EPLC Education Notebook

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This edition of the Notebook is dedicated to a summary of the School Code legislation adopted as a companion bill to the 2007-2008 state budget.

Omnibus School Code Legislation

In addition to finalizing the FY 2007-2008 state budget last week, the Pennsylvania General Assembly also approved companion legislation that makes omnibus changes to the School Code ( Act 45 of 2007), which was signed into law by Governor Rendell on July 20. Among other changes, the Act includes formulas for the distribution of state education funding for FY 2007-2008. For more information about the enacted education budget, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse.

Below is a description of the omnibus School Code changes made by Act 45, as well as references to the sections of the Code that were amended.

Section 111 (c.1): Requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to, at a minimum, prescribe a method for applicants for school employment to submit fingerprints for FBI criminal history background checks. These technical changes were requested by the FBI to more smoothly effectuate submission of fingerprints.

Section 687: Allows school boards to reopen their FY 2007-2008 budget to reflect state funding allocations for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Sections 1003, 1109, 1205.5, 1217: Establishes training requirements for school leaders aligned with PDE's Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Program (PIL). 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.

Act 45 requires all superintendents and assistant superintendents to complete a college or university or graduate program that includes the PA 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 grandfathers current superintendents, and also allows 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 to the educator, 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.

Section 1205.2: Allows educators who fail to complete state-mandated professional development within the five-year compliance period to continue to teach until the end of the school year. Act 45 prohibits PDE from deeming a teacher's certificate inactive for failure to complete professional development during any time other than the period between June 30 and July 31 each year. PDE must provide notice of inactive certification to the certificate holder no later than 31 days prior to the date on which the certificate is inactivated. Educators may appeal their inactive designation to the Secretary of Education. If the Secretary determines that an educator's certificate is indeed inactive, the effective date of that determination must be between June 30 and July 31. Currently, employees who do not complete required professional development may have their certificates inactivated at any point during the school year.

Section 1337.1: Establishes a School Nutrition Incentive Program to provide increased state reimbursements for school breakfast and lunch programs to schools in local education agencies that adopt the state's nutritional guidelines (these will be a revision of the current guidelines pursuant to an agreement reached with the PA Association of School Business Officials). Supplemental reimbursements would be made as follows:

  • additional 1 cent per lunch served (11 cents total)

  • additional 1 cent per breakfast served (11 cents total)

  • additional 2 cents per lunch served (14 cents total - for schools offering both lunch and breakfast, where breakfast is served to 20% or less of its student enrollment)

  • additional 3 cents per lunch served (17 cents total - for schools offering both lunch and breakfast, where breakfast is served to 20% or more of its student enrollment)

Schools that do not adopt the nutrition guidelines would continue to be reimbursed under the existing system. Currently, schools that offer both breakfast and lunch receive a higher reimbursement than schools that only offer one meal, with a greater reimbursement for schools where at least 20% of enrolled students participate in the program.

Finally, certain schools would not be required to offer a school breakfast program as originally proposed by Governor Rendell.

Section 1422.3: Requires PDE to publish its recommended nutrition guidelines on its web site.

Section 1512-C (g): Extends the provisions of the Educational Assistance Program (tutoring program) for the 2007-08 school year.

Article XV-D: Establishes a new article titled "Early Learning Programs," which addresses the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program and the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program. Existing state law related to Head Start is now incorporated under subarticle (a) of this section. Subarticle (b) establishes new provisions governing the use of funds allocated in the state budget for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts ($75 million in FY 2007-08 - these dollars were not included in the Accountability Block Grant Program as originally proposed by Governor Rendell).

PDE will establish Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts as a competitive grant program to expand pre-K opportunities for children who are at least three-years-old, but younger than the kindergarten entry age in the child's school district. School districts, Head Start programs, nursery schools licensed under the Private Academic Schools Act, and child day care centers or group care homes that meet or exceed a STAR 2 rating under the Keystone STARS rating system are eligible to apply for funding to serve as a pre-K provider, as long as the provider meets all quality program standards established by PDE.

