EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, March 4, 2005

  • State Budget hearings: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees discussed budget issues with representatives of Pennsylvania's higher education institutions this week.

    Both committees met with PA State System of Higher Education (SSHE) Chancellor Judy Hample on Wednesday. SSHE is requesting an additional $31.2 million from the state for FY 2005-06. In his budget proposal, Gov. Rendell earmarked $460.980 million for the State System; however, because of recent cuts this amount is 1% less than SSHE received from the state five years ago. SSHE enrollment has risen 11% since that time. Hample said the System has done its part to reduce costs by $120 million through a one-year wage freeze, eliminating low-enrolled programs, deferring equipment purchases and facilities maintenance, and engaging in collaborative procurement. SSHE faces a projected $20 million increase in health insurance costs for FY 2005-06 and has a half-billion worth of deferred maintenance projects; 25% of SSHE facilities have not undergone major renovations in the last 35 years.

    The House Appropriations Committee also met with representatives of Penn State, Lincoln University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania this week. The Senate's hearing with state-related universities scheduled for Tuesday was indefinitely postponed because of weather. Two issues that cross-cut among universities were medical school funding and a reallocation of Tobacco Settlement Fund dollars away from university health research. Gov. Rendell has proposed to increase medical school funding by shifting some funding from state dollars to federal Medicaid dollars. The Rendell administration says other states have used Medicaid for this purpose. In light of President Bush's proposal to cut Medicaid funding, the universities are fearful that the federal government will not approve the use of Medicaid to support medical education and that, without a contingency plan from the state, they will be left with large holes in their budgets. The schools are feeling added financial stress from large increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums. The universities also are concerned that a reduction of health research dollars from the Tobacco Settlement Fund may cause some research projects to stall mid-course and will make it difficult to attract top research personnel, some of whom are being aggressively recruited by other states that are investing heavily in research as a driver of economic development.

    For more information on the 2005-2006 proposed state budget, visit EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_2005-2006budget.html.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education has withdrawn final form regulations for Chapter 12 (Students and Student Services) that were submitted for consideration by the House and Senate Education Committees. The Board withdrew the regulations to respond to concerns raised at a House Education Committee meeting over corporal punishment and students' freedom of expression. The House Education Committee meeting scheduled to continue consideration of Chapter 12 on March 8 has been cancelled.

  • Gov. Ed Rendell has appointed Robert Nelkin as executive director of the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Families. Nelkin is the Director of Policy Initiatives in the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh. He has 35 years of experience as an advocate for children and individuals with disabilities at the local, state and federal levels. The Cabinet was established by Rendell's executive order to coordinate services for children and families among government agencies.

  • Using Census data, the Institute for Higher Education Policy conducted a state-by-state analysis of the benefits of higher education according to six indicators and found that for all 50 states "postsecondary education is correlated with decreases in unemployment and increases in volunteerism." Read more about the benefits of higher education for states and individuals in "The Investment Payoff: A 50-State Analysis of the Public and Private Benefits of Higher Education" at www.ihep.org/Pubs/PDF/InvestmentPayoff2005.pdf.

  • In "Creating College Opportunities for All: Prepared Students and Affordable Colleges," the Southern Regional Education Board looks at the college affordability gap and outlines steps policymakers can take to improve college access and financial assistance. Read the report at www.sreb.org/main/Goals/Publications/Creating_College_Opportunity.asp.

  • A new study from ACT and The Education Trust "defines, for the first time, the specific rigorous academic skills that need to be taught in English, math, and science courses for high school graduates to be ready for college and work." The study looked at nine high schools with diverse populations that are overcoming the odds and meeting high standards and a tenth school, to represent high schools in general, that had top ACT assessment scores. The schools shared four common characteristics: high-level, college-oriented content in core courses; qualified and experienced teachers; teaching that is flexible and responsive to students; and out of classroom support for students. Learn more about preparing college-ready students in "On Course for Success" at www.act.org/path/policy/reports/success.html.

  • The Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy outlines ways for education leaders and policymakers to strengthen connections between community colleges and adult education in its new report "To Ensure America's Future: Building A National Opportunity System for Adults." Access the report at www.caalusa.org/ensureamericasfuture.pdf.

  • The CNA Corporation released an education needs assessment commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education. Read the "Report to the U.S. Department of Education on Educational Challenges and Technical Assistance Needs for the Mid Atlantic Region" at www.rac-ed.org/Default.aspx?tabid=331&DMXModule=916&Download=inline&EntryId=849.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the following reports:

    Estimating Undergraduate Enrollment in Postsecondary Education Using National Center for Education Statistics Data

    Gender Differences in Participation and Completion of Undergraduate Education and How They Have Changed Over Time

    2003-04 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:04): Student Financial Aid Estimates for 2003-04

  • There is still time to register for the Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference. Join policymakers, educators, parents, business and community leaders at EPLC's third annual conference to learn more about Act 72 and property tax relief, "highly qualified" requirements for teachers, PA's value-added assessment system and more. PA Secretary of Education Francis Barnes, PA Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Gerald Zahorchak, and PA Secretary for Policy and Planning Donna Cooper are scheduled to present. For information about additional sessions and a registration form, see www.eplc.org/conference.html. Act 48 credit is available for some conference sessions.

  • Next week...The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold hearings on the proposed 2005-06 state education budget on Tuesday. The House Education Committee will visit Philadelphia Community College on Thursday to discuss legislation establishing an independent community college governing board. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials hosts its annual conference March 8-11 in King of Prussia. For details, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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