EPLC Education Notebook – Monday, February 14, 2011

Content in this edition:
Pennsylvania Policymakers
– Senate
– House

US Department of Education


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



On February 8, the Senate Education Committee held its first meeting of the new legislative session.  The following bills were reported unanimously from the Committee:

    • Senate Bill 157 introduced by Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-42) would establish a taskforce on homeless children’s education within the Department of Education (PDE).  The taskforce would include members representing the PDE, Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, and other agencies/organizations that assist homeless children and families, including public schools and intermediate units.  The taskforce will conduct a study of the homeless child population and their educational needs and report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly within one year after the first meeting of the taskforce.  Subsequent reports to the legislature will be made based on a schedule developed by the taskforce.
    • Senate Bill 159 introduced by Sen. Robert Robbins (R-50) would allow the Governor to execute an interstate compact on educational opportunity for military children with other states in order to address difficulties that children of military families encounter often as a result of frequent moves and deployment of their parents.  The bill also spells out the details of such a compact.
    • Senate Bill 200 introduced by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-16) would create the “Safety in Youth Sports Act,” which would require the PA Departments of Health and Education to develop and post on their internet websites guidelines and other relevant materials to inform and educate student athletes and their parents and coaches about the risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury.  The bill further provides for removal from play of student athletes exhibiting signs or symptoms of head injury, requires training and certification in concussion management for athletic coaches, and imposes penalties for coaches violating the law.
    • Senate Bill 203 introduced by Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19) would transfer the provisions enacted in the Fiscal Code (as part of 2009-2010 and 2010- 2011 state budgets) relating to transfer of credits between institutions of higher education to the Public School Code.  The Fiscal Code provisions expire on June 30, 2011. 
    • Senate Bill 224 introduced by Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) would expand the list of convicted offenses that prohibit a person from being employed in a public or private school, intermediate unit or area vocational technical school and creates a tiered system for other offenses.   SB 224 would require school employees to report any arrest or convictions for a misdemeanor or felony offense that occurred within ten years prior to the effective date of the act or within 72 hours of any new arrest or conviction.  Under this proposal, school districts, at their own cost, may request a criminal background check on employees if they have reasonable belief that an arrest or conviction has occurred and was not reported by the employee.
    • Senate Bill 244 introduced by Sen. Richard Kasunic (D-32) would require school entities (area vocational technical schools, charter schools, cyber charter schools, intermediate units, nonpublic schools or school districts) to have at each school under its jurisdiction, except in extenuating circumstances, at least one person certified in the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during regular school hours when school is in session. The bill includes language that provides civil immunity to school officers or employees who render CPR.
    • Senate Bill 251 introduced by Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) would require school districts that enter into contracts with a provider for purchase of a good or service that is offered by the intermediate unit (IU) to post on its internet website a notice that includes the following information:  a description of the good or service being purchased, the contract price of the good or service, the name and address of the provider of the service or good being purchased, the reason the school district contracted with the provider instead of the IU and the price at which a comparable good or service could be obtained from the IU, if the price can be reasonably determined.
    • Senate Bill 328 introduced by Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19) would provide for the restoration of driving privileges when a child is convicted of violating compulsory attendance laws.  Under the current law, conviction for truancy requires a 90 day suspension of the student’s driver license.  Subsequent convictions mandate a 6-month suspension; however, there is no language that addresses restoration of driving privileges.  SB 328 would allow for restoration when the student has provided the court with a certified record indicating completion of high school, a general educational development diploma (GED) or has reached the age of 21 years.  The bill also requires the student to pay all costs and fees assessed by the court related to the case.
    • Senate Bill 343 introduced by Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15) would allow the PA Department of Education (PDE) to collect from institutions of higher education identifiable student information only if the PDE is specifically required to do so under Federal statute or regulation.  SB 343 would require PDE to describe in detail its legal authority to collect information and would allow students to opt-out thereby preventing their college from releasing data to PDE. In addition, the bill would establish an advisory committee to make recommendations to PDE regarding the collection of such information and other data from universities and colleges.
  • On February 16, the Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss Senate Bill 1 (voucher legislation).  The meeting will begin at 9:15 a.m. and will be held in Hearing Room 1 in the North Office Building of the Capitol.


On February 9, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting for educational organizations to advise the committee of their plans and initiatives for this legislative session.  Short panel presentations were given by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials; Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools; Pennsylvania State Education Association; American Federation of Teachers of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators; and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators

Jay Himes, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), said the biggest legislative priority this session is state mandate reduction including giving officials the ability to “furlough for economic necessity.” 

