EPLC Education Notebook – Friday, April 8, 2011

Content in this edition:
Pennsylvania Policymakers
– House
– Senate

PA Bulletin
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/.

PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERS

House

On April 6, the House Education Committee unanimously reported the following bills to the full House for further consideration:

  • House Bill 685 (Rep. James Roebuck D-188) would enact recommendations made by the State Board of Education to make the Master Plan for Higher Education more relevant in providing guidance to state policymakers on issues pertaining to postsecondary education.
  • House Bill 686 (Rep. James Roebuck D-188) would repeal the previously enacted higher education articulation language from the Fiscal Code and transfer it to the Public School Code.  On February 8, the Senate Education Committee reported out a similar bill, SB 203 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19), which has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. 
  • House Bill 45 (Rep. Matthew Baker, R-68) would allow institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania to conduct a criminal history background investigation prior to hiring an individual for full-time faculty or staff position.  Under this proposal, institutions of higher education, would be required to develop and implement a written policy regarding its use of such information and hiring practices. 
  • House Bill 139 (Rep. Robert Godshall, R-53) would allow school districts to receive reimbursement for approved building improvements, including the cost of acquiring a suitable site for a school building, the cost of constructing a new school building or providing needed additions or alterations to existing buildings, if a school district elects not to remove any modular classroom utilized after the completion of a building project.  Currently, school districts are not reimbursed for construction costs until the portable or modular classroom is removed from the premises.
  • The Committee voted to re-refer House Bill 137 (Rep. Robert Godshall, R-53) to the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee.  This legislation would establish the date of the beginning the school term for students to begin not any earlier than the day after Labor Day.
  • The Committee voted to refer House Bill 273 (Rep. Dick Hess, R-78), which creates the “Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange Program Act,” to the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

On April 7, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting on the Pennsylvania Value Added- Assessment System (PVAAS).  Dr. Kristen Lewald, PVAAS Statewide Project Director, provided Committee members with a brief history and overview of PVAAS.   Dr. Lewald further explained the importance of looking at achievement data and growth data together.  Achievement data provides insights to whether or not students have reached proficiency of the academic standards.  PVAAS however, tells whether or not students as a group made one year’s worth of progress.  Lewald explained that PVAAS is not another test but a comprehensive analysis of achievement data over time.  To read the testimony, click here.

On April 7, the House Democratic Policy Committee held an informational meeting in Harrisburg about school vouchers.  To learn more, click here.  Ron Cowell, EPLC president, was among those invited to testify.  For a copy of his testimony,

Senate

On April 5, the Senate Education Committee reported out the following bills on school district mandate relief

