Maryland schools superintendent resigns under pressure

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Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent of schools (Pictured above) who engaged in maladministration and criticized for showing very poor leadership skills in various ways including discriminatory conduct has announced her resignation. She received an F grade for Common Core meetings and other reform implementations in Maryland during her tenure.

Maryland State Superintendent of Education Lillian M. Lowery will step down in September to take a nonprofit education job in Ohio, state officials announced Friday.

Lowery will become the first chief executive and president of FutureReady Columbus, which will focus initially on early childhood education, public policy and community engagement.

Lowery, 60, was hired by the Maryland State Board of Education during the tenure of former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and leaves following the election last November of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. State officials said Friday her departure is not the result of any political pressure.

“She made this decision on her own,” said John White, chief of staff for the Maryland State Department of Education. “It was the right time for her and the right opportunity.”

Hogan’s office released a statement calling Lowery a “dedicated public servant to the state of Maryland” and saying she has been devoted to “bettering public education and working to ensure our teachers and students have the tools they need for success.”

State officials said that Jack R. Smith, the deputy state superintendent for teaching and learning — and chief academic officer at the Maryland State Department of Education — will become interim state superintendent for the remainder of Lowery’s four-year contract, which ends June 30. Smith is the former superintendent of schools in Calvert County.

Lowery was traveling and not available for immediate comment. Her last day is Sept. 11, and she starts in Columbus on Sept. 14.

“We are losing an extraordinary leader, a talented State Superintendent of Schools,” Guffrie Smith, president of the state board, said in a written statement. “Dr. Lowery led Maryland through a time of tremendous transition and progress. She positioned our State as a national leader in preparing students to be college and career ready.”

State officials said that under Lowery’s leadership Maryland graduated more students than ever before. She has focused on the importance of science and technology (STEM) education, as well as career and technical skills.

In recent months, Hogan named two new members to the state board who support the Common Core State Standards and charter schools, tapping Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Andy Smarick, partner at Bellwether Education Partners, to take the open seats on the 12-person board.

Earlier this year, Hogan pushed for major changes in the state’s charter laws and to provide tax credits to businesses that donate to private schools. Both measures, which critics saw as an attack on public education, were met with resistance. The General Assembly agreed to modest changes in the charter law and killed the tax credit bill.

via Washington Post

msde_store_frontMaryland State Department of Education (MSDE) HQ in Baltimore City is pictured above. During the tenure of Dr. Lowery, Lack of sunshine within (MSDE) damaged Maryland Schools in serious manner. Her departure is a welcome news for many education advocates in the state. MarylandMap2***

Cell towers contiue to go up on PGCPS school grounds.

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BOWIE – Milestone Communications has continued to build towers as per its agreement with the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education, despite opposition from invested, concerned citizens across the county against cell towers on school property.

Len Forkas, the president and chief executive officer of Milestone, said the company has completed five cell phone towers across the county on PGCPS grounds. The towers at John Carroll Elementary, Charles H. Flowers High, Green Valley Academy, Kenmore Middle and Oxon Hill Middle schools are all completed and operational. The recently built monopole at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie is completed in construction, but is still awaiting final wiring and a permanent fence.

Although school began on Aug. 25, Forkas said there is no danger to the students at Tasker, despite the incomplete nature of the tower and the lack of permanent fencing.

“We’ve got construction fencing that keeps people out from the site. All the electrical conduits are in. We are just waiting for a few more small approvals before we’ll do the final and complete fencing site, but no one’s at risk,” Forkas said. “I mean the tower itself, you can’t climb the tower unless you’re 10-15 feet. The climbing pegs don’t start until 10 feet.”

Forkas said the construction of each tower takes anywhere from six to 12 weeks to construct after the zoning and permitting process undertaken by the county and board of education are approved. Now that the company has nearly completed six towers, Forkas said Milestone is looking to complete a seventh and begin the process of vetting other locations.

