy people who deserve what they get. And don't even get me started on these "reformers" invading the inner cities like locusts.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:06

Just curious, are Joe K. and Joe the same person?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:19

He is and I am too. Yes is the answer. My computer skills like my hairline are poor.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 20:44

Ms. Cheng,

You state a couple of points very well. I have tried to make these points myself, but have not stated them as well as you have. In particular:

(1) "As it is right now, the home district bears the burden of lobbying for more funds, while charters enjoy the "spoils" of over generous/overly optimistic or simply overburdened (as in a huge demographic shift) spending on the part of the home district. This puts charters in the status of being protected and sheltered by the home district rather than standing on their own as the equals they wish to be seen as."

Regarding the first point which I lifted from your comment, you really hit at the heart of the issue. Charter proponents advocate for competition. That is all well and good, except that the rules are stacked in favor of the charter schools so that the competition is unfair. Not only do the rules favor the charter schools, but many people in power, especially Republicans and business people, support this kind of unfair competition favoring charters. Republicans and many business people have made clear--through words and/or actions--that they primarily have an interest in supporting public education when public education supports their interests or lines their pockets. Many of those pushing school choice and privatization don't appear to see value in education for the sake of the common good.

Parents in wealthier districts fight charter schools because they see that the charters have an unfair advantage over the school districts, and this affects the quality of their children's educations. Unfortunately, in Philadelphia, so many parents are desperate for their children to have a better education and better life that the parents will apply for their child(ren)'s enrollment in a charter school, whether or not the charter is a better school than the District-run school.

Let's make no mistake, Republicans and business people are not the only ones with interests in the direction of school reform or the lack of it. Unions for employees--teachers, principals, and others--as well as publishing companies, technology companies, data companies, and others have their own interests as well. However, Republicans, "philanthropists," and many business people have seized on charter school laws to weaken public education and increase their own salaries, profits, and political power.

(2) "The SDP is having to borrow in order to meet its payment obligations, which includes those to charters. It is a vicious cycle, that promises to put the SDP in a progressively disadvantaged position, no matter how much it does to "rightsize" and become more efficient. This is in my opinion a serious situation that every citizen taxpayer should be concerned with, because ultimately they will be asked to foot the shortfall (it's not likely lenders will take the loss). Charters can continue undaunted by this prospect, but it would only emphasize their hypocrisy when they state their premise is "fair competition". Taxpayers in fact are already footing the bill for their current overfunding; so along with hypocrisy there is certain amount of opportunism present."

In terms of the vicious cycle to which you refer, many of those advocating for public education want to starve the beast and reduce its size as much as possible, for various reasons. It would take far more right-sizing of the District in order to really make a sizable dent in the budget deficit. And this is why the school closings are so disturbing: When will the closings stop? When will the bleeding stop? The current budget cuts and deficits affect the education of the children. Being at a disadvantage in terms of funding, the District schools have fewer resources. This "starving of the beast," means that more parents flee to charters. Some parents are voting with their feet, but many are fleeing out of desperation and a desire to do what is best for their children. Parents who want their children to receive the best possible education see that many of the charters offer more than the public schools do and so, in doing what they believe is best for their child(ren), choose to enroll in a charter school or enter a lottery. This is precisely what happens in starving the beast.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 21:41

EGS, I'm glad you understood what I wrote. I'm not as sure that this situation is intentional, and can't be corrected. In fact the Republicans have already proposed legislation to reform both charter and cyber charter funding, addressing such issues as "double dipping" in the pension fund contributions. It is a start, but does not correct the error (as I see it) of funding using spending instead of revenue.

It makes sense that you want to encourage a home district to be as efficient with spending as possible and thus ask it to pay what it spends to its charters; however, it is not realistic (we have a whole industry after all, called banking, that exists because we all tend to spend more than what we make) and with the high number of charters and inefficient spending (due to sharp demographic change) in the SDP, in particular, it can only lead to increased hardship as debt service increases.

