“For sale” signs will be going up on 19 closed Pittsburgh Public Schools buildings, the next step in discovering whether buyers are interested or whether the buildings will be donated, demolished or “mothballed” in case enrollment picks up…. Fourth River also raised the question of whether the board’s headquarters in Oakland should be sold, and board member Regina Holley suggested considering whether some of the space could be leased instead. No decisions have been made nor any formal offers received, but the board is looking for ways to save money as it expects to run out of money in 2016 unless it changes course. The 20 closed buildings combined have a debt of $9.15 million and an annual operating cost of $681,850. If a building is sold to a for-profit entity, the outstanding debt must be paid upon sale….
Source: Associated Press, April 15, 2013
Many of Pennsylvania’s state government websites are offline, and officials aren’t providing details about the cause or its likely duration. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said Monday it was described to her as a network issue. The outage appears to cover many of the agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction but not state courts or the Legislature. The sites are displaying a “server error” message. Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration issued a no-bid contract to outsource web services to Kansas-based NIC Inc., effective Dec. 1. Corbett spokeswoman Kelli Roberts says that transition hasn’t taken place yet.
If Mayor John Callahan does not eliminate private home trash collection before he leaves office, you can expect that his successor will allow private contractors to continue picking up Bethlehem residential trash. At a news conference Wednesday, Democratic mayoral candidate J. William Reynolds said he favors leaving trash collection in the hands of private haulers….As the administration reviews bids for one private hauler to continue to collect city recyclables, it is also reviewing options for single-hauler trash collection. The results of that bidding process is expected to be unveiled in late May, after the primary election is finished….
And, in what union officials said will be a first for a charter school in Pennsylvania, New Media’s union election will be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) instead of Pennsylvania’s state labor board. At the request of the charter school, the national board took jurisdiction of New Media’s election as a result of a recent NLRB decision that said the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy Charter School was not a public school. The NLRB ruled in December that although the Chicago charter was funded mostly by taxpayers, it was founded by a nonprofit organization, was overseen by its own board, and was not part of state or local government….
…Murdoch is part of a growing list of corporate executives who see schools as profit centers. The education reform industry and their privatization efforts that have virtually destroyed the public education systems in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans have been quietly, and not so quietly, targeting the Twin Cities….[A] group of unelected, corporate oriented, “education reform leaders” have announced that they are pushing to develop 20 more charter schools in Minneapolis. Last year, Charter School Partners, a pro-charter school lobbying and advocacy group rolled out their “Charters 2.0” initiative, in which they will use public funds to finance “the creation and growth” of charter schools and fast-track the approval process for new charter schools….
…According to recent lobbying reports, StudentsFirst, Inc., the controversial Sacramento-based education reform group headed by Michele Rhee, spent $99,122 over the past two years on media advertising to “influence legislative action” and other lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, the New York City-based 50CAN, Inc. spent $144,396 to lobby here. The chair of 50-CAN, Minnesota’s own Matthew Kramer, is also the CEO of Teach for America, a group that has also been spending money in Minnesota to impact legislation and campaigns…
…Hiawatha Academies, for example, has a board of executives from major corporate entities such as United Health, Best Buy, Standard Health, and U.S. Bank. Similar evidence can be found with dozens of other charters. In some cases, the charter chain headquarters are not even located in Minnesota….
Pennsylvania’s auditor general will conduct a special audit of the Department of Public Welfare’s contract with a vendor that failed to provide timely paychecks to direct-care workers across the state and throughout the Erie region. The Auditor General’s Taxpayer Hotline and legislative offices have been flooded with complaints from health-care attendants who did not receive their paychecks from Boston-based Public Partnerships Limited. DPW’s Office of Long Term Living consolidated payroll services for the direct-care industry among 37 providers into a single contract with PPL….
Online classes have exploded in popularity, with more than six times as many students enrolled in electronic K-12 courses now as compared to a decade ago, according to the U.S. Department of Education… Advocates say online classes offer a more flexible and personalized form of education, allowing students to progress at their own pace and on their own time. Supporters also tout online education as a way to dramatically expand course offerings, particularly at rural schools. But the rapid growth of online education is raising concerns—especially as more for-profit companies launch online programs. While unscrupulous or incompetent online educators may be rare, there are enough of them that many states are considering ratcheting up their oversight.
…Many of the new programs are operated by for-profit companies, such as K12 Inc. and Connections Education…Fewer than one in five of the full-time K12 Inc. schools rated by their states were deemed satisfactory….
…But in the majority of states, funding is based on the head count during one or two days, or the average daily attendance. That system incentivizes providers to drive up enrollment, Miron says, even if it means they’re taking in students who aren’t ideally suited to online education….Many online advocates place their hopes in “blended” learning, which combines the personalization of online instruction with the face-to-face support of traditional classes. The major players in the online sphere have rolled out their versions of a blended system, and startups such as California’s non-profit Rocketship Education have been expanding rapidly. Connections’ Revenaugh says that Ohio legislators took an important first step last year in keeping up with “blended” learning: They became the first state to define it….
Centre County Commissioner Chris Exarchos characterized discussions with employees of county-owned Centre Crest Nursing Home as “open and frank.” We hope he’s right, because the county is moving toward major changes at the nursing home and employees should want to be part of the process, not learn their fates once all of the important decisions have been made…
County names potential Centre Crest nonprofit transition consultant
Source: Matt Morgan, centredaily.com, February 19, 2013
…The Centre County Board of Commissioners named a possible group to serve as a consultant for the potential Centre Crest change to a nonprofit, but no decisions were made at its meeting Tuesday. County Administrator Tim Boyde presented the idea of approving an agreement with Complete HealthCare Resources, which would provide assistance with the transition to the public nonprofit format….
Centre Crest workers wary of status change as county looks at shift to public nonprofit
Source: Matt Morgan, centredaily.com, February 18, 2013
Centre Crest Administrator Rich Bruno acknowledged that it’s time for a change at the county-owned nursing facility. The Centre County Board of Commissioners has been looking into turning the facility, which is costing the county about $1.5 million per year, into a public nonprofit, a 501(c)(3). The change likely would come with increased Medicaid funding, which is the health care that 70 percent of the residents in the home have….
The city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is gambling that Wyatt Earp’s poker table and other Wild West artifacts will ante up some cash to help the city get back on its financial feet. The fiscally distressed Pennsylvania capital got the green light on Friday to auction off thousands of Wild West artifacts painstakingly corralled by its former mayor for a museum that was never built.
The Pine Grove Area school board has requested proposals from private contractors for its support services as it negotiates with its collective bargaining unit…. The current contract with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expires on June 30 and includes clerical, cleaning, aides, custodial and cafeteria staff. Transportation is the only service at the school contracted through a private company…