EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, November 12, 2004

  • Dr. Francis Barnes was unanimously confirmed by the State Senate as Pennsylvania Secretary of Education on November 9. A veteran educator with experience in urban, suburban and rural schools, he most recently served as Superintendent of the Palisades School District in Bucks County.

  • With less than three weeks remaining before the constitutionally mandated end of the 2003-04 legislative session, there is a flurry of activity in the State House and State Senate. Most of the legislation considered has little likelihood of actually being enacted by November 30. But this is the season when bills can be combined, shortcuts found, and the legislative process becomes remarkably efficient, if there are issues for which legislative leaders and the Governor want action.

    The House passed the following education-related bills this week (each bill awaits referral to a Senate Committee):

    House Bill 2432: Exempts retired educators from professional development requirements in order to maintain an active teaching certificate. Retirees must resume professional development activities if they return to school service for more than one school year.

    House Bill 2864: Increases the penalties for speeding in a school zone.

    House Bill 2919: Requires schools to provide for recitation of the pledge of allegiance or national anthem at the beginning of each day and allows students to refrain from participating in the recitation without being penalized.

    House Bill 1922: Allows former county employees to purchase non-school service credits toward their pension benefits.

    House Bill 1187: Requires the Department of Health to establish a task force to investigate toxic mold in schools and other buildings.

  • On Wednesday, November 10th, the House Education Committee passed Senate Bill 931 and House Bills 2588 and 2502. Senate Bill 931 extends the postsecondary education gratuity program to children of sheriffs and deputy sheriffs who are killed in the line of duty and children of Pennsylvanian soldiers who are killed during active military service. Currently, children of police officers, firefighters, correction employees and National Guard members killed in the line of duty are eligible for this tuition waiver. SB 931 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee. House Bill 2588 requires all school nurses to be CPR certified. HB 2588 has been placed on the House tabled bills calendar. House Bill 2502 would require all Pennsylvania institutions of higher education that receive state funding to provide consumer information statements to students at the time of tuition billing. The statement would include the institution's instructional cost per student, the percentage of instructional cost paid for through state funds, and information about undergraduate student fees. HB 2502 was amended to require cyber charter schools to provide similar instructional cost information to each student's school district of residence. HB 2502 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • The State Board of Education withdrew final form regulations for Chapter 12 (Students and Student Services) that were on the agenda to be considered by the House Education Committee this week. The Education Committee will take up the regulatory changes when the new legislative session convenes in January.

  • The Senate Committee on Local Government passed legislation that requires residential developers to notify school districts of their development plans so that districts may comment on the plan's impact on local schools. House Bill 818, adopted by the Committee on November 10th, awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • On November 9th, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation that requires school boards and public libraries to adopt acceptable-use Internet policies that prevent users from viewing or sending obscene or pornographic materials. House Bill 2262 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • The Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System's Board of Trustees would be expanded to include three retiree representatives if Senate Bill 963 becomes law. Currently one retiree serves on the Board. The bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on November 9th and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

  • On November 9th, the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 2331. HB 2331 requires that higher education institutions perform a criminal background check prior to hiring a full-time faculty or staff member. HB 2331 has been placed on the House tabled bills calendar.

  • On November 8th, the Senate Transportation Committee passed House Bill 1315, which would establish a pilot program to record license plate numbers of cars illegally passing stopped school buses. HB 1315 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • The House Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 673, which creates a loan forgiveness program for teachers of agriculture education, on November 8th. SB 673 awaits consideration by the full House.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education released guidelines for its Bridge Certificate, an alternative path through which middle level, special and alternative education teachers can meet the highly qualified teacher provisions of No Child Left Behind. Access the guidelines at www.teaching.state.pa.us/teaching.

  • School districts that disputed funding withheld by the Department of Education for cyber charter school payments are entitled to a hearing, according to a ruling issued by Commonwealth Court on Wednesday. The Court ruled that the reconciliation process developed by PDE cannot be used in place of the court-ordered formal hearings.

  • Karen Hessel has been appointed Director of the Bureau of Teaching and Learning Support Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Hessel replaces Susan Enfield who left for a position with a school district in another state.

  • Next week...is American Education Week. The Senate Aging and Youth Committee holds a hearing on the Office of Child Development Tuesday in Harrisburg. EPLC hosts its PA Education Policy Forum Wednesday in Harrisburg. The PA State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday in Harrisburg. For details, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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