EPLC Education Notebook – Monday, March 7, 2011

Content in this edition:
In Memoriam
Pennsylvania
Policymakers
– House
– Senate

US Congress
US Department of Education

Research & Reports
EPLC News
Announcements
Datebook

The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at http://www.eplc.org/category/education-notebook/.

IN MEMORIAM

All of us at EPLC, and everyone who works to support public education and the children of Pennsylvania, lost a dear friend when Tim Allwein passed away on Friday, February 18.  Tim was the Assistant Executive Director for Governmental and Member Relations of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). He joined PSBA in 1991 as director of the Legislative Services and became their chief lobbyist in 2001.  He was a key leader of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign and helped to spearhead the campaign’s efforts to have state policymakers understand the importance of funding a fair and adequate system of public education. 


PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERS

House

On February 22, the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing in Philadelphia on school vouchers.  Testifiers included:  Joe Watkins, Chairman of Students First; Dr. Leroy Nunery, Deputy Superintendent/CEO of the School District of Philadelphia; Shelly Yanoff, Executive Director Public Citizens for Children and Youth; Lawrence Feinberg, Co-Chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition; Mary Rochford, Archdiocese of Philadelphia Superintendent; Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania; Dr. Joan Deuvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chairperson of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and panelists from Reach Alliance and Foundation: Otto Banks, Executive Director; Dick Komer, Senior Attorney of the Institute of Justice and Phillip Murren, Esq. of Ball, Murren & Connell.  For more information, click here.

House Bill 724 sponsored by Rep. Hickernell (R-98) was referred to the House Education Committee on February 16.  HB 724 would eliminate current eligibility requirements for election or appointment as a district, or assistant district superintendent, which includes holding a diploma from a college or other institution, six years of successful teaching experience of which three years must include supervisory or administrative experience, completion of a college or university graduate program approved by PDE that includes school leadership standards. 

On March 2, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 855 sponsored by Rep. Boyd (R-43) which would allow school districts, beginning with the 2010-2011 school year to furlough professional employees as part of a plan to reduce or control overall costs.  Testimony was presented by individuals representing school boards, school business officials, superintendents and teachers.  Noting the unprecedented economic challenges that school districts face, panelists speaking on behalf of school boards, business officials and superintendents testified that furloughs are a drastic measure and last resort, but an economic necessity.  According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), “In the preliminary budget phase of developing 2011-2012 budgets, virtually every school has at least a million dollar deficit, many have shortfalls between $2 million and $10 million and in some extreme cases, more than $10 million.”  A representative from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) emphasized the justification for the long-standing state law prohibiting furloughs for economic reasons, but also acknowledged the financial crisis that school districts are in and proposed that a fair and appropriate trigger be part of any proposal in order to prevent any adverse impact on a district’s academic program.  To read the full testimony, click here.

On March 3, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on school construction issues, intermediate units (IUs) transparency/reporting and mandate relief.  Representatives from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) asked lawmakers to consider proposals that would provide options and flexibility for school districts to reduce their costs, particularly in the areas of construction and contract bid limits as well as eliminating certain PlanCon requirements for projects that do not receive state funding.  Committee members then heard from a second panel representing IUs on the subject of reporting requirements for intermediate units.  Click here to read the testimony.

Senate

On March 1, the Senate Education Committee reported as amended Senate Bill 1, which would establish a tuition voucher program (Opportunity Scholarship Program) for low income students in persistently low achieving schools and expand the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, by a vote of 8-2 (with one member not voting.)  The Committee approved three amendments offered by the prime sponsor of SB 1, Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) that would: prohibit public schools and nonpublic schools from recruiting scholarship recipients for athletic purposes; require participating nonpublic schools to be nonprofit entities that are tax exempt under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and require participating nonpublic schools tomake available for review by the parents of any scholarship recipients seeking enrollment its written policies pertaining to academics, admissions, tuition, religious studies, parent involvement and discipline. The third amendment, technical in nature, clarified eligibility requirements of students to participate in years 1 and 2 of the phase-in, the definition of “persistently lowest achieving school”, reimbursement of transportation expenses, transitional funding, timing of the  EITC application, and division of EITC funds among scholarship organizations and educational improvement organizations.