I believe concerted and sustained lobbying of our State rep(s) can help push charter funding reform. That's where it has to happen. As part of this reform, the SRC must also be allowed, as a State entity put in place to ensure fiscal soundness of the SDP, in a "special exception" case if necessary, to regulate charter enrollment. (Sorry about the run-on - spending too much time writing here...) I have a good thoughtful Republican friend, and I don't think Repbulicans are about "starving the beast". This is a pretty popular theory, but I don't agree with it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 19:28

Since when is James Roebuck a Republican?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 22:10

EGS, I have one more thing to add to my reply to your comment. It is also one of hope. I am a parent and was in my neighborhood school nearly every day for two years as a volunteer. The parents that left, did not do so because of any perceived lack of resources. Instead it was lack of responsiveness, mostly by the principal and administration, to the concerns they expressed. The ineffectiveness in dealing with bullying was also an issue, but this was also part of the lack of responsiveness. This can be fixed.

What needs to be changed in order for parents to choose the SDP over charters is not so impossible, and is not really about which school has more. When I talk to children and parents on Saturdays at CMSP who go to Mastery, they like the atmosphere, discipline, and most especially the parents like the responsiveness there. I don't believe this has anything to do with more money.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 01:11

Ms. Cheng,

I agree that Mastery is more responsive to discipline issues. However, Mastery's schools receive quite a bit of extra funding. They also are able to hire additional support staff for their schools because they have fewer senior teachers. Mastery also uses a 401(k) system, but I'm not sure this prevents their teachers from being eligible for the teacher pension system.

That said, at all of their schools they have a principal and 4 assistant principals, 1 each for culture, specialized services (special ed), operations, and instruction. Also, each school has at least 1 dean. So for whatever reason--lower costs for teachers and/or additional funding--they are able to afford more administrators, and that makes a big difference.

The AP of culture spearheads the implementation of their behavior management system. The AP of culture and dean(s) are available to deal with behavior problems--the most problematic students as well as students who are generally well-behaved but act up every now and then. Also, the teachers and administrators make a point of calling parents and communicating with parents--both during and before/after school. Teachers are required to supervise dismissal time. It's not uncommon for teachers to wait up to a half hour past the final bell with students. Typically, after a half hour, the teachers took the kids to the front desk. Sometimes teachers stayed until parents came, other times there were other people to supervise. It depended on the day.

In terms of communicating with parents, sometimes it's more face to face because the parents/relatives/caregivers drop off and pick up their children. With others, its more by phone because of work schedules. Parents can sign a release so that their child(ren) can walk home. For each student, at the end of the day, the teacher records the child's color on a calendar or homework cover sheet that goes home with students. Parents are supposed to sign the calendars each night--some do, some don't. This behavior system works because it is school wide. Everyone is on the same page. Through orientation and day to say monitoring and support, the AP of Culture and other administrators work with new teachers to really get them on board with the behavior management system. I spent over 100 hours at a Mastery school, so I have a pretty good grasp of the system and some of the ins and outs, hang ups, and so forth.

I also student taught at a District school which had a principal and a teacher leader, who functioned basically like an assistant principal, with an emphasis on instruction. It would have been impossible to implement a complex system like what Mastery had at this school. There was no dean to take the kids with chronic behavior problems. Kids didn't have to wait to be picked up. (Some of the special ed kids who were bused to the school had a more supervised dismissal, but they also dismissed 5 to 10 minutes earlier than most other students.) There were a couple of teachers who left school at the same time as their students. There were some teachers who did supervise dismissal and the principal would walk around the school to monitor things. But dismissal was definitely less structured than at Mastery. Also, there was less caregiver interaction with the teachers at dismissal time because parents/caregivers/older siblings weren't required to sign out their kids like they had to at Mastery (except for those parents who signed the release so their kids could walk home).

Another issue that probably impedes the ability to implement comprehensive behavior management systems in the District--especially the schools with the most behavior problems--are the teacher protections. I know that I will take heat for this from some people on here. Anyone who has read enough of my posts knows that I support unions and I understand that teachers need due process rights. That said, I believe that Mastery's system might not work in the District partly because of the protections that teachers have and the stipulations in the PFT contract about the length of the school day. In addition, implementing a system like what Mastery uses is taxing--it takes a lot of energy. For some teachers, particularly older ones, they may not have the energy to do everything necessary for the system to work. The "sweat the small stuff" mentality that Mastery has about behavior management takes a lot of energy and effort to implement. It was often tiring for the teachers at Mastery--most of them in their 20s and 30s--and it would only be more taxing for older teachers.