The Department is tasked with: establishing regulations, guidelines and standards for the Pre-K Counts program; establishing a process through which eligible providers can apply for grant funds; identifying one or more assessments for use by approved providers, the cost of which shall be paid as part of the provider's grant award; encouraging the development and maintenance of community coordination and partnerships; performing all functions necessary to carry out the program, including monitoring of approved providers; entering into agreements with third parties, including intermediate units, to carry out the provisions of this subarticle; and, publishing the process through which eligible providers may apply for grant funds, the criteria used to identify approved providers and the per-student funding levels of approved providers, by county, on the PDE web site and in the Pennsylvania Bulletin within 60 days of Act 45 taking effect.

Grants will be awarded on a per-student basis for each eligible student served and may not exceed the per-student cost of administering the provider's pre-K program. Act 45 also directs PDE to prioritize grant funding for providers serving the most at-risk students (at-risk students are children who are at-risk of educational failure because of limited English proficiency, poverty, community factors, academic difficulties or economic disadvantage); for providers that received grants in the immediately preceding school year, have met program standards and have demonstrated satisfactory implementation of the program; and, to ensure that grant funds are geographically dispersed throughout the state.

Eligible pre-K students will not be included in a school district's calculation of average daily membership for purposes of receiving other state education allocations.

Pre-K providers approved for grant funding must:

  1. Maintain separate accounts in their budgets to facilitate monitoring and auditing of the use of grant funds. However, if the provider is a school district, the district may not place grant funds in a reserve account. In no case may a provider use grant funds for administrative costs as defined by PDE;

  2. Plan to provide no fewer than 180 days of pre-K over the course of the school year. A half-day program shall provide no fewer than two and one-half hours of instructional activities per day. A full-day program shall provide no fewer than five hours of instructional activities per day;

  3. Align the program's curriculum with PDE's early learning standards; and,

  4. Perform all other duties pursuant to applicable regulations and standards.

Act 45 also establishes extensive reporting requirements for pre-K programs. By October 1 annually, PDE must report to the chairman and minority chairman of the House and Senate Appropriations and Education Committees data on programs for the immediately preceding fiscal year, including:

  1. A description of program operations, including the criteria used to determine a provider's eligibility for funding and the criteria used to determine the amount of grant funds paid to approved providers, and a summary of the process to apply for grant funds;

  2. A summary of the total amount of grant funds paid to approved providers;

  3. A summary of the allowable uses of grant funds;

  4. A description of the assessments used to measure the academic progress of eligible students served through the program;

  5. A listing by county of each eligible provider who submitted a grant application that indicates whether the applicant received funding and the amount thereof; and,

  6. For each approved provider: a report by county indicating each provider; number of students served; use of grant funds; assessment of academic progress of each student; number of students who are three and who are four-years-old; the total number of students itemized to identify the number of students receiving pre-K through tuition paid by a parent or guardian, through Pre-K Counts funding, and through state or federal Head Start funding; a financial summary identifying total expenditures and components of those expenditures, as well as state revenues received through early childhood programs administered by DPW, the Pre-K Counts Program, and from children enrolled on a tuition basis; the enrollment goals set forth in the grant application; and, the number of eligible students served who were funded through the subsidized day-care programs administered by DPW and state and federal Head Start funding.

Additionally, PDE must submit an interim report on the Pre-K Counts program by February 1, 2008.

Section 1607.1: Addresses the dissolution of the high school in the Duquesne City School District. Act 45 grants the Secretary of Education the power to designate two or more school districts, each within a three mile radius of Duquesne, to educate Duquesne high school students on a tuition basis. No district may be assigned more than 165 Duquesne students.

Act 45 also requires the Secretary to establish a process for reassigning students and to establish a tuition rate for a reassigned student in a regular or special education program (for FY 2007-08 the rate will be the 2006-07 high school tuition charge of each designated district; in subsequent years, the rate may not exceed the 2007-08 tuition multiplied by the greater of either 2% or the percentage increase in total budgeted revenues available to the Duquesne School District). For the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, districts designated to accept Duquesne students will receive an additional $500 per re-assigned student to be used for transition services for students, including, but not limited to, mentoring, tutoring, employee in-service programs designed to assist transitioning students, and security expenditures.

