EPLC Education Notebook
Monday, June 12, 2006
Update on Special Session on Property Tax Relief
After returning to session last week following the Primary Election recess, the State House and Senate took no immediate action on the still unresolved "special session" property tax relief issue. Republican leaders in the House and Senate seem to remain at odds with each other over what course of action to pursue. The Republican majority in the House itself seems to remain very divided on the issue.
The latest development...Republican State Senators Jeff
Piccola and Joe Conti plan to hold a news conference today at noon in the Capitol to unveil their plan to break the impasse on the issue of local property tax reform.
Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity
- The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee
wants to instill healthy eating habits in young children, with the
hope that introducing healthy habits at an early age positively
will influence kids' future food choices. Wednesday, the Committee
approved legislation (
Senate Bill 1209) establishing a program to make grants available
for kindergarten classrooms in Pennsylvania's public and private
schools to offer nutritional and agriculture education programs.
The Healthy Farms and Healthy Schools Act also
is designed to benefit Pennsylvania's farmers by exposing students
and their families to locally grown nutritional foods. SB 1209
awaits further consideration by the full Senate.
- On Tuesday, the House Children & Youth Committee
and the Senate Aging & Youth Committee held a
joint informational meeting on the prevention of child
abuse and neglect. For more information, contact the
office of House Committee Chair Jerry Birmelin at (717) 783-2037
or Senate Committee Chair Jane Orie at (717) 787-6538.
- The Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program
(EITC) would expand by $20 million if
House Bill 2585 - approved by the House Finance
Committee on Wednesday - becomes law. The bill expands the amount of allowable credits from $44 million to $64 million per year, with $42.666 million earmarked for business contributions to scholarship organizations and $21.333 earmarked for business contributions to educational improvement organizations. This program was established during the Ridge-Schweiker Administration. The scholarship organizations are primarily intended to provide assistance to students attending non-public schools. HB 2585 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.
- The House Appropriations Committee moved forward
House Bill 2055) that places limitations on
superintendents' contracts. HB 2055 restricts contracts awarded to superintendents who have no prior experience to a maximum of three years. Individuals with experience as a superintendent or assistant superintendent would continue to be subject to current state law which allows them to be awarded three- to five-year contracts. Further, the bill delineates clauses written contracts for all superintendents and assistant superintendents must incorporate, including outlining the terms and conditions of employment; specifying duties, responsibilities, job description and performance expectations; specifying all compensation and benefits to be paid; and defining outside work that may be performed. HB 2055 awaits further consideration by the full House.
- The House Appropriations Committee also moved
forward legislation (
Senate Bill 143) that requires school districts to
adopt parent involvement policies, programs, and committees and requires PDE to develop a clearinghouse of parent involvement information to assist districts in establishing such policies and programs. SB 143 awaits further consideration by the full House.
Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity
- The anticipated state surplus for the current fiscal year has
grown since the Governor delivered his budget message in February.
Governor Ed Rendell is asking the legislature to
consider using surplus revenue from the end of FY 2005-06
to supplement education programs proposed for next year.
Specifically, the Governor requests that funding be earmarked to:
- Help school districts cover higher than anticipated fuel costs ($11 million)
- Make contributions to college tuition savings plans (TAP 529 plans) tax free ($18 million)
- Increase funding for early intervention programs that serve preschoolers with special education needs ($6.2 million)
- Provide additional funding for school district charter school reimbursement ($7.2 million)
- The Office of Governor Ed Rendell hosted a
meeting Wednesday highlighting a recent synthesis of
research on the short-term and long-term impacts of early childhood
intervention programs, effective program features, and the economic
return on early childhood investments. The study conducted by RAND reviewed programs that serve children and their families from the prenatal period through kindergarten entry age by providing home visiting, parent education and early childhood education services either alone or in combination. Research indicates such programs positively impact children's cognitive skills, behavioral and emotional competencies, educational achievement, child maltreatment, health, criminal behavior, social welfare program use, and labor marker success. RAND senior economist Dr. Lynn Karoly said while some immediate cognitive benefits may fade, research demonstrates that other benefits can last into adulthood.
While additional study is needed to identify the most effective
intervention features, Karoly said current research identifies three
elements associated with more effective programs: (1) better-trained
caregivers, (2) smaller child-to-staff ratios (for center-based programs)
and (3) more intensive programs (though there in not enough evidence to
indicate the ideal number of program hours). RAND's evaluation found
that high-quality early childhood programs do provide a return on
investment (between $1 to $17 dollars for every dollar invested),
with most returns accruing later in life (not all programs evaluated
included children old enough to analyze the cost-benefits past
childhood). Additionally, Karoly said cost-benefit estimates "are
likely to be conservative" because of intangible benefits that cannot
be translated into dollars. For more information, read "Early
Childhood Interventions: Proven Results, Future Promise" at
Additional research conducted by RAND discusses the pros and cons of
implementing either universal or targeted preschool programs.
More detailed information about this research, as well as a summary of
the "Early Childhood Interventions" report discussed above, is available in
an article from the Fall 2005 RAND Review at
- Pennsylvania Bulletin...The June 3, 2006,
edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes publication
of a State Board of Education resolution regarding the highly
qualified teacher requirements of No Child Left Behind and publication
of State Board meeting dates for 2007. Access the Bulletin
All legislation from the Pennsylvania General Assembly,
including bills cited in this Notebook, can be found at
Research and Reports
- Graduates of Pennsylvania's independent colleges and universities
face low levels of unemployment and about half (49%) have earned or are
pursuing an additional degree five years after graduation, according to a
recent alumni survey conducted by the Association of Independent
Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. The survey also
found that "alumni who had enrolled as students from low-income families
were almost indistinguishable from higher income classmates in regards to
occupation, annual earnings, community involvement, and continued education."
Learn how many graduates continue to reside in PA and more at
Early Childhood Education
- The Education Commission of the States recently
identified five emerging issues in early childhood education that
policymakers should consider in order to sustain and expand early learning programs:
(1) Sustaining program expansion and appropriately directing funds;
(2) Strengthening the coordination, alignment and governance of programs
and services for young children; (3) Making more purposeful, productive
use of accountability and assessment mechanisms; (4) Ensuring
quality - program and personnel; and (5) Engaging parents. A short
paper discussing each issue as well as policy questions to consider is available online at
Condition of Education
- The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the following report:
"The Condition of Education 2006" at
- Apply Now...The Education Policy and Leadership
Center is now accepting applications for the 2006-07 class of the
Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The
EPFP is a nationally-recognized professional development program that
brings together a cohort of professionals from education, government,
military, human services and the business community. Participants
develop a broadened understanding of the policy process, as well as
enhance their communication and decision-making skills and refine
their potential for leadership. The 2006-07 EPFP, comprised of 10
full-day seminars and two national conferences, begins in September.
For more information, see
- Next Week...The 2005-2006 class of EPLC's Pennsylvania
Education Policy Fellowship Program graduates on Tuesday. The
House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider
House Bills 1252, 2608, 2629, 1537 and 442. The Coalition for
Community Schools holds its National Forum in Baltimore on June 14-16.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see
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To return to The Education Policy and Leadership Center homepage,