EPLC Education Notebook – Friday, September 2, 2011

Content in this edition:
Pennsylvania Policymakers
– Budget Office
– Senate
– House of Representatives

Pennsylvania Department of Education
Pennsylvania Bulletin
US Department of Education
Annual PDK/Gallup Poll

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


Budget Office

On August 11, the Corbett Administration’s Program Policy Guidelines (PPGs), which provide direction for the preparation of agency budget requests for the Governor’s 2012-2013 Executive Budget, were published in the Administrative Circular.  According to the circular, the Governor’s proposed budget for 2012-2013 will be “predicated on the fact that the Pennsylvania economy is still in recovery and has not yet emerged from the ‘Great Recession’.  Therefore, agencies should not assume funding increases for the 2012-13 fiscal year and should continue to evaluate current programs and recommend changes that will improve program management and operations, reduce costs and optimize direct services.”  It is important to remember that this is not necessarily what the Governor will present in February in his proposed budget, but is to give direction to the various state agencies as they submit their requests to the Governor.  To read the full text of the PPGs, click here.


On August 25, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 904 (Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-15), which would repeal the existing Charter School Law and create a new School Code article pertaining to charter schools and cyber charter schools.  To read a summary of SB 904 as prepared by the Senate Education staff, click here.

Presenters at the hearing were: Amy Morton, Executive Deputy Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Education; Larry Jones, President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools and CEO of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School; Steve Catanzarite, member of the founding coalition of the Baden Academy Charter School; Alison Consoletti, Director of Research, Center for Education Reform; Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);  Thomas Darden, Deputy Chief, Office of Charter, Partnership and New Schools in the School District of Philadelphia; and Irwin Aronson, Counsel for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  To watch a video of the proceedings and/or read the written testimony, click here.

In addition to the presenters, the following organizations submitted written remarks: Education Law Center, Keystone State Education Coalition, KIPP Philadelphia Schools, National Heritage Academies, Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), Public Citizens for Children and Youth and Urban Pathways.

House of Representatives

  • On August 17-18, the House Education Committee wrapped up its final two days of public hearings on charter school and choice legislative proposals.  Committee members heard testimony from individuals representing the following statewide education organizations: Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the American Federation of Teachers-PA (AFT-PA), Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Operators of charter schools and cyber charters along with former PA Secretary of Education Dr. Eugene Hickok and representatives from the REACH Alliance and Center for Education Reform also presented testimony to state lawmakers.

 To read the written testimony from the August 17 hearing, click here.

 To read the written testimony from the August 18 hearing, click here.  

  • On August 25, the House Education Committee traveled to Langhorne, PA to receive public input  on House Bill 1369 (Rep. Todd Rock, R-90), which would repeal the existing “Collective Bargaining” article of the  Public School Code and establish a new article that would be known as the “Strike Free Education Act.”  To read the summary of HB 1369, prepared by the House Education Committee Republican staff, click here.

Testifiers included: Representative Todd Rock (R-90); Richie Webb, President of the Neshaminy School Board; Mark B. Miller, School Board Director of Centennial School District; Pearre Dean, Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Commonwealth Foundation; Larry Pastor, Taxpayers for a Fair Neshaminy School Budget; Jerry Oleksiak, Vice-President Elect, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA); Parents of students attending Neshaminy School District; and Representative Frank Farry (R-142).

To request copies of the written testimony or for more information, contact Chairman of the House Education Committee, Representative Paul Clymer’s office at 717-783-3154. 


  • On August 19, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced the state has earned the highest level possible in meeting requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA for FY2009.)   Each year the US Secretary of Education must make a determination as to whether each state is complying with requirements of the IDEA.  According to PDE’s press statement, Pennsylvania is the only large state to achieve the “meets requirements” status, as well as being one of fourteen states to receive this determination.  Pennsylvania has earned this determination four times in the past five years.  In order to determine whether a state receives this status, the USDE considers the state’s annual performance report, performance plan, information obtained through federal monitoring visits, as well as other public information.  Click here to review PDE’s Federal Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Performance Report.
  • On August 23, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis announced the award of $66 million in federal School Improvement Grants to twenty-six of Pennsylvania’s lowest performing schools.  School Improvement Grants (SIGs) were made available for the first time during the 2009-2010 school year through the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Last year, $102 million was granted under SIG program to 58 schools statewide.  For a complete list of PA Grantees, click here.


  • On Saturday, August 13 an organization chart for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (Vol.41, No. 33.)  The Executive Board approved reorganization of the PDE effective July 28, 2011.