Districts designated to accept Duquesne students must provide transportation to the students and are eligible for state transportation reimbursement for these students. Notice of designated school districts, the reassignment process and tuition rates must be published on PDE's web site by August 1 annually and in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by September 30 annually. Designated school districts are not required to include Duquesne students in their public school enrollment reports for purposes of determining an interscholastic sports classification. Reassigned students will continue to be counted in the Duquesne School District's average daily membership for purposes of distributing basic and special education funding. Additionally, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee must annually report (by February 1) on Duquesne's financial and academic status, as well as an audit of the district's accounts for the previous school year.

Act 45 also requires the Secretary of Education to establish an education advisory committee by October 1, 2007 to make semi-annual reports evaluating the transition of students, recommending changes to the reassignment process, and recommending ways to improve educational opportunities for Duquesne students; the Secretary must respond in writing to the committee's reports. The advisory committee will consist of representatives of the governing boards of each designated school district and the Duquesne School District, an administrator and teacher from each designated district and the Duquesne district, an elected official representing each district, three residents of each school district involved, a PDE employee (who is not a member of the Duquesne Board of Control), and a representative of the local intermediate unit.

Section 1113: Requires the Duquesne City School District to create a pool of professional and temporary professional employees who are suspended as a result of the high school's closure. Districts designated to accept Duquesne students must offer employment to these individuals when positions for which they are certified become available; offers must be made in order of seniority, and the district may not hire a new employee until all properly certified members of the pool have been notified of the job opening. Former Duquesne employees hired by designated districts would be credited for all sick leave, years of service for salary schedule placement, years of service for sabbatical leave eligibility, and suspension and realignment rights and eligibility for any retirement incentives or severance payments in a designated district.

Section 2541: Provides for transportation funding to districts that accept Duquesne high school students. Any district required to transport students residing in Duquesne will receive an additional $385 per student in FY 2007-08.

Section 1603-B: Increases the amount of dual enrollment funds targeted to low-income students from 15% to 22%.

Section 1704.1-B: Grants the Pittsburgh School District superintendent the authority to recommend to the school board the dismissal of a management employee for unsatisfactory performance or willful misconduct. A management employee is an employee who holds a management position above the level of first level supervisor. This term does not include principals, assistant principals, vice principals or any position requiring a certificate from the Secretary of Education. This power expires December 31, 2009.

Section 1705-B: Authorizes PDE to use up to $4.500 million of undistributed funds not expended, encumbered or committed for education empowerment districts in FY 2007-08. As constructed, this provision applies only to the Duquesne City and Chester-Upland School Districts for 2007-08.

Section 1707-B (b): Increases the size of the Harrisburg School District's Board of Control to seven by providing for two new positions to be filled by individuals who are members of the district's elected Harrisburg City School Board. These new positions would be filled through an election by the elected school board, and such members will serve on the Board of Control for the period of time concurrent with their terms of office as members of the elected board. The other five positions are appointed by the mayor of Harrisburg and serve at the pleasure of the mayor.

Section 1905-D: Provides for grants to Community Education Councils to be paid in the same amount and same manner as in FY 2006-07.

Article XIX-F: Establishes a new article governing the Pennsylvania Technical College Program.

Act 45 provides for the establishment of Technical College programs in educationally underserved areas to provide postsecondary occupational education and training in technical fields where there is high workforce demand. Grants to establish technical college programs will be made on a competitive basis.

Entities eligible to apply for funding to support a Technical College Program include: an institution of higher education or an institution of higher education in partnership with one or more other higher education institution, area vocational-technical school, community education council, or private licensed school. A lead sponsor institution would award credit-bearing certificates and associate degrees in an associate of arts, associate of sciences or associate of applied sciences (if an articulation agreement exists to enable the bearer of an applied science degree to fully transfer the degree in order to pursue a bachelor's degree).

