EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Special Session on Property Tax Relief

  • On Tuesday, the House unanimously rejected the latest version of property tax relief legislation passed by the Senate (the Senate plan was amended into Special Session House Bill 39 last week). The following day, the Senate insisted on its changes to HB 39, paving the way for a conference committee to be appointed to hash out a property tax relief deal. This is the second time the House has rejected a Senate-supported plan that would allow a portion of property taxes to be shifted to a local earned income tax and use state gaming revenue to provide property tax relief. Rather, the House preferred its own plan to use the state sales tax, state personal income tax and state gaming revenue to reduce local property taxes (amended into Senate Bill 854 and passed by the House in December). In proposing his 2006-07 state budget last week, Gov. Ed Rendell urged the legislature to pass a property tax relief bill by the end of the month.

  • Links to legislation introduced in the Special Session are available on the EPLC web site at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_k12finance.html#legislation.

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Senate Actions

  • Senator Noah Wenger has been elected Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee by the Senate Republican Caucus. Wenger, who is not running for re-election, will serve as chair through the end of 2006. He replaces Senator Robert Thompson who passed away at the end of January.

  • The Senate gave its stamp of approval to legislation ( Senate Bill 1081) that allows Pennsylvania National Guard members to continue receiving higher education assistance benefits if they are disabled in the line of duty and are no longer able to perform their duties in the Guard. SB 1081 has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

  • House Actions

  • On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee questioned representatives of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) about the agency's 2006-07 budgetary needs. Governor Rendell has proposed increasing funding to PHEAA by 5.3% overall, which includes a 4.9% increase in grants to students (from $368.198 million to $386.198 million), a 119.4% increase for SciTech Scholarships (from $3.1 million to $6.8 million), a 3% increase in Institutional Assistance Grants (from $40.186 million to $41.392 million), and the elimination of the Pennsylvania Internship Program. The Institutional Assistance Grants go to most of the state's private colleges and universities. Rendell also proposed, without being specific, that "the extraordinary earnings" from PHEAA's student loan business should be tapped to accelerate the governor's proposal to put laptop computers on every high school desk and, also, to assist with community college building projects. During testimony, PHEAA Executive Dick Willey said the agency was not advised of this proposal prior to the governor's budget announcement and that PHEAA would have to consider what other public service projects those funds would need to be shifted away from in order to fulfill the governor's request. Willey also said he is unsure whether using funds to support high school laptops is within the agency's mission. PHEAA currently uses profits from its various national services to fund in Pennsylvania grants, scholarships, discounted loans, and loan forgiveness to students, and to support a non-profit foundation that supports student aid programs. PHEAA also uses its earnings to maintain its status as a self-sufficient agency where no operating funds come from tax dollars. Additionally, Willey announced that for FY 2006-07, PHEAA will provide $72.5 million to supplement the state grant program, allowing higher grant awards to be received by more students.

  • 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.

    Research and Reports

  • "Funding the Future: States' Approach to Pre-K Finance," a new report from Pre-K Now, looks at "the range of financial approaches states employ, how effective they have been in raising funds for high-quality programs, how sustainable those sources of funding are, and how they can be increased to improve the quality of and expand access to pre-K." Access the report at www.preknow.org/documents/FundingtheFuture_Feb2006.pdf.

  • A new report from Jobs for the Future (JFF) provides a 50-state review of higher education plans and initiatives in terms of how many states have set numerical goals for higher education enrollment and completion, how these goals are established, and how progress toward these goals is tracked and reported publicly. According to the report, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's strategic plan lays out goals for enrollment, retention and graduation - one of nine states to address all three broad areas examined - but SSHE does not provide a rationale for how these targets were established. Read more in "By the Numbers: State Goals for Increasing Postsecondary Attainment" at www.jff.org/jff/PDFDocuments/BytheNumbers.pdf.

  • Other

  • Register Now...The 2006 Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference will be held Sunday, March 12 to Tuesday, March 14 in Harrisburg. This Fourth Annual conference will feature two Pre-Conference Workshops on March 12 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The Workshops are on "Building Effective Community-Based Education Foundations" and "Interventions that Work to Improve Student Achievement". The Conference begins on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. with a session that looks at the 2006-07 budget proposal made by Governor Rendell. For additional information, including registration materials and a preliminary agenda, see www.eplc.org/conference.html.

  • Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates and campaign staff will be hosted by EPLC in Western Pennsylvania, Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Harrisburg area. These Workshops are open to incumbent and non-incumbent candidates and staff. Registration materials will be available soon.

  • Next Week...The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, will be held February 19-21 in Hershey. EPLC hosts three Pennsylvania Education Policy Forums on the governor's proposed education budget for 2006-07 in Harrisburg on Wednesday, in Pittsburgh on Thursday, and in Philadelphia on Friday. The House Appropriations Committee continues its FY 2006-07 budget hearings with a hearing for The Pennsylvania State University on Wednesday and hearings for Lincoln University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and the State System of Higher Education on Thursday. The American Association of School Administrators holds its annual conference February 23-26 in San Diego. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center hosts a summit on the budgets proposed by President Bush and Governor Rendell on Friday. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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