Content in this edition:
Office of the Governor
US Department of Education
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at https://www.eplc.org/category/education-notebook/.
2010-2011 EDUCATION FUNDING
On January 28, Pennsylvania’s Budget Secretary Charles Zogby sent a letter to the Republican and Democratic House and Senate Appropriations Chairs announcing important changes to state funding to school districts for the current 2010-2011 budget year. The letter acknowledges the priority of the Administration to produce a balanced 2011-12 budget and to avoid a deficit for the current year. Secretary Zogby wrote that due to a projected shortfall, Governor Corbett has directed him (Secretary Zogby) to place $364.3 million of current year (10-11) appropriations into budgetary reserve. The three budget line items being reduced are Community and Economic Development ($25,771,000); Basic Education Subsidy ($337,816,000); and Environmental Protection ($669,000).
The reduction in the state Basic Education Funding appropriation will be offset by federal Education Jobs Fund monies that the Administration asks the General Assembly to appropriate before the end of the fiscal year. With this action, no school district would receive less funding than was originally included in the enacted budget signed by Governor Rendell on July 6, 2010, including the restoration of $50 million in Basic Subsidy funding that was placed into budgetary reserve in August 2010. It will make the current year’s funding for school districts dependent on approximately $1 billion of federal funds that are unlikely to be available in future years. Read the letter in its entirety.
On January 26, Senate Bill 1 was introduced by Senator Jeff Piccola (R-15). SB 1 amends the Public School Code to add the Opportunity Scholarship and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act.
The opportunity scholarship program will be established to provide scholarships (vouchers) to help low-income children pay tuition to attend a nonresident public school or a participating nonpublic school, and will be phased in over three academic years. The amount of the opportunity scholarship shall equal 100% of the Commonwealth’s share of the student’s resident school district’s total revenue per average daily membership of the prior school year.
The opportunity scholarship program will be phased in as follows:
- During the 2011-2012 school year, the opportunity scholarship will be available to low-income children who attend a persistently lowest achieving school during the 2011-2012 school year or low-income children who reside within the attendance boundary of a persistently lowest achieving school during the 2011-2012 school year.
- During the 2012-2013 school year, the opportunity scholarship will be available to low-income children who qualified for the program during the 2011-2012 school year and also to low-income children who attended a nonpublic school during the 2010-2011 school year and who will reside within the attendance boundary of a persistently lowest achieving school during the 2012-2013 school year.
- During the 2013-2014 school year and each school year after, the opportunity scholarship program will be available to all low-income children residing in Pennsylvania.
An Education Opportunity Board will be created and will establish guidelines that meet the standards outlined in the legislation. The guidelines shall not be subject to review, regulation or approval by the State Board of Education. Beginning in the second consecutive school year of enrollment in a nonresident public school or a participating nonpublic school by an opportunity scholarship recipient who was enrolled in the recipient’s resident school district when the recipient first received an opportunity scholarship, the amount of Commonwealth basic education funding paid by the state to the resident school district shall be reduced by an amount equal to the Commonwealth’s share of the school district’s total revenue per average daily membership. Following the 2014-2015 school year, the Education Opportunity Board will conduct a study of the effectiveness of the opportunity scholarship program and will deliver a written report of its findings, including any recommendations for changes, to the Governor and the chairmen of the House and Senate Education Committees.
On January 26, Rep. Jim Christiana (R-15) introduced House Bill 240. HB 240 would allow any pupil to attend public school in a non-resident school district. In order to be eligible for the open enrollment, a child must be enrolled in and attending a public school in Pennsylvania. If a parent or guardian is not satisfied with the non-resident school district, they may return the pupil to the resident school district. The board of school directors may not deny a transfer application if the mandatory class size has not been reached. Specifications to deal with students with Individualized Education Plans are provided in HB 240 as well as funding and the disbursement of funds. The responsibility for transportation to and from the school district shall be borne by the parents. The bill provides for credits toward graduation and rules for athletic participation.
By executive order, all agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor are required to submit for publication an agenda of regulations under development or consideration. The following regulatory agenda for the Department of Education was published on January 29 in the PA Bulletin (41 Pa. B. 679):
- Standards for Approved Private Schools (22 Pa. Code, Chapter 171, Subchapter C) Fall 2011, as final.
- Regulations of the State Board of Private Academic Schools (22 Pa. Code, Chapters 51, 53, 55, 57, 61 and 63) Fall 2011, as proposed.
- Higher Education – College and University Security (22 Pa. Code Chapter 33) July 2011, as proposed.
US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
- After President Obama’s State of the Union Address on January 25, the US Department of Education noted that President Obama dedicated a significant portion of his speech to education. The Department released excerpts from the speech dealing strictly with education. Read the education passages here. Read the President’s entire speech here.
- US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan teamed up with John Hill, director of the National Rural Education Association, for a call to journalists from rural communities and education writers who cover rural schools on Wednesday, January 26. The Secretary and Hill discussed the importance of fixing the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind that do not work for rural schools and answered questions from the media about the challenges and opportunities that rural schools have. Read the call transcript here.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia with NAACP State Conference and its Lebanon County Authorized Committee has released a detailed review of truancy fines sought by the Lebanon School District over the past six years. The report examines the school district and local courts implementation of state policies pertaining to truancy. According to the Center, the Lebanon School District “took parents and students to court more than 8,000 times and was awarded $1.5 million in fines. Fines and court costs in one school year alone (2008-2009) totaled $498,000 and were ten times higher than for other comparable districts in the state on a per student basis. The system has enforced those fines with jail terms, including one for 85 days.” Read the full report here.
EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for school board candidates and other voters interested in education issues. The all-day workshops will be held on Saturdays during February and March (Montgomery County – 2/26; Lehigh Valley 3/5; Monroeville 3/12; and Harrisburg 3/19). Look for agenda and registration details at www.eplc.org.
- On January 27, the Schott Foundation for Public Education released its response to the State of the Union Address. Read the response here.
- The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is holding the next segment in its Hot Topics in Special Education Law. The seminar Children with Emotional Needs and Behavioral Problems: Counseling, Juvenile Justice & the IEP System will be held on February 8, 2011 from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Register for the session here.
- The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is holding a 2011 Minority Leadership Training Conference March 4 – 6, 2011 at the Marriott Lancaster at Penn Square in Lancaster. The registration deadline is February 7.
For information on upcoming events, please visit www.eplc.org and click on “Events Calendar”.