EPLC Education Notebook – Monday, May 31, 2011

Content in this edition:
2011-2012 State Budget Watch
Pennsylvania
Policymakers
– Senate
– House
State Board of Education

Reports
Education Policy Fellowship Program

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/.


2011-2012 STATE BUDGET WATCH

On May 25, the House voted 109-92 to approve a state budget (House Bill 1485) that was supported by House Republicans and previously approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  Although it made changes in the specific appropriations proposed by Governor Corbett, it sets spending at $27.3B for the 2011-12 fiscal year — the same amount proposed in Governor Corbett’s March budget plan.  The House-approved budget is the language previously approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  As we reported last week, the revised budget offered by House Republicans restores some of the significant cuts to K-12 and higher education as proposed by the Governor.  On the other hand, it provides for cuts not included in the Governor’s budget, including significant cuts for child care services and for the arts.  The House-approved budget still proposes to cut $900 million in state funding for school districts.

Neither the Governor’s budget proposal nor the House Republican version uses the growing surplus that is anticipated at the end of the current fiscal year.  In contrast, Senate Republican leaders have suggested that they are open to using at least some of the surplus to further reduce cuts to basic and higher education.

The budget bill has been sent to the Senate where it will likely be debated in early June. 

PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERS

Senate

The Senate approved Senate Bill 338, which would provide for the restoration of a pupil’s driver’s license after it has been suspended but prior to the end of the suspension period.  Under SB 338, the person must prove to PennDOT that all fines and costs have been paid and they have graduated high school (or attained an equivalency), or reached the age of 21.  SB 338 has been referred to the House Education Committee and is awaiting further action.

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported the following bills:

  • Senate Bill 1056(Sen. Jake Corman, R-34)would appropriate$44,107,000 for fiscal year 2011-12 to the Public School Employees’ Retirement (PSERS) Board from the Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund.
  • Senate Bill 1055 (Sen. Jake Corman, R-34) would appropriate  $27,320,000 for fiscal year 2011-12 to the State Employees’ Retirement (SERS) Board from the State Employees’ Retirement Fund.

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously reported as committed the following bills:

  • Senate Bill 707 (Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-46) would extend the same protection that members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and other reserve components of the armed forces of the United States have when on military leave of absence from their education.  Under SB 707, members and their spouses on military leave from their education would be entitled to, upon the release of their military duty, restoration of their educational status they had prior to their military leave without loss of scholarships, grants or credits.  
  • Senate Bill 776 (Sen. Michael Stack, D-5) would require educational institutions to allow members of the Pennsylvania National Guard or other reserve components of the armed forces of the United States to pursue their academic degree under new requirements or requirements that were in place prior to the member’s order to active duty when there has been a change in degree requirements.  SB 776 also requires the educational institutions to notify and advise members of their rights under this new section.  

House

Last week, the following bills were approved by the House:

  • House Bill 257 (Rep. Seth Grove, R-196) would exempt school construction projects from the Pennsylvania Department of Education planning and construction approval process if state reimbursement for the project is not requested. The same exemption would apply to lease agreements if Commonwealth reimbursement is not requested.  The bill was approved by a vote of 199-0.
  • House Bill 285 (Rep. M Keller, R-86) would increase the maximum amount of a contract before it must be put out for bids.  Under current law a school district must seek written or telephone price quotes from at least three contractors or suppliers for contracts over $4,000, but not more than $10,000. This legislation increases those limits to $7,000 and $10,000, respectively.  Under current law, a school district must advertise for bidders in a newspaper of general circulation for contracts exceeding $10,000. HB 285 would increase that limit to $25,000. For projects costing $7,000 or less, school districts could use their own maintenance staff.  The bill provides that all these limits in the future would increase based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. The provisions of this legislation would apply to all public school entities, the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and the universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.  HB 285 was approved by a vote of 124-75.
  • House Bill 1345 (Rep. John Taylor, R-177) would remove the Office of Safe Schools Advocate for the Philadelphia school district from the Department of Education to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). The Executive Director of the PCCD is put in charge of the Office’s responsibilities in place of the Secretary of Education, and is added as a recipient of the Office’s reports along with the Secretary of Education.  HB 1345 was approved by a vote of 198-0. 
  • House Bill 1411 (Rep. Brian Ellis, R-11) would impose a two year moratorium on the collection of data by the PA Department of Education and the PA Department of Public Welfare through Pennsylvania’s Enterprise to Link Information for Children Across Network (PELICAN) and the Pennsylvania Information Management System(PIMS).  It makes exceptions to this moratorium for data that is necessary for federal and state programs, or required by federal or state law.  The bill was approved by a vote of 199-0.

