EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, December 15, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The State Board of Education has selected Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc. (APA) to conduct the statewide education costing-out study mandated by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to determine what it costs to provide students in Pennsylvania with a quality education. The Denver-based consulting firm has broad national experience conducting similar research in states such as Delaware, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas and Maryland, and last year gained experience in Pennsylvania by conducting an economic analysis of the Allentown School District at the behest of business and community leaders in the Lehigh Valley.

    The statewide study called for by Act 114 of 2006 directs APA to determine the basic cost per pupil necessary for all Pennsylvania students to meet the state's academic standards and assessments. The analysis will take into account both the adequacy and equity of education funding to determine if current financial resources are distributed in a way that provides all students with equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location. APA also will evaluate whether there are extraordinary funding needs associated with students affected by poverty, limited English proficiency, or disabilities, and issues unique to urban, suburban and rural school districts. The year-long study is expected to be completed by November 2007. For more information about APA, see http://apaconsulting.net/Flash/index.php.

  • The Task Force on School Cost Reduction, created by Special Session Act 1 of 2006, met Wednesday to continue its fact-finding review in an effort to determine where it will concentrate its investigation of potential cost savings for schools. The committee is tasked with presenting options to the General Assembly and local governments for reducing school costs and identifying best practices used by districts in Pennsylvania and other states to provide services in a cost-effective manner. Previously, the Task Force explored education expenditures that have outpaced the consumer price index as areas where it may be able to make the most useful recommendations.

    This week, the committee reviewed expenditure data related to non-public student transportation and energy spending, as well as information on trends in the mandate waivers approved by the Department of Education (the mandate waiver program allows school districts to seek waivers from compliance with certain state laws and regulations). The most frequent waiver approvals fell into four categories - alternative education, certification, construction and purchasing. The Task Force may look further into whether there are recommendations for cost savings related to these areas where districts most frequently seek relief from state mandates.

    To inform its work, the Task Force will gather input from school board members, school business officials and teachers in conjunction with their associations' annual meetings. This special committee comprised of appointees of the Governor and four legislative caucus leaders has until October 2007 to make its final report. A required quarterly report of its work to date is expected in late January; the committee will meet next on January 17. For more information about the Task Force, including a list of Task Force members and upcoming meeting dates, see www.pde.state.pa.us/k12_finances/cwp/view.asp?a=305&q=123154&k12_financesNav=|10481|&k12_financesNav=|4339|.

  • The State Board of Education held roundtable discussions in Pittsburgh on Monday and in Harrisburg on Wednesday to solicit public comment on revisions to the state's special education and gifted education regulations. For more information, contact the State Board at (717) 787-3787.

  • Governor Ed Rendell has created a new Office of Child Development and Early Learning that will bring together programs in the Departments of Education and Public Welfare that serve the early learning and development needs of children from ages birth through five. Over the next six months, the Office will incorporate the early childhood programs, Head Start, school pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and preschool Early Intervention programs housed in the Department of Education and the child care, early intervention, and family support programs housed in the Department of Public Welfare.

  • Rules for the levy, implementation, administration, assessment and collection of a school district personal income tax are available in the December 2 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The Department of Revenue was required to develop these rules by the Taxpayer Relief Act approved by the General Assembly in June. That Act allows school districts to seek voter approval to reduce a portion of property taxes by shifting to either an earned or personal income tax. Previously, school districts did not have the authority to levy a local PIT. For details, see www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-48/2344.html.

  • Pennsylvania Education Finance Primer

  • EPLC's annually updated Pennsylvania Education Finance Primer is now available. The Primer explains how Pennsylvania funds its public school system, providing historical background and briefly describing each of the major sources of funding. This resource tool is designed to provide useful information to policymakers and others about Pennsylvania's complex $19.6 billion funding.

    The November 2006 edition includes an update on the 2006-2007 state education budget enacted this past summer and also reviews the new property tax relief legislation - Special Session Act 1 of 2006. The Primer also reports on new education costing-out research underway in Pennsylvania, as well as policy considerations for the next legislative session. The Pennsylvania Education Finance Primer is available for either individual or bulk purchase. Click here for an order form.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The State Board of Education holds a public roundtable on the state's special education regulations on Tuesday in King of Prussia. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate will convene on Tuesday, January 2 for the ceremonial swearing-in that marks the beginning of the 2007-2008 Session. The Governor will be sworn-in on Tuesday, January 16, marking the start of Governor Rendell's second term.

  • EPLC's regional Workshops for School Board Candidates will be held in January through March. Look for details about dates and locations in coming weeks here in the Notebook and on EPLC's web site.

To return to the EPLC Education Notebook homepage, click here.

To return to The Education Policy and Leadership Center homepage, click here.