EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, December 14, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    Annual Education Policy and Leadership Conference March 13-14
    Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates and Campaign Staff
    PA Statewide Education Costing-out Study
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State House
    - State Board of Education
    Pennsylvania Bulletin

    The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.

    SAVE THE DATES! The Annual Education Policy and Leadership Conference is March 13-14, 2008. Registration begins January 1.

    EPLC will again conduct a series of non-partisan day-long regional Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates and Campaign Staff. Look for dates and locations soon.

    In preparing detailed spreadsheets to support the recently released education costing-out study, the authors of the report discovered two errors in demographic data they initially used to prepare the report. These were:

    1. The 2001-02 enrollment modification percentage.

    2. The number of students with disabilities in 2005-06.

    Because these impact the five-year ADM used to calculate the base adequacy amount and the number of special education students used to calculate the adequacy figure for special education, this actually results in somewhat different adequacy amounts for every district in the state. It is important to note that this does not change the overall conclusions of the report nor any of the actual components of the adequacy calculation itself - the base amount per student, the weights for students with disabilities, low-income students, English language learners, and gifted students, the district size adjustment, and the regional cost of living adjustment. The numbers APA has now changed will all be changed again in the coming months, as updated data for 2006-07 become available.

    Here are the key results of the changes:

    1. The statewide average adequacy amount per pupil is $11,926 (not $12,057), requiring an average increase of $2,414 (not $2,545) per ADM.

    2. Overall statewide adequacy spending is $21.63 billion (not $21.86 billion), requiring an increase of $4.38 billion (not $4.61 billion) or 25.4 percent (not 26.8 percent).

    3. 471 districts (not 474) are spending below their adequacy amounts; the other 30 (not 27) are spending above their adequacy amounts.

    For an updated summary from the State Board of Education, click on Costing-Out Study Revised Summary 12-10-07 (PDF) or go to http://www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed.

    Pennsylvania House

    The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution to establish a Joint Legislative Commission on Public School Finance. The Commission created by House Resolution 460 would be responsible for using the results of the recently-released statewide education costing-out study to develop a new formula for funding Pennsylvania's public schools. This joint resolution now goes to the full House for consideration and requires subsequent passage by the Senate. Since the Legislature recessed on Wednesday for the Holiday Season, no further action can occur until January at the earliest.

    Specifically, the proposed Commission would:

    • review the findings and recommendations of the statewide education costing-out study;

    • examine national trends in educational funding, including foundation programs, percentage equalization and guaranteed yield programs and their potential relevance for Pennsylvania;

    • review systems that assist in determining student achievement such as a value-added assessment system;

    • examine federal mandates, including IDEA and NCLB and their impact on Pennsylvania's public schools;

    • examine state regulations, standards and guidelines that implement Federal and state laws and their impact on Pennsylvania's public schools;

    • study demographic patterns within Pennsylvania in order to determine the impact of both growth and decline in student enrollments on school districts' operations and costs, and the positive and negative aspects of school consolidation as a means to affect cost efficiencies;

    • examine the efficacy of consolidating existing funding programs used to disperse state education funds and to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of targeted categorical funding;

    • review the findings and recommendations of the recent Task Force on School Cost Reduction;

    • examine opportunities for improved cooperation and consolidation among school districts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of districts' operations in order to achieve savings and to enhance student achievement; and,

    • examine statewide trends in the student population in Pennsylvania's schools including students with disabilities, students living in poverty and students with limited English proficiency, and their impact on costs to Pennsylvania's public schools associated with these students meeting state academic standards and the NCLB Act.

    The 41-member Commission composed of policymakers, business and non-profit leaders, parents and professional educators would be chaired by an education finance expert from a Pennsylvania college or university. Appointments to the Commission must be made within 45 days of adoption of the resolution by both chambers, and the Commission must hold its first meeting no later than 30 days following the appointment of members. The group would have one year to develop at least two formulae for the adequate and equitable distribution of state public education funds, and must make an interim report of its findings mid-way through the year.

    State Board of Education

    High School Graduation Requirements
    The State Board of Education this week traveled to Clarion and Williamsport to solicit public input on issues related to high school graduation requirements. Conversation at these roundtable discussions will help inform draft regulatory changes to Chapter 4 the Board may advance in January. Recently, the Board released a revised discussion paper that outlines changes the Board could recommend to the state's current high school graduation requirements.

    The proposal in the Board's discussion paper would require students to demonstrate proficiency in science and social studies, in addition to reading, writing and math. School districts could use any combination of the following assessment options to determine student proficiency: state PSSAs, local assessments (that are independently validated as aligned to state standards and proficiency levels), graduation competency assessments administered by PDE, and advanced placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

    The proposal maintains current regulations for students with disabilities to be granted a regular high school diploma after successful completion of a special education program developed by an IEP team. Finally, the proposal would require appropriate testing accommodations (following state guidelines) for students with disabilities and English language learners.

    State Academic Standards
    The State Board of Education is embarking on a two-year review of the state's academic standards in order to update, consolidate and add clarity to the standards. Work initially will focus on the academic standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Mathematics, then move to review standards for Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, History, Civics and Government, Economics and Geography. The Board is soliciting input from educators on this project that will be coordinated by the Capitol Area Intermediate Unit in conjunction with several other IUs. To participate in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards Review Survey, visit http://standardsproject.caiu.org. Surveys will be available for completion until midnight on December 31, 2007.

    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.

    The December 8 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes proposed changes to Chapter 711, Pennsylvania Department of Education rules related to charter school and cyber charter school services and programs for children with disabilities. The changes are necessary to comply with new federal regulations and recent court rulings (Chapter 14, the state special education regulations for school districts which are undergoing similar revisions, does not apply to students in charter or cyber charter schools). Proposed changes were informed by a series of stakeholder meetings held in December 2006 and January 2007. To review the proposed changes and for instructions on how to submit public comment to PDE on the proposal, see www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol37/37-49/2201.html.

  • State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gibson Armstrong (R-13) will not seek re-election following the 2007-08 legislative session. Armstrong joined the Pennsylvania Senate in 1985 after serving in the state House since 1977.

  • State Representatives Edward Wojnaroski (D-71) and Carole Rubley (R-157) also announced they will not seek re-election. Wojnaroski has served in the state House since 1997. Rubley joined the House in 1993.

  • Friends and colleagues joined together this past week to give much deserved recognition and thanks to Dr. Paula Hess, education advisor to House Republican leader Sam Smith. Dr. Hess is retiring from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this month. She has for many years been a key education advisor to House Republican leaders who employed her, but also to every other legislator and staff member of both parties who worked on education issues. Formerly the Executive Director of the House Education Committee, she also has been a highly trusted and respected counselor for all other education leaders and advocates on the Harrisburg scene.

    The Pennsylvania General Assembly adjourned its legislative session for the remainder of 2007 this week and will return to session in January 2008.

    House Session Schedule for the beginning of 2008:
    January 1 (non-voting), 14, 15, 16, 28, 29, and 30
    February 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13
    March 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 31
    April 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9
    May 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14
    June 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30

    Senate Session Schedule for the beginning of 2008:
    January 1, 14, 15, 16, 28, 29, and 30
    February 4, 5, 6, 11, and 12
    March 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 31
    April 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 28, 29, and 30
    May 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21
    June 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 30

    For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

    EPLC Education Notebook is published by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Permission to reprint or electronically redistribute the Notebook in whole or in part is granted provided attribution to EPLC is provided.

    The Education Policy and Leadership Center is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization. The Mission of EPLC is to encourage and support the enactment and implementation of effective state-level education policies in order to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.

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

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