EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, June 12, 2006

    Update on Special Session on Property Tax Relief

    After returning to session last week following the Primary Election recess, the State House and Senate took no immediate action on the still unresolved "special session" property tax relief issue. Republican leaders in the House and Senate seem to remain at odds with each other over what course of action to pursue. The Republican majority in the House itself seems to remain very divided on the issue.

    The latest development...Republican State Senators Jeff Piccola and Joe Conti plan to hold a news conference today at noon in the Capitol to unveil their plan to break the impasse on the issue of local property tax reform.

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Senate Actions

  • The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee wants to instill healthy eating habits in young children, with the hope that introducing healthy habits at an early age positively will influence kids' future food choices. Wednesday, the Committee approved legislation ( Senate Bill 1209) establishing a program to make grants available for kindergarten classrooms in Pennsylvania's public and private schools to offer nutritional and agriculture education programs. The Healthy Farms and Healthy Schools Act also is designed to benefit Pennsylvania's farmers by exposing students and their families to locally grown nutritional foods. SB 1209 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • House Actions

  • On Tuesday, the House Children & Youth Committee and the Senate Aging & Youth Committee held a joint informational meeting on the prevention of child abuse and neglect. For more information, contact the office of House Committee Chair Jerry Birmelin at (717) 783-2037 or Senate Committee Chair Jane Orie at (717) 787-6538.

  • The Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) would expand by $20 million if House Bill 2585 - approved by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday - becomes law. The bill expands the amount of allowable credits from $44 million to $64 million per year, with $42.666 million earmarked for business contributions to scholarship organizations and $21.333 earmarked for business contributions to educational improvement organizations. This program was established during the Ridge-Schweiker Administration. The scholarship organizations are primarily intended to provide assistance to students attending non-public schools. HB 2585 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.

  • The House Appropriations Committee moved forward legislation ( House Bill 2055) that places limitations on superintendents' contracts. HB 2055 restricts contracts awarded to superintendents who have no prior experience to a maximum of three years. Individuals with experience as a superintendent or assistant superintendent would continue to be subject to current state law which allows them to be awarded three- to five-year contracts. Further, the bill delineates clauses written contracts for all superintendents and assistant superintendents must incorporate, including outlining the terms and conditions of employment; specifying duties, responsibilities, job description and performance expectations; specifying all compensation and benefits to be paid; and defining outside work that may be performed. HB 2055 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • The House Appropriations Committee also moved forward legislation ( Senate Bill 143) that requires school districts to adopt parent involvement policies, programs, and committees and requires PDE to develop a clearinghouse of parent involvement information to assist districts in establishing such policies and programs. SB 143 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The anticipated state surplus for the current fiscal year has grown since the Governor delivered his budget message in February. Governor Ed Rendell is asking the legislature to consider using surplus revenue from the end of FY 2005-06 to supplement education programs proposed for next year. Specifically, the Governor requests that funding be earmarked to:

    • Help school districts cover higher than anticipated fuel costs ($11 million)

    • Make contributions to college tuition savings plans (TAP 529 plans) tax free ($18 million)

    • Increase funding for early intervention programs that serve preschoolers with special education needs ($6.2 million)

    • Provide additional funding for school district charter school reimbursement ($7.2 million)

  • The Office of Governor Ed Rendell hosted a meeting Wednesday highlighting a recent synthesis of research on the short-term and long-term impacts of early childhood intervention programs, effective program features, and the economic return on early childhood investments. The study conducted by RAND reviewed programs that serve children and their families from the prenatal period through kindergarten entry age by providing home visiting, parent education and early childhood education services either alone or in combination. Research indicates such programs positively impact children's cognitive skills, behavioral and emotional competencies, educational achievement, child maltreatment, health, criminal behavior, social welfare program use, and labor marker success. RAND senior economist Dr. Lynn Karoly said while some immediate cognitive benefits may fade, research demonstrates that other benefits can last into adulthood.

    While additional study is needed to identify the most effective intervention features, Karoly said current research identifies three elements associated with more effective programs: (1) better-trained caregivers, (2) smaller child-to-staff ratios (for center-based programs) and (3) more intensive programs (though there in not enough evidence to indicate the ideal number of program hours). RAND's evaluation found that high-quality early childhood programs do provide a return on investment (between $1 to $17 dollars for every dollar invested), with most returns accruing later in life (not all programs evaluated included children old enough to analyze the cost-benefits past childhood). Additionally, Karoly said cost-benefit estimates "are likely to be conservative" because of intangible benefits that cannot be translated into dollars. For more information, read "Early Childhood Interventions: Proven Results, Future Promise" at www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG341/.

    Additional research conducted by RAND discusses the pros and cons of implementing either universal or targeted preschool programs. More detailed information about this research, as well as a summary of the "Early Childhood Interventions" report discussed above, is available in an article from the Fall 2005 RAND Review at www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/fall2005/returns.html.

  • Pennsylvania Bulletin...The June 3, 2006, edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes publication of a State Board of Education resolution regarding the highly qualified teacher requirements of No Child Left Behind and publication of State Board meeting dates for 2007. Access the Bulletin at www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-22/index.html.

  • 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

    Higher Education

  • Graduates of Pennsylvania's independent colleges and universities face low levels of unemployment and about half (49%) have earned or are pursuing an additional degree five years after graduation, according to a recent alumni survey conducted by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. The survey also found that "alumni who had enrolled as students from low-income families were almost indistinguishable from higher income classmates in regards to occupation, annual earnings, community involvement, and continued education." Learn how many graduates continue to reside in PA and more at www.aicup.org/research/2005_BACC_Outcomes/BACCReport.pdf.

  • Early Childhood Education

  • The Education Commission of the States recently identified five emerging issues in early childhood education that policymakers should consider in order to sustain and expand early learning programs: (1) Sustaining program expansion and appropriately directing funds; (2) Strengthening the coordination, alignment and governance of programs and services for young children; (3) Making more purposeful, productive use of accountability and assessment mechanisms; (4) Ensuring quality - program and personnel; and (5) Engaging parents. A short paper discussing each issue as well as policy questions to consider is available online at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/68/84/6884.pdf.

  • Condition of Education

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the following report:

    "The Condition of Education 2006" at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006071

  • Datebook

  • Apply Now...The Education Policy and Leadership Center is now accepting applications for the 2006-07 class of the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The EPFP is a nationally-recognized professional development program that brings together a cohort of professionals from education, government, military, human services and the business community. Participants develop a broadened understanding of the policy process, as well as enhance their communication and decision-making skills and refine their potential for leadership. The 2006-07 EPFP, comprised of 10 full-day seminars and two national conferences, begins in September. For more information, see www.eplc.org/fellows.html.

  • Next Week...The 2005-2006 class of EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program graduates on Tuesday. The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1252, 2608, 2629, 1537 and 442. The Coalition for Community Schools holds its National Forum in Baltimore on June 14-16. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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