  • Senate Bill 202 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19) would allow alternative certification pathways for principals and teachers.  The Committee adopted an amendment that clarifies the existing authority of the Secretary of Education to certify out-of-state applicants in accordance with state law and regulation will not be compromised.  The amendment also includes vocational director certificate holders to the provisions of the bill.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2. 
  • Senate Bill 293 (Sen. John Eichelberger, R-30) would amend the State Public School Building Authority Act to increase the threshold cost ($25,000) at which a school construction project financed through the authority must be competitively bid.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2. 
  • Senate Bill 296 (Sen. Michael Brubaker R-36) would amend the Public School Code to raise the thresholds for bidding contracts to $25,000.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2. 
  • Senate Bill 329 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19) would allow for the suspension of non-essential reports from districts to PDE in years in which state education funding declines.  Under SB 329, school districts would still be required to file their annual financial reports, annual budget information, information necessary to determine payment to school districts, information and reports required under Federal law, information required under Act 1 (Taxpayer Relief Act) and information required under Article XIII-A (Safe Schools) of the Public School Code.  The Committee approved an amendment that further defines “basic education funding” to include the subsidy formula, educational assistance program, charter school reimbursements, accountability block grants and payments on account of social security deductions.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2. 
  • Senate Bill 537 (Sen. John Rafferty, R-44) would require a 2/3 vote by school boards to raise property taxes.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.
  • Senate Bill 612 (Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48) would allow school districts to furlough for economic reasons and require proportionate reduction of administrators.  The Committee approved several amendments.  As amended, the SB 612 would require school districts to determine which professional employees to furlough based on analysis of various factors (instead of seniority alone)such as: employee certification, performance, qualifications to teach a particular subject or grade level or other qualifications set forth by the school district.  In addition, the amended bill would require the position of the person suspended to remain vacant for at least one year, unless the employee is reinstated.  The same evaluation criteria would be used to reinstate the employee.  Nothing contained in the amended bill would supersede or preempt any collective bargaining agreement in effect.  Also the bill was revised to include provisions that would allow the Secretary of Education (instead of the State Board of Education, as originally drafted) to waive the requirement that a school district seeking to furlough professional employees also furlough at least an equal number of administrative staff.  Under the amended version of SB 612, the Secretary would be required to submit his determination to the State Board of Education for approval.  Also, SB 612 as amended would prohibit a school district from using costs as the sole factor in determining which employees to suspend.  The bill was reported by a vote of 8-3.
  • Senate Bill 802 (Sen. Jeff Piccola, R-15) would allow school districts to hire either school certified nurses or registered nurses.  The Committee adopted an amendment to require non-certificated school nurses to complete within 12 months of employment an accelerated training program in nursing in a school environment that must include: child development issues and professional ethics and responsibilities specific to the school environment.  The amendment also requires PDE to undertake a study of those school districts that choose to employ school nurses who are not certificated as school nurses and report their findings to the General Assembly.  The bill was reported by a vote of 6-5.
  • Senate Bill 803 (Sen. Jeff Piccola, R-15) would allow districts to advertise from a menu of options, including the internet, for public notice reporting requirements.  The bill was reported by a vote of 7-4.
  • Senate Bill 814 (Sen. Jake Corman, R-34) would reauthorize the Mandate Waivers program that expired on June 30, 2010 and allow bidding for school construction projects both multi-prime and single prime.  The bill was reported by a vote of 8-3.
  • Senate Bill 844 (Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19) would allow districts that are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and showing adequate Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) growth to be waived from continuing education requirements for  school administrators or school leaders.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.
  • Senate Bill 857 (Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13) would repeal language that requires school districts to use increases in basic education funding for new programs and expansion of existing programs.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.
  • Senate Bill 858 (Sen. Michael Waugh, R-28) would allow districts to hire a person as a superintendent or assistant superintendent if he or she holds a graduate degree in business or finance.  The Committee adopted an amendment to require a person hired under this new section to successfully complete a leadership development program that meets the Pennsylvania school leadership standards under Section 1217 of the Public School Code.  The bill was reported by a vote of 8-3.
  • Senate Bill 869 (Sen. Richard Alloway, R-33) would eliminate the requirement that school districts bordering other states provide transportation for students to attend out of state private schools.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.
  • Senate Bill 870 (Sen. John Eichelberger, R-30) would repeal sections of the Public School Code that require 10 paid sick days and paid sabbatical leaves.  The bill was reported by a vote of 8-3.
  • Senate Bill 871 (Sen. Michael Brubaker, R-36) would suspend continuing education and professional development for teachers for 2 years.  An amendment was adopted to clarify that nothing in the bill will be construed to impair an existing collective bargaining agreement. The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.
  • Senate Bill 872 (Sen. Michael Brubaker, R-36) would remove requirements for the establishment of concurrent enrollment (also known as dual enrollment) committees and quarterly meetings.  The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2. 
  • Senate Bill 873 (Sen. Michael Brubaker, R-36) would require the Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education to review and overhaul the PlanCon process for school construction and reimbursement.  The Committee adopted an amendment that would exempt school districts that are not eligible for reimbursement for school construction projects from being required to participate in PlanCon. The bill was reported by a vote of 9-2.

These bills await further consideration by the full Senate.  The Committee did not report Senate Bill 801 (Sen. Michael Waugh, R-28), which would allow districts to contract with a single prime contractor for construction projects.  The bill failed by a vote of 4-7. 

To access audio and video feed of the Senate Education Committee meeting on mandate relief, click here.

PA BULLETIN

On March 16, the Executive Board approved the reorganization of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).  Notice of the PDE reorganization has been published in the most recent edition (Volume 41, No. 14, April 2, 2011) of the PA Bulletin.

EPLC NEWS

EPLC will host the next Western Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Pittsburgh on Thursday, April 21 and a Capital Region Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Harrisburg on Wednesday, April 27.  Look for agenda and registration details at www.eplc.org

EPLC will hold an education issues briefing via conference call on Wednesday, April 20 at 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM for Pennsylvania Education Advocates Network (PEAN) members.  EPLC will provide an update on the 2011-2012 proposed budget, school district mandate relief bills, Senate Bill 1 (voucher legislation), and other key education legislation that has been considered by the Legislature in recent weeks.  To learn more about how to become a PEAN member, click here.                    

ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus (PBLC) has scheduled a series of education hearings entitled, “A Civil Right for Pennsylvania’s Children: High Quality Universal Education.”  The PLBC will host four hearings:  Friday, April 8 (Philadelphia), Monday, April 11 (Harrisburg), Thursday, April 14 (Cheyney) and Friday, April 15 (Pittsburgh).   For more information, contact Rep. Ronald G. Waters, PLBC Chairman, at (717)772-6955 or visit the PLBC website at http://www.pahouse.com/plbc/index.asp.

DATEBOOK

The Pennsylvania House and Senate will reconvene at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 11, 2011.

The Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) will be holding an Early Childhood Action Day in Harrisburg on April 12.  To register, call 888-272-9267.

The House Education Committee will meet on Wednesday, April 13 at 9:00 AM to consider the following bills: HB 1306 and HB 1307

The House Education Committee will hold an informational meeting on state-required student testing on Thursday, April 14 at 10:00 AM.

Achieving in Higher Education with Autism/Developmental Disabilities (AHEADD) will host “Autism through the Lifespan Conference” in Pittsburgh on April 13-14.  For more information, click here.

The Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center (PA PIRC) will hold the Pennsylvania Family Engagement Conference in Harrisburg on April 14.  For more information, click here.

April 18 is the deadline for registering to vote in the Primary Election (Tuesday, May 17).

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

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