EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, November 19, 2004

  • U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige has resigned his position with the Bush administration. The President nominated his domestic policy advisor Margaret Spellings as his new Secretary of Education. Spellings served as a senior education policy advisor to Bush when he was governor of Texas before joining him in Washington where she was involved in crafting the No Child Left Behind Act. She previously worked as a lobbyist for the Texas Association of School Boards.

  • Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) will step down as chair of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees education to take the helm of the Budget Committee in the next Congressional session. It is expected that Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) will be elected by Republican members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to succeed Gregg.

  • The Congressional Conference Committee negotiating reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has reached an agreement on the bill. The compromise legislation gives schools more discretion in disciplining special education students whose misbehavior is not caused by their disability, reduces bureaucratic paperwork, and allows schools to spend IDEA dollars for academic intervention for children who are not in special education but need extra help. For more information, see http://labor.senate.gov/bills/edu_59_bill.html.

  • The Washington D.C.-based Center on Education Policy hosted a forum on ideas to improve the No Child Left Behind Act on November 15. This last in a series of three idea-generating forums focused on improving low-performing schools and NCLB provisions related to highly qualified teachers. Links to papers presented at the forum are available at www.ctredpol.org/pubs/Forum15November2004/.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education welcomed EPLC President Ron Cowell at a special study session on November 17 to learn about the Center's report on strengthening the work of school boards in Pennsylvania. The 2004 report, which includes recommendations for state policymakers, school boards and superintendents, and voters and community leaders, is available at www.eplc.org/reports.html.

  • Pennsylvania Legislative Activity for the Week of November 15-19, 2004

    The Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a hearing on the new Office of Child Development on Tuesday. The Office bridges the Departments of Education and Public Welfare with the appointment of Harriet Dichter who will serve a dual role in both agencies overseeing the state's early care and education efforts. The Office will establish a Parent Council to help advise its work.

    House Bill 30: On November 18, the Senate passed legislation that makes omnibus changes to the state's telecommunication law (Chapter 30). The legislation offers incentives for companies to speed-up delivery of high-speed Internet access to the entire state before the previously established 2015 target. The bill also provides funding through grants from telephone companies for equipping and connecting public and private schools to broadband access and requires some telephone companies to offer broadband access to schools at a 30% discount. On Friday, the House Rules Committee moved forward House Bill 30 as amended by the Senate. Gov. Rendell has threatened to veto the bill because of changes unrelated to these education provisions.

    Senate Bill 1254: The Senate Finance Committee passed SB 1254 on November 17. The legislation allows non-profit associations that represent retired school employees to obtain information about annuitants in order to encourage membership and analyze legislative proposals related to annuitants.

    House Bill 1187: The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee passed HB 1187 on November 17, which requires the Department of Health to establish a task force to study the potential hazards of toxic mold in schools and other buildings. The bill has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 2262: The Senate Appropriations Committee passed HB 2262 on November 17. HB 2262 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 873: The Senate Appropriations Committee amended and passed HB 873 on November 17 to increase penalties for speeding in a school zone.

    Senate Bill 963: The Senate Appropriations Committee amended and passed SB 963 on November 16, which expands the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System's Board of Trustees to include three retiree representatives.

    Senate Bill 981: Legislation that protects funding for the state's National Guard Educational Assistance Program is on its way to the Governor's desk. The House passed Senate Bill 981 on November 18; the legislation has been subsequently signed in the Senate. Through the program, Guard members can receive five years of college tuition (at the rate charged by the State System of Higher Education) in exchange for six years of service in the National Guard.

    Senate Bill 673: On November 18, the House passed Senate Bill 673, which provides loan forgiveness for teachers of agriculture education. SB 673 has been re-referred to the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee for concurrence with House amendments to the bill.

    Senate Bill 931: On November 16, the House passed SB 931, which extends the state's higher education tuition waiver program to the children of sheriffs, deputy sheriffs and soldiers killed during active duty. The legislation was amended to be retroactive to September 11, 2001. SB 931 has been re-referred to the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee for concurrence with House amendments to the bill.

    Senate Bill 668: The House Appropriations Committee amended and passed SB 668 on November 16. SB 668 requires higher education institutions to annually report campus crime statistics in the uniform format required by the state police. The bill also requires colleges to provide information about security procedures and policies to all students and employees.

    House Bill 2368: The House Appropriations Committee passed HB 2368 on November 15, which allows school districts to negotiate a cyber charter tuition rate with one cyber charter provider. That rate must be accepted by all other cyber charter schools as the tuition fee for that individual school district.

    This weekend, the Pennsylvania legislature is expected to wrap-up the 2003-04 Session. Some of these bills may receive additional attention in these final days. Next week, we'll report on any final action taken during these final days of the legislative session.

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