“We have another site that we’re getting ready for construction in the fourth quarter, which is Madison Middle School. Then we’ve got some other sites that we are still in the process of vetting as to whether or not they go forward or don’t go forward,” he said.

The tower was built within 500 feet of a previously existing tower, which is contrary to the original contract signed with the county school board, but Forkas said the preexisting tower was at capacity and therefore defined the need for the new tower. The new tower at Tasker, so far, will house Verizon Wireless.

In 2011 the PGCPS Board of Education approved a contract with Milestone Communications in which 73 potential school sites were offered for cell tower construction. The initial approval of construction of cell phone towers on public school grounds was on Nov. 11, 2010. The contract states the school system will receive $25,000 for each tower built on school grounds and 40 percent of profits from the tower.

“We have relationships with over 40 different property owners in six states, and that’s the offering that we make. It’s a 40 percent revenue share,” Forkas said. “So the economics associated with the Prince George’s agreement are consistent with the majority of the organizations, schools and municipalities that we do business with.”

Since the passage of the contract, multiple groups across the county and state have voiced opposition to what they call dangerous situations for both students and school staff. The towers in PGC are continuing construction at a time when the issue of towers on school property is being reviewed by the state board of education.

Lynn Beiber, a member of a statewide coalition against cell towers at schools, said she is concerned about the electromagnetic radiation the towers produce and the overall safety of the students where a tower is placed.

“It’s an issue that is in every state,” Beiber said. “There are so many liability issues. If a tower worker gets hurt and falls, if something falls off the tower, if the tower falls. These towers are so close to the schools. There is no reason for them to be so close.”

Beiber said she is worried the citizens of the county are not informed about these towers going up. She said, if people knew, they would fight the towers going up.

“It’s critical to get the public involved. The hardest part is getting the public to realize what is going on,” she said.

Although Beiber said she worries about the radiation from the towers, research done by the American Cancer Society, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and multiple other organizations say the radiation emission levels at the ground are below the safety limits set by the FCC in 1996.

“I put my faith in organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Institute, as well as the World Health Organization and the FCC,” Forkas said. “I mean, these are all organizations that have evaluated issues associated with our infrastructure, so those are the organizations that I look to. They determine what the risks are with respect to radio energy. So, we don’t obviously believe that there is anything that would be of concern.”

Despite conclusions reached by FCC, CDC and American Cancer Society about radiation levels from cell towers, Beiber said most researchers have called for further studies into the health risks of the towers. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FCC, CDC and American Cancer Society have all stated the effects of radiation from cell towers and cellular devices is still an “area of active research.” All of those organizations are still evaluating and researching long-term effects of the radiation, as well as “chronic exposure.”

In light of continued research the World Health Organization has classified the radio frequency radiation, which cell towers emit, as a Group 2B carcinogenic in a press release from 2011. A Group 2B carcinogenic is a possible cancer-causing agent.

Because of the ongoing research, Theodora Scarato, a parent in Greenbelt, said she is uncomfortable with the towers continuing to be built on school property. Because there is no definitive statement proving there are no risks from the towers, she thinks the school system and Milestone are making school children “part of an experiment.”

“There isn’t any amount of money you could pay me to risk my child’s safety,” Scarato said. “I think parents might want to think about the issue of the long-term effects of the towers. It is a controversial, scientific debate right now and it’s just common sense, in my mind, to say, ‘let’s put something safe up.’”

Scarato said she has multiple reasons for opposing the cell towers, but overall she is concerned about the safety of the children. She said she worries about construction, potential hazmat issues, and the monthly visits from contractors to the site.

“I just don’t think a school should be a hard hat area,” she said.

Despite safety concerns, Forkas said Milestone works hard to make sure they build when students are on breaks or not in school.

