EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, June 17, 2005

    Pennsylvania Department of Education Activity

  • Secretary of Education Francis V. Barnes resigned on Monday to return to his position as superintendent of the Palisades School District in Bucks County. Barnes, who served as superintendent in Palisades since 1998 before joining the Rendell cabinet last September, said he chose to return to Palisades to be closer to his family. His resignation will take effect the first week of September. Governor Rendell designated Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Gerald Zahorchak to serve as acting secretary until a successor to Barnes is selected.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has released information detailing how much each school district would receive through the Governor's proposed foundation funding proposal for FY 2005-06. The proposal is designed to provide additional funding to districts that currently spend less than $8,500 per student. As part of the 2.5% proposed increase to basic education funding, $23 million is earmarked for the foundation supplement. For details, see www.pdenewsroom.state.pa.us/newsroom/cwp/view.asp?a=256&q=113186.

  • PDE also released guidelines for applying for E-Fund grants. The competitive grant program will assist school districts in accessing broadband technology. For more information, see www.pde.state.pa.us/ed_tech/lib/ed_tech/E-Fund_Grant__Application_6-15-05.pdf.

  • Pennsylvania Senate Activity

  • The Senate approved the following legislation this week (both bills await referral to a House Committee):

    Senate Bill 651: 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 - House Bill 1304 - was passed by the House this week.)

    Senate Bill 679: Extends the deadline for completing state-mandated professional development from June 30, 2005 to April 30, 2006 for teachers who were certified prior to May 1, 2001, did not receive notice of their continuing professional education compliance status from the Department of Education (PDE) by June 2004, and have not fulfilled the mandated professional development requirements. The state requires educators to complete 180 hours or 6 credits of professional development every five years and requires PDE to provide written notice to all educators of their compliance status a year prior to their professional development completion deadline. However, due to a lack of addresses and other reasons, notices were not sent to those affected by the June 30, 2005 deadline, the first compliance deadline since the law took effect in June 2000. The legislation extends the compliance deadline for this select group of teachers only. SB 679 also changes notification requirements to require PDE to mail written notice to educators who have not completed the mandated professional development hours a year prior to the educator's compliance deadline and to provide electronic notice on PDE's web site to educators who have fulfilled their professional development obligation. Also, the legislation requires educators to notify PDE of any change of address. (The Pennsylvania Department of Education previously granted a grace period to individuals who did not receive required notices of their Act 48 status. For more information about the grace period, see www.teaching.state.pa.us/teaching/site/default.asp?g=0.)

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee amended and passed the following legislation (both bills await further consideration by the full Senate):

    House Bill 628: Requires school districts to prepare proposed annual budgets using the uniform form provided by the state Department of Education (PDE). The bill 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, HB 628 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 HB 628 a summary offense. (Similar legislation - Senate Bill 672 - was passed by the Senate Education Committee on June 8 and has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.)

    Senate Bill 511: Makes changes to the Technology Work Experience Internship Program. The bills revises the definition of "emerging technology companies," delineates responsibilities for approved educational institutions participating in the program, outlines terms and conditions for interns participating in the program, and opens the program to graduate students.

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee passed a resolution that directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of all state services provided to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. LBFC would identify all state services, their expenditures and funding sources, the number of individuals served by each program, areas of overlapping or duplicate services, and areas of need for new services. Pennsylvania currently funds the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, in addition to the Scranton School for the Deaf and myriad other special services in Intermediate Units and in public schools. Senate Resolution 76 awaits consideration by the full Senate.

  • On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 384, which allows associations that represent school retirees to request and receive information about the last district of employment and home address of retired teachers from the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). SB 384 awaits consideration by the full Senate. (Similar legislation - House Bill 339 - was discussed at an informational meeting of the House State Government Committee on April 20 and is scheduled to be considered at the House State Government Committee's meeting on Wednesday, June 22. For a summary of the issue as presented at the Committee's April 20 informational meeting, see EPLC's Education Notebook archives at www.eplc.org/notebook/April25,2005.html.)

  • Pennsylvania House Activity

  • The House passed the following legislation this week (all bills await referral to a Senate Committee):

    House Bill 488: Establishes a clearinghouse of school building designs that school districts may choose to use for building projects. Designs would be pre-approved by the state Department of Education, saving districts time and money by streamlining the planning stage. HB 488 was amended to provide annual supplemental state funding for free and reduced-price school lunches.

    House Bill 1304: 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 this week.)

    House Bill 63: Establishes a loan forgiveness program for new teachers in urban school districts. The bill was amended to also provide loan forgiveness for new teachers in Empowerment school districts. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency would forgive outstanding debt for qualified recipients over four years with $2,000 forgiven during the first year of teaching, $3,000 forgiven during the second year, $4,000 the third year, and $6,000 the fourth year. Urban school districts eligible for the program would be designated by the Secretary of Education based on "difficulty in attracting qualified teachers." Twelve school districts were identified as Empowerment Districts by the state in 2000 based on a history of low test scores.