The Act requires PDE to establish guidelines and standards necessary to implement the Technical College Program. Guidelines must identify approved fields of study and a process for considering requests for approval for other fields of study that meet criteria established by PDE; eligibility requirements; designated educationally underserved areas; a description of program requirements; and limitations and funding information. PDE also must establish a grant application process including the identification of required and allowable grant uses, the criteria used to approve programs, annual limits on student tuition and fees, and limits on enrollment eligible for state funding. Finally, PDE is responsible for monitoring and reporting on approved programs and student outcomes.

Operating grants will be made to a lead sponsor institution on a per-student basis. PDE will give priority in funding to programs that provide access in educationally underserved areas that are seeking renewal of grant funding and that have met the program standards and demonstrated satisfactory implementation of the program. Additionally, to the greatest extent possible, PDE must ensure that grant funds are geographically dispersed in educationally underserved areas throughout the state. Equipment grants also will be made available. No grant funds may be used for the construction or purchase of space.

Programs must be designed for full-time students to complete in two years (or an equivalent period of time for part-time students). Students must meet eligibility requirements to enroll and must be Pennsylvania residents for at least 18 months prior to enrollment. Students will be eligible for financial aid.

PDE must promulgate interim standards governing the Technical College Program within 30 day of Act 45 taking effect. Finally, the bill establishes annual reporting requirements for the Technical College Program.

Section 2006-B: Increases the amount of business tax credits available through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program to an aggregate total of $75 million. Credits for donations to scholarship organizations were increased from $36.000 million to $44.666 million, credits for donations to educational improvement organizations were increased from $18.000 million to $22.333 million, and credits for donations to pre-kindergarten scholarship programs were increased from $5.000 million to $8.000 million.

Article XXIII: Changes the title of this article from "Public School Libraries" to "Funding for Public Libraries," and establishes a formula for distributing funding for public libraries in FY 2007-08. Each library that received a state aid allocation in FY 2006-07 will receive an amount equal to its state aid allocation for FY 2006-07. Additionally, an equal distribution grant supplement will be provided to each local library, qualifying branch library and bookmobile determined by dividing $250,000 in new funding by the total number of local libraries, branch libraries and bookmobiles.

Section 2502.13: Establishes a formula for distributing small district assistance funding ($2.368 million). 108 districts with 1,500 or less students and an aid ratio of .600 or greater will receive payment of $30 per average daily membership multiplied by their aid ratio.

Section 2502.47: Provides for distribution of the basic education subsidy ($4.951 billion).

The basic education subsidy will be distributed primarily through a hold harmless provision ($4.785 billion) that provides every district with an amount equal to what it received last year, plus the following supplements:

  • base supplement ($48.695 million divided among all school districts): a district is eligible for one of five levels of funding based on the measure of its wealth or poverty;

  • poverty supplement ($25.999 million for 189 districts): eligibility for this supplement is based on high aid ratio and population of students eligible for free/reduced lunch;

  • foundation supplement ($58 million for 169 districts): this supplement provides funds to poor districts whose per pupil spending is among the lowest in the state or under $9,337 per pupil annually;

  • tax effort supplement ($3.500 million for 34 districts): high-taxing districts qualify to share in a distribution of $3.000 million. A second tier of funding allocates another $500,000 among districts with a low commercial tax base.

  • growth supplement ($2.499 million to 46 districts): this supplement is available to eligible districts in which local tax revenues declined at the same time enrollments increased (by specified minimum percentages) in an effort to recognize that revenues per student did not keep pace with growth of enrollments;

  • inflation index supplement ($14.323 million for 267 districts): guarantees that the combined total of all previous supplements equals the inflation index of 3.4 percent based upon their aid ratios; and,

  • minimum increase guarantee ($4.598 million for 171 districts): each district will receive at least a 2% increase over the amount it received last year. Those districts that do not reach this minimum, even when supplements are included, are eligible for this appropriation.
Finally, Act 45 earmarks $4.000 million of the basic education allocation for Commonwealth Partnership School Districts (currently, only the Pittsburgh School District meets the law's definition of a Commonwealth Partnership School District).