“We have to be very thoughtful on the use of the property. I mean, the primary use of the property in the schools is to educate children, so we make sure that we are working at a time and a location that is not going to interfere with that use,” he said. “We are very, very thoughtful to choreograph our construction activities with the school facility staff to make sure that we’re all aligned.”

via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Pgcps student Amber Stanley killer still at large three years later

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17-year-old pgcps student Amber Stanley was fatally shot on August 22, 2012 by an unknown person.

It’s been three years since a masked gunman kicked down the front door of a home on Chartsey Street in Kettering and fatally shot 17-year-old Amber Stanley while she was in bed.

To this day, county homicide detectives are still looking for her killer.

Stanley’s death on Aug. 22, 2012 shocked the entire community. Not only was she a teenager who was murdered in her own home, but that school year, her fatal shooting became the first in a series of six unrelated deaths of Prince George’s County students. The killings sparked fear and concern throughout the community.

When the gunman kicked in the front door of Stanley’s house, Amber’s older sister and a foster child were also in the house. According to a source close to the investigation, “The gunman said nothing and went directly up the steps to the bedroom. It looked like he knew where to go. He then came down the steps after shooting Amber and fled the scene.”

For the next several days, police and cadets searched the neighborhood for any type of evidence, but nothing was found.

Just a few days after Stanley’s death, Police Chief Mark Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department promised, at a press conference at police headquarters, Stanley’s death will be solved and someone would be arrested.

A year passed and no one was arrested.

Then, last year Capt. Jimmy Simms, head of the department’s homicide unit, said “We believe that we are in the best position that we’ve been in the last two years of this investigation. We’re hopeful that as this investigation plays out, we will see a successful conclusion.”

However, three years later no arrests have been made. And now homicide detectives are refusing to answer any questions. They have said in a statement that “it is an ongoing investigation and will continue to follow leads.”

That explanation is not good enough for Amber’s sister, who declined to have her name released in fear of any retaliation.

“It seems like the police are not doing anything about my sister’s death,” Amber’s sister said. “We call them and they have nothing to tell us. We need to move on, but it’s hard.”

Irma Gaither, Amber’s mother, has had to deal with the lack of closure and her frustration continues to grow with each passing day.

“I am frustrated with the police” Gaither said. “We asked them to attend what would have been my daughter’s graduation and pass out flyers, but they refused. They never keep me informed of what is happening. I just wish someone will tell me something. I lost my daughter.”

Charles H. Flowers Principal Gorman Brown recalled his time with Stanley.

“Amber was an honor student here at Charles H. Flowers High School and aspired to attend Harvard University to become a doctor,” Brown said. “Losing Amber is losing one of our future leaders.”

It is said that time heals all wounds. Unfortunately for Gaither, her wound is constantly being reopened.

“At least two or three times a week someone always asks me if I have heard anything. Do I know anything,” Gaither said. “I would like for someone or whoever knows anything to just come forward and help us get the case solved.”

Anyone with information about Stanley’s murder is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 301-772-4925. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crimes Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.pgcrimesolvers.com to submit a tip online.

via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Governor Kasich’s education agenda, unmasked

Governor John Kasich let the cat out of the bag, unintentionally, of course. Or, as Marilou put it, he let his mask slip.John-Kasich2Ohio Governor John Kasich

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

It was probably an accident. Ohio Gov. John Kasich let his public education mask slip. He ranted when he should have relaxed.

What Mr. Kasich blurted out to a roomful of incoming legislators, assembled in Columbus for an orientation session last November, was enormously revealing. It was prophetic about a secret effort, already begun, to erode local control of Youngstown Schools and any Ohio district like it.

Representative-elect Michele Lepore-Hagan, a newly elected Youngstown Democrat, wanted to talk to the governor about the troubled school district she represented. “And he threw a tablet into the air and said those Youngstown City Schools are in such a mess I want to shut them down and put one great big charter school in there.”

Later a committee, quietly spearheaded by the Kasich administration, would sign off on a plan to change the Youngstown district and others like it in the state. The plan, crafted behind closed doors by the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet, could put traditional public schools out of business .