  • The House Education Committee approved the following legislation this week:

    Senate Bill 147: Requires the state Department of Education (PDE) to provide technical assistance, upon request, to a school or school district identified for warning, school improvement, or corrective action. Also, requires PDE to develop a clearinghouse of materials related to improving student's academic performance. SB 147 has been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    House Bill 1222: Delineates information to be reported on the State Report Card, including information related to how many schools and school districts achieved each state academic performance target and how many made adequate yearly progress (AYP). HB 1222 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 876: Authorizes the state Department of Education to directly reimburse tutors who provide services through the educational support services program, rather than providing funding to purchase tutoring services directly to eligible students. Under the current program, qualifying students receive state grants of up to $500 to purchase tutoring services from state-approved providers. HB 876 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 1408: Imposes a misdemeanor offense for improper use of bond proceeds. HB 1408 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 1419: Allows private residential rehabilitation institutions that provide special education services to charge a student's district of residence for indirect or administrative expenses. The charge for indirect and administrative expenses may be assessed equal to the amount received in the immediately preceding fiscal year, not to exceed the net cost of delivering special education services minus funding received from the state. HB 1419 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 256: The Committee passed an amended version of HB 256 that requires students to be screened for their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes risk assessments would be conducted by a school district physician during the medical examinations already required upon entry to school, in sixth grade, and in eleventh grade. HB 256 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

  • On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee adopted House Resolution 299. HR 299 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct an analysis of early retirement proposals (30 & out) for school and state employees. LBFC would assess the fiscal impact of proposed early retirement programs on the state and school districts, the impact on workforce needs, and more. HR 299 now goes to the full House for consideration.

  • The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation on Monday that defines "extracurricular activity". The bill defines an extracurricular activity as an activity that is sponsored or approved by the school board; not offered for credit toward graduation; conducted partially or entirely outside the regular instructional day; and available to any student enrolled in a district's schools who voluntarily elects to participate subject to the eligibility requirements of the activity. The definition specifically deems interscholastic athletics as extracurricular activities. House Bill 586 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • The House Education Committee held an informational meeting on Wednesday with Michael Toth, President and CEO of Learning Sciences International (LSI), for an update on the state's free, online professional development system for educators. Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has an annual contract with LSI to offer free, online professional development courses to Pennsylvania teachers in accordance with Act 48 requirements. Courses are delivered through OPEN (the Online Professional Development Network developed and maintained by LSI). Thus far, nearly 17,000 Pennsylvania teachers have taken advantage of the free online courses, and the company hopes to increase that number through a marketing campaign. Currently, 20 courses are available through OPEN and an Early Literacy Series is under development. This fall, LSI will launch "cluster courses" where groups of local teachers can participate in the same course in a study group atmosphere. A teacher from the Steelton-Highspire School District who participated in a cluster course pilot said the experience was highly beneficial because taking the course together united the participants under a common goal. She also expressed support for the OPEN system because it provides teachers with courses targeted to individual teaching needs on an ongoing basis, rather than the day-long, one-size-fits-all professional development programs typically offered by school districts that may or may not be relevant to an individual's teaching needs. Toth also noted that retired Pennsylvania educators are now eligible for the free online programs. For more information about OPEN, visit www2.professionaleducation.org/.

  • 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.

  • Federal Education Policy Activity

  • The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has released updated guidance for supplemental education services under the No Child Left Behind law. The new non-regulatory guidance reflects policy changes and clarifications made by the DOE since its last update in August 2003, including information about how school districts must spend federal funds for tutoring services and selection of service providers. Access the updated guidance at www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/suppsvcsguid.doc.

  • Early Childhood Education

  • House Speaker John Perzel, in coordination with the Universities Children's Policy Collaborative and the Legislative Office for Research Liaison, sponsored a Policy Workshop on "Early Childhood Education: Universal Pre-K and Other Alternatives" on Tuesday. Panelists at the informational workshop reviewed early care and education services currently available to children in Pennsylvania, new research on the positive impacts of Oklahoma's universal pre-K program, the public campaign that led to passage of Florida's universal pre-K program, and funding streams that are used to support early education programs in other states. A link to the Executive Summary of research on Oklahoma's preschool program presented at the Workshop, titled "The Effects of Oklahoma's Universal Pre-K Program on School Readinesss", is available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse on Early Childhood Education at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_earlychildhood.html. For more information about the presentations made at this Policy Workshop, contact Dr. Marsha Weinraub, Department of Psychology, Temple University, at (215) 204-6572 or mweinrau@temple.edu.

