EPLC Education Notebook
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Reminder: Tuesday, February 13, will be the first day to circulate petitions for school board elections in 500 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts (only Philadelphia has an appointed board). More than 2000 school board positions across the Commonwealth will be on the May 15 Primary Election ballot.
Proposed FY 2007-2008 State Budget
- Governor's Rendell presented his FY 2007-2008 state
budget proposal on Tuesday. The budget calls for
expanding pre-K and full-day kindergarten programs
with new dedicated funding; expanding current high school
reform initiatives related to dual enrollment, building
a more rigorous curriculum, and putting laptop computers in
classrooms; boosting funding to improve elementary level science
instruction; increasing funding for teacher
professional development; and increasing funding to
reimburse school districts for charter school costs.
It establishes new initiatives focused on improving
child wellness by expanding school breakfast
programs and creating an incentive for schools to serve healthier
foods in their cafeterias, encourages local cost savings by
exploring shared services between consortiums
of schools districts, and expands access to
degree-granting high-skill occupation programs by establishing new
Technical College Programs in underserved areas
of the state. Detailed fact sheets about proposed funding for
these and other budget initiatives are available from the Department
of Education at
and the Office of Child Development and Early Learning at
The Governor proposed a 3.5% ($166.7 million) increase for the
basic education subsidy, a 3% ($29.4 million)
increase for special education, and a 3%
($1.834 million) increase for career and technical education.
Within the basic education appropriation, $58 million is earmarked for
Foundation Funding, designed to help 169 school
districts move toward a minimum per student funding level. The
budget provides an inflationary increase to establish the new
foundation level at $9,337 per pupil and recognizes the extraordinary
circumstances faced by districts with high concentrations of poverty
by providing a 20% adjustment for high-poverty districts, bringing
their foundation target to $11,204.
The budget calls for a new $25 million appropriation to expand
full-day kindergarten programs and a new $75
million appropriation to expand pre-K programs.
Both of these programs and appropriations are embedded into the
Accountability Block Grant which otherwise is maintained at the
current $250 million level.
Community colleges would receive a 3% increase
for operating costs and a 6% increase for capital under Rendell's
FY 07-08 budget proposal. Funding for the Pennsylvania
State System of Higher Education would rise by 3.5% and
state-related universities would see a 2% increase. Student
financial aid would be flat-funded in the Pennsylvania
Higher Education Assistance Agency's (PHEAA) budget,
however, the Administration wants to have PHEAA earnings tapped
to increase funding for the state grant program.
The Governor also is seeking a 1% state sales tax increase
that would be partly used to reduce local property taxes.
Using $420 million in new sales tax revenue (for 07-08) combined
with new gaming revenue dedicated to property tax relief, Rendell
hopes to begin providing tax relief to all homeowners this summer,
a year earlier than provided for in the tax reform legislation
enacted this past June. Looking forward, Rendell wants to dedicate
$700 million of sales tax revenues annually to "permanently" reduce
Finally, in his budget address, the Governor also spoke to the
need to address growing pension obligations that could "undermine
the foundation of fiscal stability of this state and our school
districts" in four years if not addressed. Without providing
detail, Rendell said he has developed a plan to address the state's
pension obligations and will work with the General Assembly to
bring a long-term solution to fruition this fall.
For more information about the proposed FY 2007-2008 state education
budget, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at
Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity
- On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee
moved forward several bills which were reintroduced from the
2005-2006 legislative session. Each bill has been re-referred
to the Senate Appropriations Committee:
Senate Bill 71: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
71 of 2005-2006 session) Requires all school entities to adopt policies related to bullying or to amend their code of student conduct to include consequences for bullying. SB 71 also allows the Office for Safe Schools to make grants to schools for developing and implementing bullying prevention programs as part of the targeted grants the Office is currently authorized to make.