Pat Halpin-Murphy, Director of Government Relations for the American Federation of Teachers of Pennsylvania (AFT-PA), said school funding for basic and higher education is the biggest issue for the AFT-PA and stated that the organization is also aiming to “sharpen and expand regulations regarding charter schools” and will also monitor the school voucher proposal so that it will not impact the “sustained viability of public education.” 

James Vaughan, Assistant Executive Director for Government Relations for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), stated that the two main issues for PSEA are the state budget (noting especially the expiration of certain federal funds) and Senate Bill 1 (vouchers), which PSEA opposes in its current form.

Jacqueline Cullen, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA), said the main issue for the organization is giving students access to career and technical education and indicated that the way the schools are funded is a concern.  Cullen explained that only five to ten percent of a career and technical school’s budget comes from state and federal funds and the rest is allocated by school districts.



  • The Department has launched a website providing access to key national and state education data, highlighting the progress being made at every level of the education system and encouraging communities to engage in an informed conversation about their schools.  This first version of the U.S. Education Dashboard contains 16 indicators, ranging from student participation in early learning through completion of postsecondary education, as well as indicators on teachers and leaders and equity.  This version also includes a section which supplies data on whether subgroups are academically “performing sufficiently”.  The interface allows users to easily find information they need and view it in several different ways.  Users can download customized reports for further analysis.  The Department is committed to regularly updating the Dashboard’s data and to enhancing the tools on the web site.  The indicators will be updated as new information becomes available, and users are encouraged to send comments (to dashboard@ed.gov) so that usability and functionality can be improved.
  • In prepared remarks at the release of Harvard University’s “Pathways to Prosperity” report, Secretary Duncan said he wanted “to suggest two takeaway messages…First, for too long, career and technical education (CTE) has been the neglected stepchild of education reform.  That neglect has to stop.  Second, the need to re-imagine and remake CTE is urgent.  CTE has an enormous, if often overlooked impact on students, school systems, and our ability to prosper as a nation…The mission of CTE has to change.  It can no longer be about earning a diploma and landing a job after high school.  The main goal of CTE 2.0 should be that students earn a postsecondary degree or an industry-recognized certification and land a job that leads to a successful career.”  For more information, please go here.  The Secretary’s entire speech is available here.


EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for school board candidates and other voters interested in education issues.  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).  Look for agenda and registration details at www.eplc.org.


  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published a special section titled “2011 Education Planning Guide: The Next Step”.  It contains advice aimed at answering some of the most pressing questions that may arise when deciding the “next step” to take in the education process.  Read the article and view other reports on preparing for college.
  • Representative Jake Wheatley (D-19) is hosting an Informational Forum/Roundtable Discussion on the Achievement Gap on Monday, February 14, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in Room 8 East Wing (B) of the Capitol.  Panelists include: Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq, Deputy Secretary Office for Elementary and Secondary Education, PA Department of Education; Dr. Linda Lane, Superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools; Dr. Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent, Philadelphia School District; Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney,Acting Superintendent, Harrisburg School District; Ronald Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center; Dr. Jerome Taylor, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Rodney Hopson, Hillman Distinguished Professor, Department of Foundations and Leadership at Duquesne University; Carey Harris, Executive Director, A+ Schools, Pittsburgh; Janis Risch, Executive Director, and Mary Jo Needham-Lincoln, Western Pennsylvania Regional Organizer, Good Schools Pennsylvania.


  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate will reconvene at 1:00 PM on Monday, February 14, 2011.

  • Tuesday, February 15 is the first day to circulate petitions for school board member and other positions to be on the ballot for the May Primary Election.  Petitions are due on Tuesday, March 8.

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold state budget hearings as follows:

    • State System of Higher Education on Wednesday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m.
    • Department of Education on Tuesday, March 29 at 9:30 a.m.
  • The House Appropriations Committeewill hold state budget hearings as follows:
    • State-Related Universities on Monday, March 28 at 10:30 a.m.
    • State System of Higher Education on Monday, March 28 at 1:30 p.m.
    • PHEAA on Monday, March 28 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Department of Education on Tuesday, March 29 at 1:00 p.m.
    • Community Colleges on Wednesday, March 30 at 10:30 a.m.
    • Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology on Wednesday, March 30 at 11:30 a.m.

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


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