The cabinet included business executives, representatives of the governor’s staff, Ohio Department of Education officials including state Superintendent Richard Ross, higher education leaders, a retired municipal judge, and Youngstown Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn.

Mr. Hathorn resigned effective June 30. That was enough for the so-called Youngstown plan to become an amendment to another piece of state legislation introduced, approved by committees, and voted out of both the House and Senate in a single day.

Mr. Kasich quickly signed the measure into law. His agenda was clear in November. He told Ms. Lepore-Hagan that a committee had been assembled to discuss the Youngstown problem but she couldn’t participate “because you’ll make it too political. You’ll muddy it all up.”

Instead, Mr. Kasich suggested she talk with state Rep. Sean O’Brien (D., Bazetta), the only lawmaker he would work with on Youngstown Schools. Ms. Lepore-Hagan informed the governor that Mr. O’Brien represents Warren Schools and that she was the elected official in the Youngstown district.

“The people who voted for me send their children to this school and I represent them, these kids,” she said. “It’s my neighborhood, my district.”

The incoming freshman, married to former longtime state Rep. Bob Hagan, said an angry Mr. Kasich abruptly ended the meeting. The lawmaker persisted. “Governor, my parents were both teachers in the Youngstown City Schools, and this is very important to me.”

He replied, “talk to Sean,” and left, she recounted. Ms. Lepore-Hagan asked Mr. O’Brien about the Youngstown group, but says he indicated he didn’t know anything about it.

Mr. O’Brien attended a May 21, 2015, session of the business cabinet, according to minutes of the meeting reported in the Youngstown Vindicator.

Those minutes also noted that state Superintendent Ross began the conversation by “reminding everyone that confidentiality amongst the cabinet is essential until the plan begins to take place.”

At the same meeting, the panel discussed how to address the “potential concerns of the public” and how to “avoid bad PR.”

Ms. Lepore-Hagan said she and other House colleagues had two hours to look at the amendment to the bipartisan education bill before it sailed through the General Assembly. “Every Democrat that was a co-sponsor lined up in the chamber and took their names off of the bill,” she said.

The Youngstown representative believes she was deliberately shut out of discussions about the school system in her district. “It was intentional to keep people from asking questions — the community, parents, teachers, elected officials,” she said.

The plan dooms the district to failure with impossible challenges and deadlines, Ms. Lepore-Hagan added. “It’s about dismantling what we know of public schools in Youngstown.”

“It’s forcing these kids into failed for-profit charter schools that are doing worse than the public schools.” But, the resigned rookie concluded, “this has been his [Gov. Kasich’s] plan all along.

“They [administration strategists] were just waiting to find a bill that was similar to drop education language into. While it specifically targeted Youngstown City Schools, it will spread across the state. Lorain is next.”

What happened in Youngstown was an abuse of power in the same way that Senate Bill 5 was a blatant power grab for collective bargaining rights. Mr. Kasich is unmasked.

Now what?

Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at: mjohanek@theblade.com

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/MarilouJohanek/2015/08/22/Governor-Kasich-s-education-agenda-unmasked.html#KM6keOf6wvgAjAMv.99

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Executive Salaries at K12, Inc.

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While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.

Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.

The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.

The former CEO made $4 million.

The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.

The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.

The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.

The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.

Numbers are rounded.

Remember: It is all about the kids.

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PGCPS Teen Arrested, Charged as Adult in Fatal Shooting of Another Teen

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The 17-year-old boy Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) accused of shooting and killing another PGCPS teen has been arrested.

Chet Markland Jarret Jr. of Lothian, Maryland, has been charged as an adult in the murder of 17-year-old Jajuan McRae.

Investigators believe Jarret and McRae got into a fight in the 4300 block of Rockport Lane in Glenn Dale on Aug 21, 2015. When officers arrived to the area just before 10 p.m., they found McRae suffering from gunshot wounds. He died a short time later at an area hospital.

Police say Jarrett was arrested Wednesday. He has been charged with first- and second-degree murder.

