EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, March 11, 2005

  • State Budget hearings: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees met with Pennsylvania Education Secretary Francis Barnes and a team from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to discuss the proposed 2005-2006 state education budget this week. Barnes highlighted the governor's proposals to: provide $80 million over five years to improve career and technical education curriculum and equipment; allocate $4.7 million to double the number of school districts involved in the Department's high school initiative (Project 720) from 41 to 80; and increase community college funding by $22.8 million.

    Committee members questioned the PDE team about a broad array of education initiatives. In the higher education arena, legislators asked about PDE's opposition to legislation that would create an independent community college governing board. Committee members also questioned the PDE team about the state's education funding formulas. The Secretary discussed the Administration's proposals to allocate additional assistance to small school districts and high-tax, low-wealth districts. A supplement for growing school districts is not included in this year's formula, however, the department is proposing to increase reimbursement rates for school construction (rates have not been changed since 1987), which will aid growing districts that are renovating or constructing new buildings to deal with an influx of students. Members also questioned why the special education funding formula does not take into account the actual number of students who receive special services in a district.

    Some other issues addressed at the hearings were: funding to provide broadband Internet service to all school districts; the use of distance learning to increase course offerings and share resources among districts; the state's response to conflicts between the requirements of No Child Left Behind and the new Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act; accountability for tutoring funds distributed through Classroom Plus; and accountability for funds distributed through the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.

  • Budget Legislation: Republican leadership in the Pennsylvania House announced plans to introduce a 2005-06 General Appropriations bill at the beginning of next week, which may be taken up for consideration by the House Appropriations Committee as early as Tuesday, March 14, and considered by the full House the following week. For more information about the 2005-06 proposed state education budget, including testimony provided at House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_2005-2006budget.html.

    NOW IS THE TIME TO BE CONTACTING YOUR STATE HOUSE MEMBER TO ASK THAT THEY ADDRESS KEY EDUCATION FUNDING ISSUES DURING THE BUDGET DELIBERATIONS. While many argue that any debate in the House at this relatively early date is largely for show, do not underestimate the importance of having key issues highlighted even now, thus giving some guidance to House leaders for next steps in the budget-making process.

  • The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference will be held Sunday, March 13 through Tuesday, March 15 at the Harrisburg-Hershey Wyndham. Join policymakers, educators, parents, business and community leaders at EPLC's third annual conference to learn more about school district budgets and property tax relief, PA's value-added assessment system and more. Registrations will be accepted on site. For details, see www.eplc.org/conference.html. Act 48 credit is available for some sessions.

  • The House Education Committee held an informational meeting on legislation that would establish an independent board to govern community colleges ( House Bill 8). For more information about Thursday's meeting at the Community College of Philadelphia, contact the office of Committee Chair Jess Stairs at (717) 783-9311.

  • Pennsylvania's 94 independent higher education institutions contribute $18.3 billion annually to the Commonwealth, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. The association took into account the number of people employed by independent colleges and universities, spending for goods and services, spending by students, faculty and staff, and job creation in determining economic impact. In its research, the Association also found that Pennsylvania ranks number one in the nation in attracting first-time freshman who leave their home state to attend college, according to 2002 data from the U.S. Department of Education, and that 75% of these students attend Pennsylvania's private colleges. The report makes public policy recommendations "to strengthen the impact of the independent higher education sector." Access the report at www.aicup.org/research/2005_Economic_Impact_Report.pdf.

  • The Washington D.C.-based Center on Education Policy released a report on "Identifying School Districts for Improvement and Corrective Action Under the No Child Left Behind Act." The report looks at how states identify districts for improvement and steps for increasing academic achievement in those districts. Access the report at www.cep-dc.org/nclb/identifying_school_districts.pdf.

  • Fight Crime - Invest in Kids PA has released a report on the impact of proposed federal budget cuts and spending caps on programs that help deter children from crime. The proposed changes would affect Head Start, child care programs, after-school programs, and law enforcement resources. Read "Pennsylvania Faces Deep Cuts in Programs that Keep Kids From Becoming Criminals" at www.fightcrime.org/reports/pabudgetcrunch.pdf.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the following report, "Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2002-03," available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005010.

  • Dr. George F. "Jody" Harpster will take office as interim president of Shippensburg University on July 1. Harpster currently serves as Vice President for Student Affairs at Shippensburg. He was selected by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors to succeed President Anthony Ceddia who is retiring.

  • EPLC will host a special two-evening Workshop for School Board Candidates in the Lancaster and Lebanon school districts on Monday, March 28 and Wednesday, March 30 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. The Workshop is being sponsored by the Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13; registration materials should be directed to the IU. For program information and a registration form, see www.eplc.org/schoolboardworkshop.html.

  • Next week...EPLC's third annual Education Policy and Leadership Conference takes place March 13-15 at Wyndham Harrisburg-Hershey. Tuesday: The state Autism Task Force will hold an information session about the recommendations in its final report; the Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on proposed dual enrollment programs for high school students; Rep. H. William DeWeese holds a press conference to announce a commission that will perform a comprehensive review of the public education system. Wednesday: The Senate Education Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 151, pertaining to the State Report Card, and Senate Bill 327, which would reimburse school districts for Act 72 mailing expenses; the House Education Committee meets to consider House Bill 8, which establishes an independent board to govern community colleges. EPLC's Institute for Community Leadership in Education meets in Western Pennsylvania. The PA State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday in Harrisburg. For details, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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