Senate Bill 154: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
148 of 2005-2006 session) Requires school districts in which one or more schools did not meet academic performance targets to revise their professional development plans to focus on subjects in which they failed to meet targets, methods to improve the achievement of student subgroups, and training for instructional coaches. Also, requires the Department of Education to provide a clearinghouse of continuing education experiences cataloged by area of assignment, certification area, and topic. Additionally, SB 154 was amended to include pre-kindergarten educators in a professional development plan's early childhood activities; current law references only kindergarten through third grade educators for participation in early childhood activities.
Senate Bill 155: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
297 of 2005-2006 session Allows intermediate units to coordinate a pool of educational advisors to provide assistance to schools and school districts identified for school improvement or corrective action; assistance would be provided upon request. Also, establishes qualifications for educational advisors.
Senate Bill 157: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
146 of 2005-2006 session) Requires intermediate units to provide academic assistance to school districts in which one or more schools did not meet the state's academic performance targets and to coordinate a team to develop an academic improvement plan for the district. SB 157 was amended to qualify that the legislation does not supercede or preempt a collective bargaining agreement.
Senate Bill 158: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
143 - 2005-2006 session) Requires school districts to establish parent involvement programs, policies, and committees.
Senate Bill 219: (reintroduction of Senate Bill
647 of 2005-2006 session) Allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to authorize paperwork required for teacher licensure which certifies that the individual seeking a teaching certificate is not mentally or physically disqualified from performing teaching duties. Currently only physicians may certify this requirement. SB 219 was amended to include an unrelated provision adding to the state law requiring federal criminal background checks for certain prospective school employees. The amendment requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to, at a minimum, prescribe a method for applicants to submit fingerprints to be transmitted to the FBI. Under current law, certain applicants must submit federal criminal history records along with applications for employment beginning April 1, 2007.
- The Pennsylvania Senate has added new
features to its web site listing roll call votes on
legislation considered before the full Senate and votes
taken in Senate Committees. Senate voting records can
be accessed from the General Assembly's homepage at
Information about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including
details on contacting your local state representatives and locating
bills cited in this Notebook, is available at
- The Pennsylvania Education Funding Reform Campaign
is inviting youth groups, after-school programs, advocacy groups,
church groups or other community groups that work directly with
middle or high school students to become part of a project
to showcase student voices on education funding reform through
documentary photography. The project is currently
underway in the Philadelphia School District; two additional
communities will be selected to participate. Details about the
project are available at
Applications are due to the Education Law Center, the coordinating organization,
by Monday, March 12. The Pennsylvania Education Funding Reform Campaign is a
joint effort of the Education Law Center, Good Schools Pennsylvania and The
Education Policy and Leadership Center.
- EPLC is again offering regional Workshops for 2007
school board candidates. The Workshops are being offered by EPLC with the cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). Workshops are intended for incumbent board members and new candidates, as well as all citizens who plan to be actively involved in school board elections as campaign volunteers or community leaders.
EPLC day-long Candidate Workshops are planned for Valley Forge
(February 10), Mechanicsburg (February 24), Allentown (March 3)
and Monroeville (March 10). Registration is $30 which includes
lunch, break refreshments, and materials. For more information
and a registration form, please see
- Register Now...EPLC will host the 5th Annual
Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference
on March 29-30, 2007. Keynote speakers include Wendy Puriefoy,
President of the Public Education Network, and Pennsylvania
Secretary of Education Jerry Zahorchak. Registration materials
and a preliminary agenda are available online at
- Next Week...The Senate Education Committee
will hold a public hearing on early childhood education certificates
on Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo
and Conference takes place February 12-13 in Hershey.
EPLC hosts two Pennsylvania Education Policy Forums
on Wednesday and Thursday in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, respectively.
The National Conference on State Legislatures hosts its annual
Education Finance Seminar in Denver on February 16-18. For information on these and other upcoming
To return to the EPLC Education Notebook homepage,
To return to The Education Policy and Leadership Center homepage,