  • On August 23, the US Department of Education (USDE) released the final application for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), which will provide $500 million in state level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs.  Applications are due October 19 and winners will be announced in December. To view the application and learn more, click here.
  • On August 25, the USDE launched version 2.0 of ED Data Express, an interactive website designed to provide timely and accurate K-12 education data to the public.  ED Data Express was first created in August 2010 as a key element of the Department’s open government plan.  The newest version will provide to its users additional data visualization tools, enhanced documentation and social networking options.


Please save these dates for upcoming EPLC events:

Arts and Education Symposium – Thursday, October 13

Annual EPLC Awards Luncheon – Thursday, October 27

Annual Education Finance Symposium – Thursday, November 17

More details will be available soon for each of these events.


Results of the 43rd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/ Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools were recently published.  While most Americans hold low opinions of the nation’s schools, they rate their public school teachers more highly now than they have in the past.  More than 70 percent of Americans say they have trust and confidence in public school teachers.  Sixty nine percent of the respondents give teachers in their communities a letter grade of an A or B, compared to only 50 percent in 1984.  While the public feels positive about their local teachers, they hold a less favorable opinion of governors and teacher unions.  Nearly one in two Americans believes that teacher unions hurt public education and yet more than half of Americans side with teacher union leaders in disputes with governors over collective bargaining.  PDK Executive Director William Bushaw states that “This year’s PDK/Gallup poll shows that Americans believe the key to good schools is high-quality teachers.  Interestingly, they have mixed opinions whether state governors or education leaders are the ones who can better ensure that our schools provide the quality they expect.” 

Other key findings: 

    • Funding is the biggest problem facing schools.  Thirty six percent of Americans believe that lack of financial support is the biggest problem facing schools.
    • Teacher salaries and layoffs should be based on multiple factors. Consistent with past findings, Americans believe teacher salaries should be based on multiple factors, including advanced degrees, experience, and principal’s evaluations of the teacher.  Student scores on standardized tests were rated least important.  Similarly, Americans believe that school districts should use multiple factors to determine which teachers should be laid off first, rather than basing it primarily on seniority.
    • Americans are conflicted over whether standardized test scores should be published. When asked whether they were in favor of or opposed to releasing information about how the students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests, Americans were equally split with 51 percent favoring and 48 percent opposing it.
    • College is important but doesn’t guarantee readiness.  College graduates are considered most ready for the world of work.  However, not all Americans believe that a college degree is sufficient for readiness.

The Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) is hosting a free webinarHighlights from the 2011 PDK/Gallup Poll” on September 6 and on September 15.  PDK Executive Director William Bushaw will present the major findings from the 2011 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Participants are invited to learn what Americans think about our public schools and ask questions about the findings. 

Click here to view highlights of the major findings from the PDK/Gallup poll.


The State Board of Education will being holding School Library Study Roundtables on September 13 (Allentown, PA), September 15 (Harrisburg, PA) and September 20 (Erie, PA). Click here for details.

September 11-17 is National Arts in Education Week.  In July 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring the week following the second Sunday of September as “Arts in Education Week.” For more information on how to draw attention to arts education in your school, click here


The PA Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing on the impact of the FY 2011-2012 General Appropriations Act and other various topics on Wednesday, September 7 at 1:00 PM in State College, PA.  For more information, click here.

The Advisory Committee on School Safety Reporting and Response of the State Board of Education will hold a meeting on Wednesday, September 7 at 9:30 AM in Harrisburg, PA.  For more information, click here

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing on the impact of the FY 2011-2012 General Appropriations Act and other various topics on Monday, September 12 at 1:00 PM in Pittsburgh, PA. 

The State Board of Education will be holding a roundtable discussion on the School Library Study on September 13 in Allentown, PA.  For more information, click here.

The Arts Education Partnership will meet in San Francisco, CA during National Arts in Education Week (September 15-16) for a national conversation about how arts learning can help reclaim our urban school systems and re-engineer the future of America’s cities.  To learn more, visit http://www.aep-arts.org/forums/SF2011.htm

The State Board of Education will meet September 20-21 in Erie, PA. 

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 1225 (Library Code Reform) on Wednesday, September 21 at 10:30 AM in Harrisburg, PA. 

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing to receive testimony from Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis on the results of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s investigation and analysis of 2009 PSSA testing anomalies on Wednesday, October 19 at 10:30 AM

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


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