EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 27, 2007

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Senate Activity

  • The Senate passed legislation ( Senate Bill 112) this week that expands the scope of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) school districts have with local law enforcement to include protocols for notification of crimes committed on school property, emergency response procedures, review of school violence reports and resolution of report discrepancies before they are submitted to PDE. SB 112 also adds specific offenses to the annually required school violence reports to clarify the incidents that districts must report. Finally, it requires PDE to convene an advisory committee of school and law enforcement personnel to assist in developing school violence reporting forms. Districts that do not immediately report violent offenses and incidents involving weapons possession, fail to submit annual school safety reports, fail to enter into a MOU, or fail to submit the MOU to PDE face fines ranging from $2,500 on first offense to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense. The PDE Office of Safe Schools would receive any money collected from the fines.


  • The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday, regarding the pending reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

    The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) laid out seven recommendations for the direction that the federal government should move in reauthorization. PSEA focused first on revising the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability system to include multiple measures so that school progress is not based solely on standardized tests. It also advocated the utilization of growth models to measure changes in student performance. In addition, PSEA encouraged flexibility in assessing and counting test scores for students with disabilities and English language learners (ELL). PSEA testified that, in its current form, NCLB is promoting a system of destructive penalties rather than providing schools with the constructive assistance that is needed. The union urged that the revised Act provide for differentiated outcomes for schools, so that a school that falls short in just one or two criteria would implement a targeted improvement plan specific to those student subgroups. Finally, PSEA suggested separately funding class size reduction, increasing flexibility for meeting "highly qualified" teacher requirements, and creating measures to advance teacher quality at the highest poverty schools.

    AFT Pennsylvania echoed many of the sentiments of PSEA, adding that districts should be provided with the resources needed to implement research-based interventions. AFT PA also focused on the importance of establishing a safe and secure environment for students and teachers, and noted the failure to fund NCLB at the level Congress promised.

    The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) underscored the aforementioned issues with AYP, assessments, sanctions, and funding. PSBA president William LaCoff articulated further suggestions for dealing with school sanctions and highlighted proposed federal legislation (House Resolution 648) which addresses multiple aspects of NCLB. Among the changes it makes to NCLB, H.R. 648 would apply sanctions to districts and schools only when AYP is not met by the same subgroup in the same subject or indicator for two or more consecutive years. It also would make school choice and supplemental education services (SES) available only to those students belonging to a failed subgroup, limit the use of NCLB's school restructuring sanction, and increase flexibility in assessing special education students.

    Ron Cowell, president of The Education Policy and Leadership Center, reiterated earlier recommendations related to the use of growth models and providing appropriate accommodations for assessing students with special needs and English language learners, and also added support for the establishment of a set of voluntary national standards in core subject areas. Cowell further called for a change in the sequencing of certain consequences related to a school being on a "need improvement" list. He also emphasized the responsibility of state government to provide a statewide education funding system that would ensure every student access to a high-quality education program that would enable them to meet the expectations of NCLB and Pennsylvania's academic standards. To read a copy of Cowell's remarks, see www.eplc.org/testimony/nclb.html.

    Finally, Baruch Kintisch of the Education Law Center emphasized the need for adequate funding in order to ensure that standards and accountability systems are effectively implemented and result in real school reforms. Kintisch also emphasized the importance of targeting funds to the schools most in need, creating measures to affirm the commitment to NCLB's parent and community involvement provisions as the centerpiece of achievement gap reduction efforts, and ensuring meaningful enforcement of the law's teacher quality provisions.



  • House Activity

  • The House passed the following legislation this week (both bills await referral to a Senate Committee):

    House Bill 503: Makes constables eligible to serve as school directors.

    House Bill 111: Requires PDE to gather and disseminate to public and private schools materials for teaching economics and personal finance curriculum as identified in the state's academic standards for Economics, Family and Consumer Science and Career Education and Work. The legislation also creates an Economic Education and Personal Financial Literacy Fund that would support PDE's implementation and administration of HB 111. To enable PDE to raise funding to support economic and financial literacy programs the bill was amended to allow PDE to accept and expend state and federal appropriations, gifts, donations, legacies and moneys from individuals, organizations, public or private corporations and similar entities; to apply for, accept and expend federal and state grants; and, to pursue and establish partnerships with organizations, public and private corporations and similar entities through which it may raise money. This replaces previous language that authorized PDE to solicit funds to support these programs, which some members felt is not the proper role of the Department.


