EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, June 10, 2005

    Pennsylvania Senate Activity

  • On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved the following legislation (each bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate):

    Senate Bill 361: Requires school districts to allow home education students to participate in extracurricular activities. Currently, local school boards decide whether home education students may participate in a district's extracurricular activities.

    Senate Bill 458: Clarifies current law related to tuition charges for adjudicated students receiving alternative education services. SB 458 clarifies that the school district of residence of an adjudicated student must pay to a school district that contracts with a private provider to deliver alternative education services to the adjudicated student the same amount it would pay if the district of residence itself provided alternative education services directly.

    Senate Bill 652: Allows state funding for tutoring programs provided through the educational assistance program or accountability block grants to support tutoring services that are offered during the school day.

    Senate Bill 672: Requires school districts to prepare proposed annual budgets using the uniform form provided by the state Department of Education (PDE). SB 672 was amended to require that the form identify the "specific function, subfunction, and major object of expenditure." The approved amendment also requires the school board president to certify to PDE that the district's proposed budget has been prepared and made publicly available using PDE's uniform form and prohibits school boards from taking final action on a proposed budget if such preparation has not occurred. Additionally, SB 672 requires that proposed district budgets be made available for duplication upon request at a reasonable duplication cost. Finally, the bill was amended to delete a provision that made noncompliance with SB 672 a summary offense.

    House Bill 894: Exempts retired teachers who return to school service from state-mandated professional development requirements if they work no more than 180 school days. Retirees who return to teaching for more than 180 days would be required to fulfill the state's continuing education requirements. HB 894 also requires the Department of Education (PDE) to provide access to its free, online professional development courses to all educators, not just those currently employed by a school entity. The bill also requires PDE to maintain all retirees' teaching certificates in active status. HB 894 was amended to delete language previously added by the House that permitted institutions of higher education to provide continuing professional development to their own faculty members who hold state teaching certificates. (Similar legislation - Senate Bill 390 - was passed by the Senate Education Committee on April 13).

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 676, which makes comprehensive changes to state laws related to school health services. The bill requires that student medical examinations be conducted upon entry into school and in 4th, 8th and 11th grades, rather than upon school entry and in 6th and 11th grades as currently required. The bill also lowers the nurse to student ratio to 1 to 750 (from 1 to 1,500), places primary responsibility for performing student medical exams with the student's primary healthcare provider rather than the school physician, updates health evaluation standards for school personnel, and makes numerous other changes. For more information about the bill, see www.senatorconti.com/newsreleases/default.asp?NewsReleaseID=853&SubjectID=.

  • Pennsylvania House Activity

  • The House passed the following legislation this week (both bills now go to the Senate):

    House Bill 49: Establishes a student loan forgiveness program for mental health and mental retardation staff members and alcohol and drug addiction counselors. Qualified applicants could receive $20,000 in loan forgiveness, up to $5,000 per year for four-years, from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. (Similar legislation - Senate Bill 413 - was passed by the Senate Education Committee on May 11.)

    House Bill 100: Increases the state reimbursement to school districts for school lunch programs (from ten cents to twelve cents per meal) and breakfast programs (from ten cents to eleven cents per meal).

  • The House Appropriations Committee moved forward House Bill 377, which would reduce the compulsory school age for children in the Philadelphia School District from age eight to age six. The change would not apply to homeschooled children. The Committee also moved forward House Bill 1304, which extends the mandate waiver program for local libraries for the 2005-06 fiscal year. The program allows libraries to apply for waivers of certain state regulations related to hours of operation, collection expenditures and more if state funding for libraries is less than that provided in FY 2002-03. The mandate waiver program was implemented in FY 2003-04 when libraries sustained a significant cut in state funding and was extended by the PA General Assembly again for the current fiscal year. (Similar legislation - Senate Bill 651 - was passed by the Senate Education Committee on May 11.) Both bills await further consideration by the full House.

  • On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed legislation that allows colleges and universities to conduct criminal background checks of potential full-time faculty and staff and to use those records in making hiring decisions based on the institution's written policy for use of such information. THIS APPEARS TO BE MEANINGLESS LEGISLATION THAT WILL PERMIT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES TO DO WHAT THEY ARE ALREADY PERMITTED TO DO. House Bill 564 also allows colleges and universities to require job applicants to self-disclose criminal history information related to sex offenses, misappropriation of funds and felony convictions. HB 564 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

  • The House Education Committee did not complete the scheduled agenda for its Wednesday meeting and did not move forward any legislation. On Wednesday, the Committee discussed the following:

    House Bill 692: The Committee tabled HB 692, which would increase the compulsory school attendance age from 17 to 18.