Also, Mastery requires their teachers and admins to really watch the tone of their communication with students. A harsh tone was not acceptable--at least not at the Mastery school where I spent time. Staff at this school were supposed to be very authoritative. Yeah, they might get a harsh tone every once in a while, as everyone does. But, for a teacher to regularly yell harshly at students would not fly at this Mastery school. In my experience from spending time at 2 District schools, it is more common for older teachers than younger teachers to be more authoritarian--to be the yellers and have a harsh tone. It could be a generational thing; these older teachers might have a more "old school" mentality about discipline. I don't know, my observations are purely anecdotal, they are not scientific. At Mastery, when they hire you, there's an understanding that you have to implement their system. Implementing Mastery's behavior management system is part of how Mastery admins evaluate teaching and it's part of the job when you teach there.

I don't know how behavior management system would work at a District school without site selection or if a lack of site selection would make it more difficult to implement a comprehensive behavior management system. I think too that the principal and his/her dedication to a behavior management system/positive behavior intervention support makes a big difference. However, teachers have to buy into the principal's system, so I don't know how a lack of site selection would affect buy in. I understand that teachers at some schools refuse site selection because they don't trust their principals or there is high turnover of the principals. So I'm not saying that FSS or not is a good/bad thing, I'm just saying that the FSS or a lack thereof may affect implementation of positive behavior management systems.

Now teachers do struggle with behavior management at Mastery, even if they work very hard. At the Mastery school where I spent time, the administrators were generally empathetic of the problems that teachers faced, especially those teacher who had the most difficult students. Admins know who these students are. There was recognition among most of the administrators that certain students have very thorny behavior problems and even the best teachers have difficulty with these students. There were a couple of admins/deans who didn't have teaching experience who had a hard time understanding how disruptive some of the students were. These admins/deans would sometimes return disruptive kids to class before they should have. However, the principal was great and dealt with issues proactively. Typically, the administrators were aware that the parents were often hard to deal with.

One teacher who was new to Mastery was struggling with behavior problems in their class. This teacher had some tough kids. This teacher's teacher coach came in and spent at least half days in the classroom for a week to help get the class under control. This is another example of how resources make a difference.

I know this response is long winded. My point is that there are some factors related to the work environments and resources of Mastery vs. the District that would make implementing a behavior management system like what Mastery has in high needs schools possible in high-need District schools.

EGS

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 08:28

EGS, wow THANK YOU for the explanation! Here's a too short response: yes I know it takes A LOT of energy to deal with high energy, highly emotional, short attention span kids. It looks like Mastery has tried to systematize their approach. As a volunteer, I've only got what I've observed to contribute. And it is this: It can be done without assistant principals/deans with TEAMWORK. Which means yes, teachers need to "get on the same page". We had an amazing pair of teachers, spotlessly "covered each other" with the most difficult grade, 8th. One was older and one in her 30's (my guess). Their class, (about 40 plus students, split in two groups for math and English/literacy) made AYP in both categories nearly every year. Did they get help for doing what worked? No, they got treated to some professional jealousy from the other teachers, and the principal in his infinite "wisdom" split them up. They requested and got a transfer as soon as this was done.

Why does teamwork require extra money?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 17:41

Ms. Cheng,

I was a bit puzzled at your reaction, so I went back and reread my post. I'm was pretty clear throughout about the importance of the extra resources and personnel that Mastery has. However, at the end, I erred.

I have since corrected my last paragraph. (It was late when I wrote my comments, and I didn't go back and check my comments.)

Here's what the revised last paragraph says. This is what I MEANT to say, but as I said, didn't double check my writing:

I know this response is long winded. My point is that there are some factors related to the work environments and resources of Mastery vs. the District that would make implementing a behavior management system like what Mastery has in high needs schools *extremely difficult and likely impossible* in high-need District schools *without a significant increase in resources, namely, additional administrators who can support a school-wide behavior management system/PBIS.*

EGS

So in response to your comments about energy and teamwork, it's not just energy and teamwork, but support and coordination. Teamwork doesn't require extra money, but the support and coordination require extra money in the form of extra adults. Mastery's behavior management policies DEPEND on having at least one administrator whose job it is to oversee school culture. The level of coordination, detail, and consistency is not achievable merely through teamwork and energy.

