EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, March 27, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    House-Senate Conference Committee

  • The House-Senate Conference Committee appointed to negotiate a property tax reform agreement will hold an organizational meeting on Monday, March 27. The meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Room 140, Main Capitol Building.

  • Senate Activity

  • The Senate passed the following legislation last week:

    Senate Bill 1164: Allocates $39.455 million to the Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement Fund for FY 2006-07 administrative operations. SB 1164 awaits referral to a House Committee.

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee moved forward the following legislation last Monday:

    Senate Bill 592: Allows the Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) to keep confidential some investment information during the time the investment is being negotiated. SB 592 has been re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

  • The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee moved forward the following legislation on Tuesday (both bills await consideration by the full Senate):

    House Bill 2296: Exempts military personnel licensed by the Departments of Education, State, Labor and Industry, Insurance, and Banking from continuing education requirements during wartime or preparation for national defense during a national emergency and allows such individuals to renew licenses upon military discharge as if all continuing education requirements have been fulfilled.

    Senate Bill 1043: Expands current law to provide a full tuition and fee waiver to the children and spouses of Pennsylvania National Guard members who are killed in the line of duty. The waiver would cover the cost of attending a Pennsylvania state-owned university, state-related university, community college, or approved trade school. To quality, individuals must reside in Pennsylvania at the time they apply for the waiver.

  • On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on legislation that would allow students to transfer credits earned for core academic courses between publicly-funded higher education institutions without losing credits ( Senate Bill 1147). Know as articulation agreements, SB 1147 requires Pennsylvania's community colleges, State System of Higher Education universities and state-related universities to develop a statewide system for transfer of core course credit by June 30, 2007. If the institutions do not meet the deadline, the Pennsylvania Department of Education would be authorized to implement a statewide articulation agreement through regulation. Private colleges would have the option to participate. Bill sponsor Senator James Rhoades said developing a statewide articulation agreement will not only save students' time and money toward completing their degrees, but will save the state money by eliminating the duplicative use of state dollars for students to repeat courses.

    Dr. Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College, said the PA Commission for Community Colleges supports the development of a statewide articulation agreement, and suggested an agreement be formed only between community colleges and the State System of Higher Education as a starting point. Stout said community colleges are attracting students who view the institutions "as steppingstones to a baccalaureate degree", as well as experiencing "reverse transfers" where students with college experience are transferring to 2-year institutions, all of which need to be accounted for in a statewide agreement. Dr. Kathleen Howley, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs at SSHE, noted that work on articulation issues between SSHE and community colleges has been ongoing. The Education Committee will hold a second hearing on articulation on Wednesday, March 29 to hear from representatives of state-related and private colleges and universities.

  • House Activity

  • The House Select Committee on Academic Freedom held public hearings in Millersville on Wednesday and Thursday. The Select Committee was established by House Resolution 177 of 2005, which directs the body to investigate "the academic atmosphere and the degree to which faculty have the opportunity to instruct and students have the opportunity to learn in an environment conducive to the pursuit of knowledge and truth and the expression of independent thought" at state-supported colleges and universities. Thus far, most observers of this and previous hearings agree that little information has been produced to suggest any statewide problem demanding legislative attention. While the hearings have attracted national attention and likely will continue, don't look for any change in state policy. For more information about the hearings, contact the office of Committee Chair Thomas Stevenson at (717) 787-2047.

  • 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

  • Pennsylvania ranks 30th nationally in access to preschool for 4-year-olds (out of 38 states that publicly funded preschool in 2004-05), according to an annual update from the National Center for Early Education Research (NIEER). The Center's "2005 State Preschool Yearbook" reviews preschool programs nationally in terms of access, resources and quality. Across the U.S., 800,000 children were enrolled in publicly funded preschools in 2004-05, which accounts for 17% of the nation's 4-year-olds and 3 percent of the nation's 3-year-olds. Nationally, enrollment has increased by about 16 percent in the past four years. In Pennsylvania, 4-year-old enrollment in publicly funded preschools has increased from 2 percent in 2003-04 to 5 percent in 2004-05. Though access to preschool in Pennsylvania is improving, the state remains below average on funding.

    In 2004-05, the Commonwealth spent $2,954 per student enrolled in preschool, compared to the national average of $3,551. States varied dramatically in terms of preschool spending - ranging from a high of $9,305 per student in New Jersey to a low of $721 per student in Maryland. NIEER notes that though inflation-adjusted spending has grown nationally over the past four years, spending per child actually has declined because enrollment growth has outpaced funding increases. In terms of program quality, Pennsylvania met only two of the ten quality indicators measured by NIEER - a requirement that teachers hold a bachelor's degree and that programs require at least 15 hours of in-service training. Only one state - Arkansas - met all 10 quality indicators measured.

    The administration of Governor Rendell has prioritized early education for new state funding and standards for quality improvement. Pennsylvania is in the midst of developing state standards for preschool education that will address program quality issues. The NIEER "State of Preschool" report, which also includes information on funding for Head Start programs, is available online at http://nieer.org/yearbook/. Access the Pennsylvania State Profile at http://nieer.org/yearbook/pdf/yearbook.pdf#page=130.

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

    Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 2003-2004 Private School Universe Survey at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006319

    Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2004; Graduation Rates, 1998 & 2001 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2004 at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006155

    Instructional Focus in First Grade at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006056

    Fifth Grade: Findings from the Fifth-Grade Follow-Up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006038

    Characteristics of Schools, Districts, Teachers, Principals, and School Libraries in the United States: 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006313

  • Other

  • Sally Stroup, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, has resigned her post with the U.S. Department of Education. Stroup plans to leave the Department in mid-April to become deputy staff director of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

  • This Week...The Property Tax Conference Committee (appointed to negotiate a resolution to Special Session House Bill 39) holds an organizational meeting Monday. The Senate Finance Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 592 on Tuesday. The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on articulation agreements Wednesday in Harrisburg. The House Education Committee holds an informational meeting on high school drop-outs in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators (PA-CTE) hosts its spring conference Thursday in State College. The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Association of University Women hosts its annual convention March 31-April 2 in Johnstown. The National Association of Elementary School Principals holds its annual convention March 31-April 4 in San Antonio. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development holds its annual conference and exhibit April 1-3 in Chicago. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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