EPLC Education Notebook – Monday, April 25, 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 12, the House unanimously approved House Bill 915 (Rep. William Adoph, R-165), which amends the General Appropriation Act of 2010 by adding an appropriation of federal funds for the Education Jobs Fund in the amount of $387,816,000.  It also increases the federal College Access Challenge Grant Program appropriation to $4,431,000.  This program is jointly administered by the Department of Education and PHEAA.
  • On April 13, the House Education Committee reported House Bill 1306 (Rep. Will Tallman, R-193), which removes language from the Public School Code that acknowledges the General Assembly’s long-standing commitment to provide adequate funding for public education.  HB 1306 eliminates the state’s goal to review and meet State funding targets by Fiscal Year 2013-2014 and the language that requires school districts to use only for approved targeted efforts any increase in state funding that exceeds the specified inflation index.

    Rep. James Roebuck (D-188), Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee, offered an amendment that would restore the “commitment” language to the Public School Code.  He expressed concern with what he felt was a major setback in our state’s commitment to providing adequate funding for public schools and ensuring education accountability.  He went on to explain that the current formula is tied to the goal of providing funding so that all children can achieve academic standards.  The Roebuck amendment failed by a vote of 9-14. 

    In addition, the House Education Committee reported House Bill 1307 (Rep. Duane Milne, R-167), which requires intermediate units (IUs) to submit to the Department of Education (PDE) a report on subsidies and funds received from the state for approved services.  Under HB 1307, IUs must provide a list of all contracts, interagency agreements and purchase orders, a description of the programs and services, selection process, number of employees including contractors and agents covered under the agreement and their compensation.  Reports would be made available on PDE’s website.   

    HB 1306 and HB 1307 await further action by the full House.

  • On April 14, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting on state required student testing.  Teachers from the Pennridge and Upper Adams school districts presented testimony on the impact that state assessments have on instruction, student learning and curriculum.  Rich Maraschiello, Keystone Exam Project Manager from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), provided lawmakers with an overview of the four primary types of assessments in the Standards Aligned System.Marashiello stressed the importance of assessments in the educational process when aligned with effective curriculum and quality instruction.  Also testifying from PDE was John Weiss, Director of the Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, who discussed federal guidelines for assessments and requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).   To read the testimony from the House Education Committee hearing, click here.  

The following bills have been introduced and referred to the House Education Committee:

  • House Bill 1343 (Rep. Matthew Baker, R-68) would establish The Commonwealth Higher Education Modernization Act of 2011 to provide guidelines to allow State-owned universities and PASSHE employees to enter into agreements for economic development transactions. In addition, HB 1343 would authorize instruction at the doctoral level in areas of study leading to professional doctorates, also known as applied doctorates, at all state-owned universities. 
  • House Bill 1345 (Rep. John Taylor, R-177) would amend the Public School Code to provide duties for the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Commission on Crime and eliminate duties for the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education relating to the Safe School Advocate in the Philadelphia School District.
  • House Resolution 215 (Rep. Lawrence Curry D-154) recognizing the week of April 10 through 16, 2011, as “National Library Week” and April 12, 2011, as “National Library Workers Day” in Pennsylvania.

Senate

  • On April 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported as amended Senate Bill 1, which establishes the Opportunity Scholarships and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act to make tuition vouchers available to low income students in persistently low achieving schools to attend participating nonresident public schools or nonpublic schools.  Under the proposal, a low income student is defined as a student with household income not greater than 130% of the federal poverty level, the same amount as eligibility for the Federal Free Lunch Program ($28,665 for a family of four).  The bill also expands the Educational Improvement Tax Credit(EITC) from $75 million to $100 million beginning in Fiscal Year 2011-2012.

    Senate Bill 1l was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee to expand voucher eligibility in the fourth year of the program to middle-income families.  SB 1, as amended, would make tuition vouchers available to students with family income up to 300 percent of the poverty level ($67,050 for a family of four.   The amendment places a cap of $250 million in the third year when eligibility expands to include all low-income students.  The amendment also changes the attendance criteria from residing “during” a school year to “as of the first day of classes.”  The amendment would require schools to administer a nationally normed standardized achievement test in math and reading to voucher recipients and require the aggregate results to be posted online.  SB 1, as amended, requires the Education Opportunity Board to set procedures to determine the eligibility of homeless students for opportunity scholarships.  It also establishes a Public School Choice Demonstration Grant Program in Fiscal Year 2014-2015.  Grants of up to $500,000 would be awarded to school districts to provide tuition for students to attend a nonresident public school regardless of income.  The school district would be required to provide a $3-$1 match.  Twenty-five percent of the money from the Excess Scholarship Fund would be used to support these grants.  The bill was also amended to require participating public schools to accept transfer students by a lottery system.  Private schools would not be subject to the lottery provision and would be allowed to set enrollment criteria.

    The Senate may vote on SB 1 as early as April 26, although action may be delayed while waiting for suggested amendments from the Corbett Administration.

    To view the Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Note for SB 1, click here.

  • On April 12, Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-6) introducedSenate Bill 962, which amends the Public School Code to provide for funding for charter schools by adding that every student attending a charter school would be counted in the average daily membership of his school district of residence.  In addition to all other payments due a school district, the state would pay each school district making payments to a charter school an amount equal to one-third of the difference between the amount paid by the district to the charter school and the state per-pupil funding to the district.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
  • On April 12, Senate Resolution 86, (Senator Wayne Fontana, D-42), which recognizes the week of April 10 through 16, 2011, as “Library Week 2011” in Pennsylvania was adopted.

PA BULLETIN

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has announced the availability of $14 million in grant funds to be awarded under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 as well as $12 million in grant funds to be awarded under the Pennsylvania Adult and Family Literacy Education Act for adult basic education and family programs.   An additional $1.5 million is available for integrated English literacy and civic education programs.  For more information, click here.

EPLC NEWS

EPLC will host a Capital Region Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum (“In Time of Budget Cuts:  Why and How to Keep the Arts Alive in Schools”) in Harrisburg on Wednesday, April 27.  Look for agenda and registration details at www.eplc.org.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • On April 12, nearly 700 early childhood advocates from across the state attended the Early Childhood Action Day 2011 at the state capitol.  Supporters met with state lawmakers to stress the importance of continued investments in early learning programs.  To learn more, click here.
  • On April 12, the US Senate Committee on Appropriations released highlights of the proposed legislation filed in the US House of Representatives to fund the federal government through September 30, 2011.  The proposal would cut spending by $78.5 billion from the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request and is $37.6 billion below FY 2010 enacted levels.  Key education programs, including Title I grants to school districts ($14.5 billion) and special education grants to states ($12.3 billion), are approximately level-funded.  The maximum Pell Grant award will stay at $5,550.  There is also new funding for innovative programs, with approximately $700 million for a new round of Race to the Top (with a priority on early childhood education), $150 million for another round of Investing in Innovation (i3) grants, and a $20 million increase for the Promise Neighborhoods program.  For more information, click here.
  • The Education Law Center will be holding a series of live, online discussions on school vouchers. The discussions will focus on the impact of school vouchers on schools (rural, urban and suburban), taxpayers and students with disabilities.  The chats will continue weekly through May, featuring educators, the NAACP and the Education Law Center.  The online discussion can be viewed at http://paschooltalk.org.  

DATEBOOK

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate will reconvene at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, April 26, 2011.
  • The House Education Committee will hold a meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30 AM.to consider the following bills:  HB 285, HB 1330 and HB 1345
  • The Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues (CLEAR) will hold a “Rally for a Responsible Budget” in Harrisburg on May 3 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM.  For more information, click here.

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

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