    House Bill 256: The Committee tabled HB 256, which would require school nurses to conduct student diabetes screenings. An amendment was offered to limit screenings to type 2 diabetes. Committee members expressed concern that the bill places an unfunded mandate on school districts to train nurses to conduct such screenings and suggested that it may be more appropriate to require physicians to conduct diabetes screenings during the medical examinations required prior to a student entering school. Find information on children and diabetes from the National Diabetes Education Program at www.ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/youth/youth.htm.

    House Bill 1419: The Committee passed over House Bill 1419, which would provide additional funding to private residential rehabilitation institutions that provide special education services. The bill would allow the institutions to charge a student's district of residence an additional 19.3% of the total cost of providing special education services to cover indirect or administrative expenses. Additional charges may not exceed the cost of delivering special education services minus funding received from the state.

    The House Education Committee did not consider House Bill 994 or House Bill 1085 which were on Wednesday's initial agenda. House Bill 256 and House Bill 1419, which were tabled, are scheduled to be reconsidered by the Committee on Monday, June 13.

  • On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee approved House Bill 472, which creates a personal income tax credit for the donation of used computers to nonprofit educational institutions and other organizations. HB 472 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    The House Finance Committee did not consider legislation related to the Commonwealth Caucus's tax reform plan (House Bills 116 through 120), which was on its initial agenda.

  • The House State Government Committee adopted House Resolution 4 on Wednesday, which directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of all existing state aid funding formulas and their impact on the state's 67 counties. The resolution directs the Committee to examine population-based and client-based funding formulas and how and when to revise state funding formulas to reflect population and client enrollment shifts in Pennsylvania's counties. HR 4 awaits consideration by the full House.

  • All legislation from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including bills cited in this Notebook, can be found at www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recently released its Annual Report on School Violence for the 2003-2004 school year. Of the findings, most notable was a decrease in the total number of violent incidents and weapons charges by more than 15 percent. Additionally, PDE reports decreases in incidents of violence and weapons possession (15.4 percent decrease) and in the number of offenders (16.4 percent decrease) over the previous school year. Increases were found in the number of law enforcement contacts and arrests, as well as in the use of firearms (up 55.23 percent from 2002-2003). PDE said that the drastic increase in the use of firearms may be attributed to the fact that "some schools might have misreported the "other firearms" category, including items not considered firearms by definition." PDE added that steps have been taken to further elucidate this category for next year's data. This is the first year that data for the report were compiled using the state's new online reporting system through which school administrators electronically submit data based on uniform state reporting guidelines, a move PDE says has improved accuracy in reporting. To view the 2003-04 report, see www.safeschools.state.pa.us/vwp.aspx?command=true.

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved changes to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regulations governing School Buses and School Vehicles at its meeting on Thursday. The "final form" regulation makes a number of specific amendments to existing school bus and school vehicle equipment and safety requirements, among them: an amendment to permit the service door frame to be painted black and the mirror brackets to be stainless steel with a satin finish, an amendment prohibiting the use of hasps in doorways and emergency exits, and an amendment prohibiting school buses with tinted windows to place emergency exit labeling directly on the tinted glass. According to PennDOT, the changes were necessary to comply with updated federal safety requirements, as well as to heed industry standard proposals and concerns. Additionally, PennDOT said that making the required vehicle and equipment improvements could affect school districts financially, however it foresees these costs to be minimal.

  • Federal Education Policy Activity

  • On May 18, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted unanimously to approve H.R. 2123, the School Readiness Act of 2005, which reauthorizes Head Start. The federal early education program helps nearly one million 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for kindergarten annually. Among the changes, the legislation:

    • creates greater competition among Head Start providers by requiring grantees who have had at least one deficiency during their 5-year grant period to compete with others for Head Start grant renewal and provides "priority" grant status to providers who have met all Head Start requirements;
    • increases financial disclosure by requiring all Head Start grantees to undergo annual independent audits and produce a public report on spending;
    • requires "priority grantees" to use a scientifically-based curriculum that is aligned with their state's K-12 academic standards and requires all grantees to "have objectives in place for improving school readiness that are aligned with" state standards, and;
    • requires that, in order to be a "priority grantee", Head Start providers form partnerships with local school districts that will foster smooth transitions to kindergarten for students.

