EPLC Education Notebook – Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Content in this edition:
Transition to Corbett Administration
Pennsylvania Policymakers
– Senate
Pennsylvania Bulletin
Research and Reports

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


Today (1/18) is Inauguration Day in Harrisburg.  Governor-Elect Tom Corbett and his team take the reins from the Rendell Administration.  Governor-Elect Corbett announced on January 13 that he will nominate Ronald J. Tomalis, 48, as Secretary of Education.  From 1995 to 2001, Tomalis served as Executive Deputy Secretary of Education under Governor Tom Ridge, where he took on the role of Chief Operating Officer for the department. From 2001 to 2004, Tomalis worked for the United States Department of Education, where he managed the implementation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as the $25 billion Title I/II programs.  He also served as counselor to the United States Secretary of Education and as Acting Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. 



  • Democratic Caucus leaders in the Senate have announced committee chairs for the new legislative session.  The Democratic chair of the Senate Education Committee remains the same as last session — Senator Andrew Dinniman (D-19)Senator Jeffrey Piccola (R-15) was previously announced as the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee.  Senator Piccola also served as chair during the 2009-2010 Session.
  • State Senators Anthony H. Williams (D-8) and Jeffrey E. Piccola (R-15) announced the details of an “opportunity scholarship” plan on January 11, targeting Pennsylvania’s worst schools and poorest families.  The plan would allow the parents of a needy child to take the state subsidy that would have been directed to their home school district and apply it to the public, private or parochial school of their choice.  For the Harrisburg School District, for example, that amount would equal approximately $9,000, based upon information from the state Department of Education website (2008-09 year). The amount would vary from district to district and be significantly less in wealthier school districts that receive less state funding.
  • The Williams-Piccola plan would give scholarships to families meeting certain income limits for either public or private schools. The bill–Senate Bill 1 to reflect its priority status— also includes an increase of $25 million in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, bringing the total tax credits available under EITC to $100 million next year.

    The plan calls for a three-year phase-in.  In the first year, only low-income students currently attending persistently failing schools would be eligible for a grant. In the second year, low-income students residing within the attendance boundary of those schools, but currently attending private schools, would be eligible; and in the third year, all low-income students regardless of school district would be eligible.  Please see the press release for additional features, definitions, and eligibility requirements of Senate Bill 1.

    The introduction of school voucher legislation, likely to be supported in some form by the new Corbett Administration, will trigger a major debate about school choice in Pennsylvania, including vouchers.


The Department of Education is inviting public comment on its proposed grant application under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA-B).   As part of its annual grant process, the Commonwealth must provide assurances that its policies and procedures in effect are consistent with federal requirements to ensure that a free appropriate public education is made available to all children with a disability (3-21 years of age), including children who have been suspended or expelled from school.  Written comments will be received until April 21, 2011.  In addition, opportunities to present verbal testimony will be held at PATTAN locations throughout the state on February 28th (Pittsburgh), March 2nd (Harrisburg) and March 14th (King of Prussia).  For more information, click here.


On January 11, Education Week released the 15th annual edition of Quality CountsThe Quality Counts 2011: Uncertain Forecast report maintains its tradition of tracking key education statistics and grading states on their policy efforts and results.  The special theme for this year’s report is the impact of the economy on education.  Overall, Pennsylvania received a B- grade and is ranked 9th in the nation.  The nation received an overall grade of C.  A state’s overall grade is the average of the scores for six graded categories: chance for success; K-12 achievement; transitions and alignment; school finance analysis; standards, assessments, and accountability; and the teaching profession.  The grading summary can be found in the table below.  Read the press release from January 11 and read the full report for the grading breakdown and additional information.


PA Grade

PA Rank

Average State Score

Chance for success




K-12 achievement




Transitions and alignment




School finance analysis




Standards, assessments, and accountability




The teaching profession





EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for school board candidates and other voters interested in education issues early in 2011.  The all-day workshops will be held on Saturdays during February and March (Montgomery County – 2/26; Lehigh Valley 3/5; Monroeville 3/12; and Harrisburg 3/19).  Agenda and registration details are available at www.eplc.org


The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is holding the next segment in their Hot Topics in Special Education Law.  The seminar Assistive Technology: Leveling the Playing Field for Children with Disabilities will be held on January 25, 2011 from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Register for the session here.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is holding a 2011 Minority Leadership Training Conference March 4 – 6, 2011 at the Marriott Lancaster at Penn Square in Lancaster.  The registration deadline is February 7.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) is having its 56th Annual Conference March 15 – 18, 2011 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.  Discounted online registration is available until January 31.


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


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