As reported previously in this blog, fights among PGCPS youth are out of control and something needs to be done to change the tide. On or around August 15th, 2015, another PGCPS student Joseph Titus Ayobami Abariko was shot dead at Largo in similar circumstances.

It’s time for CEO Kevin Maxwell and the Board of Education for Prince George’s County to walk the walk and show leadership on these issues. One life lost to senseless violence is one too many-especially if it could have been prevented.

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Big for-profit schools, big donations:

the influence of charter schools on Pennsylvania politics-3e2201d94b36c380

It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated – particularly those run by for-profit management companies – so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren’t the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.

But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

“They are mobilized,” O’Neill said. “Let me tell you something: they are mobilized.”

Big schools, big donations

In Pennsylvania, a charter school has to be set up as a non-profit. However, a charter-school company can get around that by setting up a foundation to file the application and then contracting with the foundation to run the school.

While not all charter schools in Pennsylvania are run by for-profit management organizations, many are.

Jessie Ramey, a historian of social policy based in Pittsburgh, said there’s little doubt that charter schools have become big business in Pennsylvania as they have in many states.

For both investors and charter-school managers, as the industry has become more valuable so too has protecting their interests.

“These are big players who have a lot of money,” she said. “And they are playing big Harrisburg politics.”

Among one of the lobby’s biggest donors is Vahan Gureghian, the CEO of CSMI, which manages the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County. According to Follow The Money, Gureghian pumped $336,000 into the campaign coffers of former Gov. Tom Corbett – making him his second largest individual donor over his gubernatorial career.

Gureghian has also donated close to a million to other Pennsylvania politicians and PACs.

Meanwhile, the American Federation for Children, a national organization that supports the growth of charter schools and “school voucher” legislation, has pumped in $3.7 million to Pennsylavania lawmakers. A trio of investors in Montgomery County – Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchik – have donated about $4 million under a PAC dedicated to similar aims.

Collectively those donations have been spread across scores of Pennsylvania politicians. Generally, that money has flowed to a greater number of Republican candidates but Democrats also have been big recipients.

The biggest recipient of all, by far, is State Sen. Anthony Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat with ties to the charter-school sector. Williams has collected $6 million in donations, the bulk of which came during his 2010 bid for governor. Williams finished third in the Democratic primary, with only 18 percent of the vote, but remains a leading member on the Senate’s education committee.

Bills and appointments

Lawrence Feinberg, founder and co-chair of Keystone State Education Coalition, an advocacy group for traditional public education, said it was easy to see a pattern between donations to lawmakers from the lobby and subsequent votes or actions by lawmakers.

After he was elected governor in 2010, Corbett appointed Vahan Gureghian to two posts on his gubernatorial transition team – a group that plays a critical role in shaping the agenda of an incoming administration. Gureghian was appointed to Corbett’s education committee and as co-chair of his transportation committee.

In his first year of office, Corbett made the passage of a school “voucher system” for Pennsylvania a key priority. Under a voucher system, a parent is issued a certificate, a so-called voucher, which parents of a student can direct toward the school of their choosing – be it inside or outside their district. The legislation is considered part of the “school choice” movement, which shares similar goals and ideological ground as charter school advocates.

Corbett was ultimately unsuccessful in passing that voucher bill, but in 2012 he and other school reformers were able to pass something similar: An expansion of a tax program, called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, that increased money for scholarships for students to attend schools outside their district.

“So the EITC was probably the major thing, the major thing they’ve impacted,” Feinberg said, referring to school reform advocacy groups.

But Feinberg said signs of the lobby’s influence were often subtler.

For instance, he said, language in 2012 was added to a bill that would have shielded charter school operators from disclosing financial information under the state’s public disclosure laws. Philadelphia Magazine reported that the amendment was pushed by Gureghian. The bill ultimately never got off the ground.