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has approved new Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Performance Criteria that will take effect in September 2006. Find the new standards at www.naeyc.org/accreditation/next_era.asp.

  • A study released by the New Jersey Department of Education indicates that kindergartners in the state's neediest communities are better-prepared than in past years due to the recent increase of quality in teachers and classrooms in New Jersey's free, full-day preschools. The study was conducted by examining the preschool programs of the state's 31 Abbott Districts (deemed so after the Abbott v. Burke education funding lawsuit) that were granted additional funding after a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling required the state to provide preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in New Jersey's poorest school districts. The report says that 40 percent of preschool classrooms in Abbott Districts scored in the good-to-excellent range, a 27 percent increase since 2003. Access the report, "Giant Steps for the Littlest Children: Progress in the Sixth Year of the Abbott Preschool Program", at www.state.nj.us/njded/ece/abbott/giantsteps/.

  • "Leadership Matters: Governors' Pre-K Proposals Fiscal Year 2006", a report from Pre-K Now, reviews the efforts of 20 governors who have proposed increases to their states' pre-kindergarten programs. The study optimistically reports that support for Pre-K programs comes from both Republican and Democratic governors alike, despite overwhelming budget deficits in many states. Regionally, southern states lead in offering Pre-K. Read more about these policymaker proposals at http://preknow.org/documents/LeadershipReport.pdf.

  • A new study conducted by Yale University Child Study Center researcher Walter S. Gilliam found that although expulsion rates in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs vary, they exceed those in K-12 classes in all but three states. The study is based on information compiled from the National Pre-kindergarten Study. Among the significant findings were the facts that four-year-olds were expelled at a rate nearly 1.5 times greater than three-year-olds, while boys were expelled 4.5 times more than girls. Furthermore, African-American children were twice as likely to be expelled as Latino and Caucasian children. The report looks at expulsion rates by program setting (public school, Head Start, or private providers), gender, and race/ethnicity, as well as data for all 40 states that fund pre-kindergarten programs. To read "Pre-Kindergartners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Pre-K Systems", see www.fcd-us.org/PDFs/NationalPreKExpulsionPaper03.02_new.pdf.

  • "Who's Teaching Our Youngest Students? Teacher Education and Training, Experience, Compensation and Benefits, and Assistant Teachers", part one in a series of reports from the National Institute for Early Education, examines the characteristics of teachers in state-funded Pre-K programs. Access this first publication of the From Capitols to Classrooms, Policies to Practice: State-Funded Pre-K at the Classroom Level series at http://nieer.org/resources/files/NPSteachers.pdf.

  • "Leading Early Childhood Learning Communities: What Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do", a new report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals contends that elementary school principals are in a key position to define, construct and direct early childhood programs in their districts. Written as a handbook for principals who are starting up or assuming charge of Pre-K services, the publication identifies six standards for what principals should know and be able to do. In addition, it draws attention to the national demand for easy-access early childhood services in communities while providing extensive data and background research in support of its proposals. To view the executive summary of the report, go to http://web.naesp.org/misc/ECLC_execsum.pdf. The full report is available for purchase at www.naesp.org/nprc/.

  • EPLC News

  • The Education Policy and Leadership Center 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.

  • Dr. Robert Feir will be the new Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program. Dr. Feir has three decades of experience in education and education policy making and a rich knowledge of Pennsylvania's education system, having served during his career as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, Executive Director of the state Senate's Education Committee, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Business-Education Partnership, and Director of Policy for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Dr. Feir currently is President of EdStrat21, an education strategies consulting firm. He replaces Sharon Brumbaugh who accepted a position with the Pennsylvania Department of Education earlier this year.

  • Upcoming Events

  • Next week...PENNSYLVANIA EVENTS: The House Subcommittee on Basic Education holds an informational meeting on House Bill 1007 on Monday. The House Consumer Affairs Committee meets Tuesday to consider House Bill 1617. The House Education Committee meets to consider House Bills 1010, 1085, 321, 1291 and 1512 on Wednesday. The House State Government Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bill 339. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets to discuss a new report mandated by the Legislature concerning the administrative operations in the Pittsburgh School District on Wednesday.

  • NATIONAL EVENTS: The U.S. Department of Education sponsors a Teacher-to-Teacher Workshop in Cincinnati, OH, on June 20-22. The U.S. Department of Education holds two meetings to accept public comment on new regulations related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04) on Wednesday, June 22 in Sacramento, CA, and on Friday, June 24 in Las Vegas, NV. The National PTA hosts its Annual Convention on June 24-26 in Columbus, OH. The American Association of University Women holds its National Convention on June 24-27 in Washington, D.C. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

  • Save the date...The fourth annual Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Education Policy and Leadership Center, will be held Sunday, March 12 to Tuesday, March 14 in Harrisburg. Please note the dates on your calendars.

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