  • The House Appropriations Committee passed legislation ( House Bill 120) this week that requires students who withdraw from school or are illegally absent for more than 10 days to be interviewed as to why the student is absent or dropping out and to make the student aware of alternatives to dropping out of school. HB 120 allows principals to conduct or designate another individual to conduct these interviews. If a student fails to complete the interview, the student's parent or guardian must complete an interview on behalf of the child within 15 days after the last day the child attended school or may face a civil penalty imposed by the school district. The school principal must send written notice to the child's parent or guardian making them aware of the required interview and penalty for failure to comply.

    Additionally, HB 120 requires PDE to develop a standard form for exit interviews that school districts would be required to file with the Department. Data from exit interviews would be incorporated into PDE's report on graduation and dropouts. This legislation does not apply to students withdrawing to attend a charter school, cyber charter school, home education program, non-public non-licensed school, private academic school or approved higher education institution. HB 120 has been re-committed back to the Appropriations Committee.


  • The House Education Committee passed the following legislation on Wednesday:

    House Bill 847: Establishes training requirements for school leaders aligned with PDE's Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Program (PIL). Based on comments presented at a previous Committee hearing, the bill was amended to provide greater specification of such training programs in statute, rather than requiring all details about these programs to be placed in regulations established by the State Board of Education as originally proposed.

    The bill defines in statute "Pennsylvania School Leadership Standards," referencing the three core and six corollary standards that are the basis of the current PIL program. For a copy of these standards, see www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=210&&PageID=207025&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true.

    HB 847 requires all superintendents and assistant superintendents to complete a college or university or graduate program that includes the Pennsylvania School Leadership Standards, unless the candidate can provide evidence he or she has completed an equivalent leadership development program that addresses the standards. The bill was amended to include special provisions that grandfather current Pennsylvania county, district, or assistant county or district superintendents or associate superintendents, and also allow five years of administrative service as an assistant, associate or deputy superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia to substitute for prescribed graduate administrative courses (if approved by the Secretary of Education).

    New school principals hired after January 1, 2008 would be required to complete an induction program within five years of appointment as a principal, vice principal or assistant principal. Individuals who apply to be certified as a principal, vice principal or assistant principal after January 1, 2008 would be issued an Administrative I certificate valid for five years of service, during which time the individual must complete the proposed induction program for new principals. An individual would be issued a permanent Administrative II certificate after three years of satisfactory service and completion of the induction program.

    The proposed induction program would be based on the Pennsylvania School Leadership Standards' three core standards and would be offered free of charge by PDE. PDE also may approve other providers to offer induction programs; however, participants would have to pay to participate in programs offered by other providers. The bill limits participation in an induction program to no more than 36 hours during any one school year or a total of 108 hours. Participation in induction programs may be applied toward an educator's state-mandated professional development requirements.