The AP of culture and the deans implement the restorative practices that Mastery uses. They keep track of the data and reports from year to year student behavior. The deans and admins are the ones who deal with the students who fight and can otherwise make life a living hell for teachers and other students. The deans and admins come in and check on classrooms with the most difficult students.

In my comment on this post as well as other posts, I have talked about the fact that Mastery has more administrators, including an AP of Culture and deans. These additional administrators are additional resources because personnel are resources. Therefore, having an assistant principal of culture and at least one dean---as Mastery has at its schools, but the District often does not have---makes the behavior management/PBIS at Mastery schools possible.

As I said also in the earlier post, I also believe that buy-in on the part of employees matters. The personnel differences matter, e.g. stipulations in the PFT contract, teacher/employee protections, FSS or no FSS, and so on. But it's not just about teamwork and energy. Mastery has more money to hire admins and deans who can coordinate, implement, and support the PBIS/behavior management plan and it makes a BIG difference.

Finally, regarding your anecdote about the 2 eighth grade teachers, I'd be interested in having you elaborate on the reasons why other teachers were jealous and why the principal split up the teachers. Were these 2 teachers co-teaching 40 students? I'd be interested to hear more details. Thanks.

EGS

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 17:27

Correction to my last paragraph:

I know this response is long winded. My point is that there are some factors related to the work environments and resources of Mastery vs. the District that would make implementing a behavior management system like what Mastery has in high needs schools *extremely difficult and likely impossible* in high-need District schools *without a significant increase in resources, namely, additional administrators who can support a school-wide behavior management system/PBIS.

EGS

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 01:14

What is CMSP?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 08:51

It is Community Music Scholars Program, an outreach of Temple Music Prep. Families who participate are involved in their children's education, because they find a way to get their kids to Temple on Saturdays. They are generally low income, but not the "problem" families. (Interesting sidenote: the instruments are provided by their SDP schools because they are in their schools' Instrumental Music programs.)

They are the families for which "choice" was meant however. One child I spoke to (high school age) last year, said things were much better at his school since being taken over by a charter operator in regards to kids' behavior. I don't recall which school it was.

Submitted by MARK TRAINA (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 05:04

PROOF: "YOUNG BLACK THUGS" are EFFIN U.S. UP!

This HORIBLE VIDEO was SHOT in the "NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA"!

http://www.examiner.com/play-video/video-portal/flag-stomper?cid=PROG-DM...

fatuous1 is MARK TRAINA a LILY WHITE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST from Southeast LOUISIANA whose RUNNING for GOVERNOR of the GREAT STATE of LOUISIANA in 2015!

"ENOUGH is ENOUGH LOUISIANA it's DEFINITELY time to TAKE BACK our STATE from all the THUG LIFERS, CRAZY CHECKERS, CRACKHEADS, CRACKORES, DRUG DEALERS, STREET HUSTLERS, STICK UP GUYS, AFRICAN QUEENS and the MOTHER of all this MADNESS-the "ENTITLEMENTERS"!

If you are HAPPY with the "STATUS QUO" in LOUISIANA Please VOTE for one of my CAREER POLITICIAN OPPONENTS-DAVID VITTER, MITCH LANDRIEU, JAY DARDENNE or JACK STRAIN-because they'll make sure that nothing "CHANGES" in the STATE of LOUISIANA!

Under their LEADERSHIP LOUISIANA Leads the U.S. in all the WRONG WAYS!

1) POLITICAL CORRUPTION-TIED with CHICAGO
2) VIOLENT CRIME-HIGHEST in the WORLD
3) INCARCERATION-HIGHEST RATE in the entire U.S.
4) EDUCATION, or LACK thereof
5) DRUG ADDICTIONS-CRACKHEADS, CRACKOERES &THUGS
6) ALCOHOLISM-one of the HIGHEST in the WORLD
7) POVERTY-2nd only to MISSISSIPPI
8) ENTITELEMENTS, PEOPLE PARASITES & CRAZY CHECKERS
9) UMEMPLOYMENT
10)ECONOMY

THANKS, but NO THINKS Mr. VITTER, Mr. LAMDRIEU, Mr. DARDENNE and Mr. STRAIN, but LOUISIANA needs NEW LEADERSHIP and a NEW DIRECTION!

FACT: LOUISIANA deserves BETTER, MUCH BETTER LEADERSHIP than any of these CAREER POLITICIANS have ever been able to bring to the TABLE!

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