    Also last week, the following legislation was referred to the House Education Committee:

  • House Bill 1568 (Rep. Ronald Waters, D-191) would clarify the definition of disruptive student by including the term “persistent” when describing student disregard for school authority and student misconduct that would warrant expulsion from school. 
  • House Bill 1581 (Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-95) would remove the section of the Public School Code that prohibits a teacher in any public school from wearing (while engaged in performance of his/her duties) any dress, mark, emblem or insignia indicating that they are a member or adherent of any religious order, sect or denomination
  • House Bill 1595 (Rep. Curt Schroder, R-155) would create “The Mandate Suspension Act of 2011” which would allow school districts to adopt a resolution at a public meeting to suspend state mandates so long as doing so will enable the school entity to improve its instructional program or operate in a more effective, efficient or economical manner.


STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

On May 26, the State Board of Education adopted the PSSA-M Reading and Science Cut Scores and Performance Level Descriptors.  To view the cut scores and descriptors, click here


REPORTS

Recently, Research for Action released a report on the start-up ofthe Renaissance Schools Initiative. The report,Philadelphia’s Renaissance Schools: Start Up and Early Implementation” examined three central aspects of the school turnaround effort in the first cohort of Renaissance schools: student enrollment and school climate; parent and community involvement through School Advisory Councils (SACs); and staffing and school leadership.  To read the full report, click here.


EDUCATION POLICY FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

Applications are available now for the 2011-2012 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) which is sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).

With more than 300 graduates in its first eleven years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  Act 48 credits are available to individuals holding Pennsylvania teaching or administrative certificates, and State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.

The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 8-9, 2011 and continues through June 2012.  Applications are being accepted now.  For schedule and more information or to download an application, please click on http://www.eplc.org/leadership_fellowship_about.shtml.

Since space is limited to approximately 30 positions, it is advisable to submit an application as soon as possible.  The application may be copied from the EPLC Web Site, but must be submitted by mail with the necessary signatures of applicant and sponsor.  If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Fellowship Program and its requirements, please contact Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or cowell@eplc.org.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children recently unveiled their newly designed website.  Please visit PPC at www.papartnerships.org.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will host a free outdoor learning center workshop for educators on Thursday, June 16 at Mechanicsburg Middle School (Mechanicsburg).  The workshop, co-sponsored by Mechanicsburg School District and the Mechanicsburg Area Parks & Recreation Department, will offer local educators the chance to learn about creating, funding and maintaining outdoor learning areas on school grounds.  Registration will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP by June 1 to Ann Devine in DEP’s Environmental Education Center at 717-772-1644 or adevine@state.pa.us.  
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will offer two summer workshops (Wednesday, June 22 in Northampton County and Wednesday, July 20 in Lancaster County) for educators about alternative energy.  The workshops, hosted by DEP in partnership with Waste Management and Fresco Green Building Supplies will offer presentations and site visits to a landfill and a house built using green technology.  For more information, call the Environmental Education Center at 717-772-1644 or email Ann Devine adevine@state.pa.us.


DATEBOOK

  • The House and Senate will reconvene on Monday, June 6 at 1:00 PM.
  • The House Human Services Committee will hold a meeting to consider HB 1338 on Tuesday, June 7 at 10:00 AM
  • The House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a meeting to consider HB 1548 on Tuesday, June 7 at 9:30 AM.
  • The next meeting of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors will be on June 29-30.  For more information, click here.

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

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