Senate Bill 1 awaits further consideration by the full Senate. 


US CONGRESS

On February 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 (Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011) by a vote of 235-189 along party lines with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it.  Under this proposal, federal education-related programs would be cut by almost $10.6 billion, or 15.3%, in fiscal year 2011 below the current funding level.  H.R. 1 would effectively eliminate education grants to local school districts, Head Start for children and Pell Grants.  Click here for a list of program cuts and eliminations.  


US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Sandra Dungee Glenn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Cities Foundation has been appointed to serve on the US Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission.  Sandra Dungee Glenn served on the Board of Education for the School District of Philadelphia in 2001, and as a Commissioner on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) from 2002 to 2007.  In September 2007, Gov. Rendell appointed Ms. Dungee Glenn to the position of Chairwoman of the SRC and in 2009 appointed her to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.


RESEARCH & REPORTS

The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign has released a report on Funding Basic Education in Pennsylvania: A Status Report (Winter 2011) as a resource for state policymakers, education advocates  and others to better understand the issues that will shape the 2011-2012 education funding budget debate that will occur over the next several months. The PDF version of the report is available in color and black and white.  

On February 21, Kentucky’s Task Force on Transforming Education released a reportthat includes 35 recommendations to improve education in the state of Kentucky.  The recommendations, calling for new standards, legislation and reorganization of existing boards, would cost more than $240 million a year to implement.  Among the recommendations:  raise the compulsory attendance age to 18, require the Kentucky Department of Education to draft regulations for alternative schools, expand pre-school opportunities, implement full state funding for all-day kindergarten, create family literacy programs and establish an Advanced Credit Advisory Council to recommend policies for advanced secondary coursework and college credit during high school.  For more information, click here.

Share our Strength, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger, has released a survey which found that almost all of the teachers surveyed believe breakfast is important for children’s academic achievement and helps them to concentrate better and learn throughout the day.  Teachers in the survey said that many children rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition and that many students who are qualified to receive free or reduced price breakfasts are not getting them.  For more information, click here.

EPLC NEWS

EPLC continues a series of regional workshops for school board candidates and other voters interested in education issues.  The remaining all-day workshops will be in Monroeville on March 12 and in Mechanicsburg on March 19.  Look for agenda and registration details at www.eplc.org.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

On February 15, Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19) was appointed by the Senate Democratic Leader to serve on the Higher Education Facilities Authority and Public School Building Authority.


DATEBOOK

  • Governor Corbett delivers his 2011-2012 Budget Message on Tuesday, March 8.
  • The House Education Committee will hold a meeting to consider HB 137, HB 273 and HB 855 on March 9 at 10:00 AM.
  • February 15 was the first day to circulate petitions for school board member and other positions to be on the ballot for the May Primary Election.  Petitions are due on Tuesday, March 8.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committeewill hold state budget hearings as follows:
    • PSERS/SERS on Monday, March 21 at 9:30 a.m.
    • State System of Higher Education on Wednesday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m.
    • Department of Education on Tuesday, March 29 at 9:30 a.m.
  • The House Appropriations Committeewill hold state budget hearings as follows:
    • PSERS/SERS on Monday, March 21 at 1:00 p.m.
    • State-Related Universities on Monday, March 28 at 10:30 a.m.
    • State System of Higher Education on Monday, March 28 at 1:30 p.m.
    • PHEAA on Monday, March 28 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Department of Education on Tuesday, March 29 at 1:00 p.m.
    • Community Colleges on Wednesday, March 30 at 10:30 a.m.
    • Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology on Wednesday, March 30 at 11:30 a.m.

For information on upcoming events, please visit www.eplc.org and click on “Events Calendar”.

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