One of the more notable examples of the lobby’s potential influence, Feinberg said, occurred around 2012. The Department of Education was investigating four charter schools and 10 school districts for testing irregularities in 2009, 2010, and 2011, including Gureghian’s schools in Chester County. The state found a statistically improbable number of answers had been erased and changed to correct answers.

The state ultimately let Gureghian’s company investigate itself in 2012 and, after its internal investigation proved inconclusive, the state dropped its own investigation. That wasn’t the case for other schools.

“That’s how powerful they are,” Feinberg said. “That’s an example of how powerful.”

A spokesman for CSMI did not respond to PennLive requests to interview Gureghian.

The power of inaction

Critics of the lobbying influence of charter school groups say one of the biggest goals of the lobby, more often than not, is inaction on bills that might affect them rather than action.

O’Neill, the Bucks County Republican, said he was besieged by the lobby after he co-chaired a commission that investigated flaws with how special-education students were funded. As a former special-education teacher, the issue was close to his heart.

O’Neill’s commission found that, statewide, charter schools were enrolling students with minor special-education needs, such as a hearing impairment, but not students with more expensive needs, such as an intellectual disability. That was leading to huge funding inequities in the system between charter schools and traditional public schools.

A 2014 analysis by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a media outlet that covers education, found that Pennsylvania charter schools received $350 million for special education students but spent just $156 million to meet their needs.

O’Neill’s commission recommended a new funding formula that scaled funding for special education students based on the need of the student – but charter schools vehemently objected to it.

“They’re saying, ‘If we lose this money our doors are going to close.’ ” O’Neill said. “Well then, there’s something wrong with your business model if you’re relying on keeping your doors open on the backs of special-education students.”

Before the commission was formed, O’Neill said the lobby had already tried to unseat him because of his advocacy for special education funding reform. In 2012, charter school groups poured $83,000 into the coffers of Brian Munroe, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged him.

Over 2013 and 2014, as O’Neill’s commission’s investigation progressed and its recommendations were released, O’Neill said the lobby intensified its campaign against him.

“What they do is they bring the kids out of school and mobilize them in Harrisburg,” O’Neill said. “The parents and the students believe what they’re told, whether it’s the truth or not, and they bring them by the busloads to Harrisburg and have them do rallies, you know, and have them go visit their legislator, ‘You’re trying to close my school if you do this.’

One parent told O’Neill that her child, who attended a charter school at the time, was encouraged to make posters against O’Neill.

Ultimately, the special-education funding bill was passed in 2014. But O’Neill was still frustrated by a change to it, pushed by the charter school lobby, that meant the formula would be phased in slowly for charter schools.

“So in my opinion,” O’Neill said, “they’re still ripping off the public.”

Charter schools say unions are big donors too

Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, argued that while charter operators have donated to campaigns, the teacher’s union also has donated millions in recent years.

“I think it’s unfair to look at just the donations on behalf of charter schools as opposed to all the donations that go to political candidates and legislators from all elements of the public school spectrum,” he said.

Fayfich added that while his group, which represents 120 of the state’s 176 charter schools, does hire lobbyists it doesn’t make campaign donations itself. Although he is aware that charter operators and advocacy PACs do donate to lawmakers

Fayfich said, on that note, that it was worth remembering that charter school advocates are not a homogenous group.

For instance, Fayfich said, his group didn’t represent Gureghian’s company and sometimes opposed items that he lobbied for – such as his push to shield charter schools from disclosing financial information to the public.

“We think that transparency is an absolutely fundamental responsibility you have as an organization receiving public tax dollars,” he said. “So we were at odds with him on that piece of legislation.”

Ultimately, some observers say, be it concern about the spending of charter school groups or teachers unions, their influence won’t be diminished until Pennsylvania tackles the root of the problem.

The fact of the matter, said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, is that the state has some of the loosest campaign finance laws in the nation.

“We are just so far behind the rest of the nation in protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our government from the influence of political money,” Kauffman said. “No wonder people are cynical.”

Via Pennlive

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