EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, May 6, 2005

  • The Senate passed the following legislation during the week of May 2-6 (both bills have been referred to the House Education Committee):

    Senate Bill 143: Requires school districts to adopt parent involvement policies, programs, and committees and requires the Department of Education to develop a clearinghouse of parent involvement information.

    Senate Bill 327: Authorizes a reimbursement to school districts for mailing expenses associated with Act 72 (The Homeowner Tax Relief Act).

  • The House passed the following legislation during the week of May 2-6 (all bills await referral to a Senate Committee):

    House Bill 1173: Part of a package of legislation extending benefits for members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, HB 1173 defers student loan payments to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency for active duty members of the armed services.

    House Bill 1259: Extends the eligibility period for receiving student assistance grants for Pennsylvania National Guard members who serve active duty in a combat zone.

    House Bill 253: Requires the Department of Education (PDE) to post information about teacher discipline on its web site. HB 253 requires PDE to publish the name, last employer, reason for discipline, and disciplinary action imposed on educators whose teaching certificates have been revoked or who are prohibited from teaching in a charter school because of a criminal conviction. PDE already posts on its web site information similar to that required by the legislation.

    House Bill 628: Requires school districts to prepare proposed budgets in the format required by the Department of Education and to make proposed budgets available for public duplication at "reasonable" costs. HB 628 establishes a summary offense for violation of this clause.

  • School district funding for community college sponsorship would be exempted from the back-end referenda requirements of Act 72 (The Homeowner Tax Relief Act) if House Bill 122 becomes law. The House Education Committee passed the bill, which amends the school code and not Act 72 itself, on Wednesday. HB 122 excludes any increase in annual payments made to a community college from the costs used to determine if a referendum is required on a school district's budget. Community colleges are funded jointly by the state, a local sponsor and student tuition. Currently, school district collaboratives serve as the local sponsor for four community colleges. The Committee also adopted House Bill 178, which encourages school districts to adopt bullying prevention policies, requires the Department of Education to develop an online clearinghouse of bullying prevention materials, and allows the Office for Safe Schools to make targeted grants to schools to support research-based programs that reduce bullying, harassment and intimidation of students. Finally, the Committee passed legislation ( House Bill 488) that requires the Department of Education to establish a clearinghouse of school building designs that districts may choose to use for construction projects. Use of the pre-approved plans could save districts money on design costs. HB 488 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a cost savings analysis for districts that have accessed the clearinghouse five years after the program's inception.

  • On Monday, the House Education Committee moved forward legislation relating to student health and nutrition. House Bill 189 requires school boards to adopt nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in competition to a school's lunch and breakfast program, expands school health services to include assessment of student's weight-for-height ratio, requires school districts to offer physical education to all students and recess in elementary schools, and requires schools to provide instruction in the causes and effects of obesity.

  • The House Education Committee held an informational meeting Tuesday about Standard & Poor's school data website. The site allows users to obtain information about schools and school districts and make comparisons with other schools and districts across the state. Access the data-rich resource at www.schoolmatters.com.

  • Senate Education Committee Chairmen James Rhoades and Ray Musto have introduced legislation to extend the continuing professional education compliance deadline for a select group of educators who did not receive a required report on their compliance status. Senate Bill 679 would extend 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. Act 48 of 2000 requires educators to complete six credits or 180 hours of professional development every five years in order to maintain an active teaching certificate and also requires PDE to notify educators about how many credits they have obtained a year prior to their compliance deadline. However, due to a lack of addresses and other reasons, notices were not sent by PDE. SB 679 extends the window for compliance for those affected by the June 30, 2005 deadline, the first compliance deadline since the law took effect in June 2000.

  • 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.

  • Education Week has released its annual Technology Counts report. The 2005 report looks at how No Child Left Behind's reporting requirements have focused technology spending on analytic data-management systems over funding for instructional classroom technology. The report also examines how states are addressing the growing popularity of cyber schools, the Bush administration's proposal to eliminate federal technology funding, and planning for technology maintenance. In addition to these special sections, Technology Counts 2005 includes its annual report of technology indicators by state. Education Week reports that in 2004 Pennsylvania had one Internet-connected computer per four students and 93% of instructional computers had high-speed web access. Access the full report at www.edweek.org/ew/toc/2005/05/05/index.html and the Pennsylvania State Snapshot at www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/05/05/35pa.h24.html.

  • The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce is seeking input on Head Start reauthorization through a survey on its web site. Take the survey at http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/109th/education/headstart/survey/index.htm.

  • The next EPLC Education Policy Forum breakfast program in Pittsburgh has been postponed from May 19 to Thursday, June 16. Please note the change on your calendar.

  • Next week...The House Education Committee meets Monday to consider House Bill 63, which creates an urban teacher loan forgiveness program; House Bill 546, which allows for PSERS purchase of county service time; and House Bill 1223, which creates a grant program for connecting to a statewide education network. The House Education Committee meets again Wednesday to consider House Bill 256, which adds diabetes screening to school health services; House Bill 994, which creates an aid ratio guarantee for special education funding; House Bill 349, which creates an alternative to the PRAXIS exam required for teacher certification; and House Bill 692, which increases the compulsory school age to 18. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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