    Although the bill earned bipartisan support in the Committee, it could meet disagreement by Democrats on the House floor if language proposed by House Republicans to allow faith-based groups who are Head Start grantees to hire only members of their own religion is added. For more information about Head Start reauthorization, see http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/109th/education/headstart/headstart.htm.

  • Nominations and Appointments

  • Gov. Rendell has appointed Art Stephens as his Deputy Chief of Staff. Stephens, who previously served as Deputy Secretary of Information Technology in the Office of Administration, will act as the governor's liaison with the Departments of Banking, Corrections, and Military and Veterans Affairs, the Pennsylvania State Policy, Office of Homeland Security, and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and will continue to have general oversight for information technology projects. Kristen Miller will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary for Information Technology.

  • Rendell also named Jeffrey D. Marrazzo as Special Assistant to the Governor. Marrazzo previously served as Deputy Director of the Governor's Office of Management and Productivity. In his new position, he will work on special health care and telecommunications projects for the Governor's Office, in addition to working with the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission and the state Gaming Commission.

  • Kim Kaufman has been named Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission. With more than 16 years of Commonwealth experience, Mr. Kaufman previously worked in the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Commerce, in addition to serving as Executive Director for both the PA Economic Development Finance Authority and the PA Industrial Development Authority.

  • The Pennsylvania State Senate has confirmed three new members to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors. Kenneth M. Jarin, a partner in the Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, replaces David M. Sanko. Guido M. Pichini, president of Security Guards Inc. in Berks County, replaces Charles A. Gomulka. Aaron A. Walton, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Highmark Inc. of Pittsburgh, replaces John K. Thornburgh.

  • Raymond Simon was confirmed by the United States Senate as Deputy Secretary of Education on June 2nd. Simon previously served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Simon will focus on K-12 policy, high school reform and special education.

  • President Bush will nominate Tom Luce as Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Education. Luce currently serves as Chairman of the National Center for Educational Accountability and Just for the Kids, and was a founding partner of Hughes and Luce, LLP in Dallas, Texas. His appointment requires Senate confirmation.

  • Bush also will nominate Henry Louis Johnson, of Mississippi, as Assistant Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education. A professional educator for more than 30 years, Dr. Johnson has worked himself up through the ranks from teacher to State Superintendent of Education for the Mississippi Department of Education, where he currently serves.

  • Federal Head Start director Windy M. Hill resigned from her position on May 27th. Joan Ohl, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, will serve as interim head of the Head Start Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • EPLC News

  • The Education Policy and Leadership Center congratulates the 2004-2005 participants in the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) on their graduation. Twenty-six participants completed this rigorous ten-month professional development program on June 7. These graduates join 113 Pennsylvania EPFP alumni and more than 5,000 EPFP alumni from other states. For more information about the 2004-05 graduating class, see www.eplc.org/pressrelease_fellowsgraduation2005.html.

  • EPLC is currently accepting applications for the 2005-2006 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). Participants in this professional development experience develop a broadened understanding of the policy process and the various aspects of education policy, enhance communication and decision making skills, refine their potential for leadership, and expand their network of professional colleagues through participation in nine full-day seminars, national conferences, and a unique strategic leadership training experience conducted by the U.S. Army War College. The nationally recognized EPFP program was established more than 40 years ago by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Educational Leadership. For more information and an application, see www.fellows.html.

  • Next week... The 2005 Education Adequacy Conference takes place in Washington, D.C. on June 13-14. On Monday, the House Education Committee meets to consider House Bills 1419, 256, 1222, 876 & 1408 and Senate Bill 147. On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee meets to consider House Bill 1427 and House Resolution 299. On Wednesday, the House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on with the President and CEO of Learning Sciences International, regarding on-line credits for Act 48 and new programs for the use of Internet services. The Philadelphia Education Fund hosts a lecture with NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Theodore Shaw on educational equity on Thursday in Philadelphia. The U.S. Department of Education hosts a public meeting to accept public comments and suggestions regarding IDEA regulations on Friday in Nashville, TN. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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