    Finally, the bill requires school leaders to participate in ongoing professional development programs aligned with PA's School Leadership Standards and requires PDE to offer, at no cost, continuing education programs that meet these requirements. PDE also would approve other professional development providers that offer programs aligned with these standards and must annually publish a list of approved providers. HB 847 has bee placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    House Bill 848: Prohibits unused and unnecessary school buildings and land from being sold for less than 80 percent of their fair market value, unless the building or land is donated to a political subdivision in Pennsylvania or to a nonprofit corporation that qualifies as an institution of purely public charity. HB 848 addresses the calculation of fair market value. The bill also requires school buildings that cannot be sold or donated under these conditions to be demolished by the school district within 10 years of the building becoming unused. An amendment was added to create exceptions to this demolition provision. A school district would not be required to demolish a building if the school board has determined by resolution that the building is necessary for future use by the district, the building is maintained in accordance with local building or health and safety ordinances, or the building is located on school property with at least one other school building that is used for the instruction of students. HB 848 has bee placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    House Bill 119: Revises the required contents of the state's Master Plan for Higher Education to make the plan more relevant to Pennsylvania's modern system of postsecondary education. HB 119 requires the plan to: describe the current higher education landscape in Pennsylvania; identify unmet needs and gaps with regard to career fields, geographic and financial access; identify emerging higher education issues and recommend strategies and options designed to address these issues; identify gaps and opportunities for collaboration with basic education, workforce development programs, economic development and other related systems; and, outline a plan for action by the Board to revise or update its higher education regulations. The State Board of Education is required to adopt a Master Plan every five years. HB 119 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 932: Increases dual enrollment dollars targeted to low-income students and decrease dollars targeted to students enrolled in charter schools, nonpublic schools, private schools or home education programs. Of the funds appropriated for dual enrollment programs, 30% would be targeted to low-income students (up from 15% in current law) and 4.8% would be targeted to charter, nonpublic, private and homeschooled students (down from 6% in current law). HB 932 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    The Education Committee also spoke with State Board of Education Executive Director Jim Buckheit about concerns it has expressed in a letter about a proposal before the Board to realign the state's teacher certification system (Chapter 49-2). Buckheit said the Board hopes to move a set of draft final regulations related to this issue at its May 17 meeting and will take into consideration all comments received in developing its final proposal. The Board has scheduled a meeting to discuss these draft regulations next week on May 4.


  • On Tuesday, the House Local Government Committee passed legislation ( House Bill 71) that requires municipalities to notify school districts monthly about plats approved for residential development, as well as residential development plans granted final approval. HB 71 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.


  • The House Judiciary Committee this week passed two measures related to school security. House Bill 768 specifies training for school police officers under the Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Program. Current school police officers would have two years to complete the required training; new hires must complete the training in order to be hired by a school district. HB 768 also makes school districts eligible for the same reimbursement that municipalities receive for the costs of this training. In addition to tuition and other related costs, the reimbursement includes 60 percent of an officer's salary while completing the training. If a school police officer resigns within two years of certification, the municipality or school district that subsequently hires the officer would be responsible for reimbursing the school district for the portion of their salary that was not paid by the state. HB 768 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 769 defines the roles and responsibilities of school security officers, school police officers, and school resource officers and requires certain training for all three groups. The bill was amended to require the Department of Education to provide and fund training for school police officers, school resource officers and school security officers focused on topics specific to the school setting. Training must be offered regionally at least twice per year. Additionally, PDE must provide and fund training for school security officers focused on safety procedures and offer such training regionally at least twice per year. Other changes to the bill allow a court of the common pleas to grant authority for school police officers to carry firearms. (Currently, the court of common pleas grants school police officers the power to arrest, the authority to issue citations for summary offenses, and/or the authority to detain students until local law enforcement arrives.) Finally, HB 769 requires school districts to report annually to the Office for Safe Schools: the number of officers employed by the district; the municipalities comprising the school district; the date and type of training provided to each officer; and, the agency that commissions an officer and the name of the commanding officer of that agency. HB 769 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.



  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The State Board of Education Committee reviewing possible changes to Chapter 4 (Academic Standards and Assessments) met Tuesday. For more information about the meeting, contact the State Board at (717) 787-3787.


  • Information about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including details on contacting your local state representatives and locating bills cited in this Notebook, is available at www.legis.state.pa.us/index.cfm.


    Appointments

  • Jennifer Hoover-Vogel has been named Republican Executive Director of the House Education Committee. Hoover-Vogel, who previously worked for the Committee, replaces David Dumeyer who retired.



  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The Center for Schools and Communities hosts its 2007 Safe Schools Conference on April 30-May 2. EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program meets for a Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 1. The Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Education Foundations holds its annual conference Tuesday, May 1 in the Lehigh Valley. The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on security at Pennsylvania's higher education institutions on Wednesday. The House Education Committee holds a public hearing Wednesday on school lunch funding. The House Education Subcommittee on Special Education meets Wednesday to discuss autism and education. The State Board of Education Committee on Chapter 49 meets Friday to discuss draft final regulations realigning the state's teacher certification system. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.



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