Section 2504.4: Provides for the distribution of funding to districts for Limited English Proficiency Programs ($2.699 million for 31 districts).

Section 2509.1: Provides for the distribution of $11.200 million for payments to intermediate units for programs that serve institutionalized children.

Section 2509.5: Provides for the distribution of special education funding ($1.010 billion) for FY 2007-08. The special education subsidy is distributed primarily through a hold harmless provision. Each school district will receive a pro rata share of approximately $27 million new funding based on its 2007-08 aid ratio applied to 16 percent of its 2006-07 average daily membership. An additional $11,000 is distributed to three school districts for an inflation index supplement. Each district will receive additional funding so that the total increase including the 2007-08 base supplement equals a minimum 3.4 percent multiplied by the district's 2007-08 aid ratio over its 2005-06 special education allocation. An additional $627,000 distributed among 50 district guarantees that all districts will receive at least a 2% increase over the amount received last year.

One percent of the special education allocation ($10.1 million) is earmarked for the special education contingency fund.

Section 2526.1: Requires the Philadelphia School District to submit budget stabilization plan progress reports to the Secretaries of Education and Budget by October 15, 2007 and by January 15, 2008. The reports must outline the cost reduction measures adopted by the district and the resultant savings. If a report is deemed unsatisfactory, the Secretary of Education must disapprove the report and make any necessary recommendations to the Philadelphia School District. Act 45 also empowers the Secretary of Education to withhold state appropriations that may become due to the district after the deadline for submitting a budget stabilization plan progress report until the report is approved. Finally, the Secretary of Education must provide copies of such reports to the majority and minority chairman of the House and Senate Appropriations and Education Committees.

Section 2591.1: Provides for reimbursement of charter school costs to school districts ($161.261 million). All districts will receive 30% of their costs reimbursed by the state. (provided the appropriation is sufficient). Additionally, this section includes language that provides additional reimbursement to certain qualifying districts. Such qualifying districts must have more than 12% of their average daily membership enrolled in charter schools, an aid ratio of .600 or greater, and have made charter school payments equal to or greater than $1 million in the 2006-07 school year.

Section 2599.2: Gives school districts more options in how to use accountability block grant dollars ($275 million) and provides for the distribution of block grant funds.

In addition to the eleven uses already approved, districts also now may use block grant funding to establish, expand or maintain: 1) programs for instruction on world languages in the elementary grades either in immersion classrooms or as separate periods of instruction; 2) programs to strengthen high school curricula by creating rigorous college and career preparation programs, increasing academic achievement, offering additional advanced placement courses, providing school-based counseling, and providing professional development; and, 3) programs to provide intensive teacher training, professional development and teaching resources to elementary level science teachers.

Each district will receive the same grant amount received in FY 2006-07 ($250 million of the $275 million appropriated for FY 2007-08 will be used for this purpose). The additional $25 million will be distributed via the same formula used in previous years based on one year updated PSSA test scores. Of the $25 million: $15 million will be distributed to districts only if the funding is used to expand or create full-day kindergarten programs (districts that do not propose to use funds for this purpose forfeit their share of the $15 million which would then be redistributed to districts that do support full-day kindergarten programs); $5 million will be distributed to districts that are already using their block grant funds for full-day kindergarten to help them maintain existing programs; and, $5 million will be distributed to all school districts as a 2% cost of living adjustment to their current block grant allocation.

Act 45 requires PDE to notify districts of the newly approved uses of accountability block grant dollars and allow districts to amend their already-submitted (to Department of Education) plans for using block grants dollars if they would like to utilize funds to support these efforts during the upcoming school year.

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.


This Week...The 14th Annual Education Law Conference takes place July 24-27 in Portland, ME. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education Committee on Chapter 4 holds a public roundtable on high school graduation requirements on Friday in King of Prussia. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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

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