EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, June 11, 2007

Apply Now! Applications for the 2007-2008 class of the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program are now available. To learn more about this nationally-recognized professional development program, and for an application, see www.eplc.org/fellows.html.

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Education Finance Reform

  • Supporters of public education rallied in Harrisburg on June 5 to send a message to legislators to make public education a priority in the coming year's budget, and further, to use the results of the state's education costing-out study due in November as the foundation for a sound school funding formula. For more information about the Public Education Advocacy Day organized by Good Schools Pennsylvania, or to learn how you can get involved, contact Good Schools at (866) 720-4086 or see www.goodschoolspa.org.


  • The House Republican Policy Committee assembled in York on Thursday (June 7) for a public hearing on education funding and school cost reduction. Attendees met with John Myers, a principal with the Augenblick & Palaich consulting firm who has been retained to conduct the education costing-out study ordered by the General Assembly, and Dr. Robert Feir, who is overseeing the study for the PA State Board of Education. The study will determine what it costs to prepare every student to meet the state's academic standards. A final report is due in November. An interim report on the study is available online at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=127284&stateboard_edNav=|10814|&stateboard_edNav=|10766.

    Additionally, Rep. Beverley Mackereth (R-York) said the study "will supply us with the information that we, as a Legislature, need to create what would be the first school-funding formula for Pennsylvania since 1991. It must be a formula that takes into account student population, something that we stopped paying attention to in 1991." For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Executive Director Krystjan Callahan at (717) 787-7979.



  • Senate Activity

  • The Senate Education Committee moved forward the following legislation last Tuesday (June 5). Both bills have been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Senate Bill 834: Requires the Governor to appoint two municipal officers to the Advisory Council on Library Development, expanding the Council's membership from 12 to 14 members. The officers must represent municipalities that make appropriations or levy taxes on behalf of a local library.

    House Bill 842: 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. HB 842 prohibits the Department of Education 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. Finally, educators may appeal their inactive designation to the Secretary of Education. Currently, employees who do not complete required professional development may have their certificates inactivated at any point during the school year.


  • On Wednesday (June 6), the Senate Finance Committee voted along party lines with Republicans in the affirmative to approve legislation that would limit annual state spending via a constitutional amendment ( Senate Bill 7) and through statute ( Senate Bill 707). Spending increases would be limited to the average inflation rate plus the average percentage change in state population over the preceding three years. Each bill was amended so that the spending limit would be decreased commensurate with any funding cuts to a mandated service. Additionally, state revenues that exceed the spending limit would either be returned to taxpayers (75% of "excess" funds) or placed in the state's Rainy Day Fund (25% of "excess" funds) to offset potential revenue shortfalls in the future. For more information about the Taxpayer Protection Act from the Senate Republican Caucus, see www.pasenategop.com/news/archived/2007/0607/browne-060607-tpa.htm.

    EPLC and many other organizations have expressed concern that this legislation, if enacted, will make it impossible for the legislature to fix Pennsylvania's very unfair and ineffective method of funding public schools, a method that now is excessively dependent upon local property taxes. For an analysis of the legislation from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, see www.pennbpc.org.



  • House Activity

  • The House Education Committee moved forward amended versions of the following legislation on Wednesday:

    Senate Bill 158: Requires school districts to establish parent involvement programs, policies, and committees. SB 158 also requires the Department of Education to develop a clearinghouse of information to assist districts in establishing these programs and policies.

    House Bill 894: Excludes costs related to meeting certain environmental design standards (known as LEEDS - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards) from overall construction costs when determining whether a school construction project exceeds the threshold that would require a referendum on the project under Section 701.1 of the school code. Additionally, HB 894 requires any public hearing on building construction costs to consider the cost of operating the new construction in order to show cost savings gained by using green technology. Current law requires school districts to hold a referendum or public hearing on school construction projects that exceed a certain threshold.


  • The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee gave approval to an amended version of Senate Bill 356, which establishes the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Among its broader duties, the Center will promote partnerships between formal and nonformal educators, schools, government, businesses and others to: assist with disseminating environmental education materials, programs and training to educators and others; provide preservice and nonformal educator programs related to environmental education and support efforts to disseminate materials to meet those needs; and help facilitate the implementation of the state's academic standards for environment and ecology. SB 356 has been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.



  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • Rep. Todd Rock last week announced plans to introduce legislation (House Bill 1369) that would ban teacher strikes and lockouts in Pennsylvania. Rock's legislation would require mediation, fact-finding, arbitration, a mandatory vote, and mandatory negotiating. The bill requires all contract proposals to be made public. Further, if a new contract is not settled by June 16, Rock's proposal requires four negotiating sessions per month, in addition to public town hall meetings every six weeks. Rock's plan also includes penalties if a strike or lockout should occur, including a $5,000 individual fine per incident for inciting a strike, a loss of two days of pay for every day a teacher strikes illegally, and the loss of dues check-off privilege for one year for striking teachers unions. For more information, see the Representative's web site at www.reprock.com/?sectionid=3&sectiontree=3&itemid=35.

    Senate Democratic Leader Robert Mellow also previously introduced legislation (Senate Bill 20) that would outlaw teacher strikes and require binding arbitration if a teachers union and school board cannot reach a contract agreement.



  • Pennsylvania Bulletin

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education is accepting grant applications for federal funding for Fiscal Years 2007-2010 for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. For details, see the June 2, 2007 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin at www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol37/37-22/973.html.


  • 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.


    Datebook

  • Look through the eyes of youth as they document the realities they face each day in North Philadelphia public high schools. Attend the opening reception for the student photography exhibit, "Eyes on Education," on Wednesday, June 13 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Journey Home Gallery, 948 N. 8th Street, Philadelphia.

    Starting in January 2007, 15 high school students were given cameras, workshops in documentary photography, and the opportunity to record what they thought was important for the public to know about both positive and negative aspects of their education. The participating students are part of Youth United for Change (Y.U.C), an organization dedicated to developing young leaders in Philadelphia and empowering them to improve the quality of education and services in their communities to better meet their needs. For more information about the exhibit, see www.elc-pa.org/funding/costing%20out.html#news.


  • This Week...The 2006-2007 class of the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program graduates on Tuesday. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday to release a school consolidation study requested by the Pennsylvania Senate. The Act 1 (2006) mandated Task Force on School Cost Reduction meets Wednesday in Harrisburg. The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1170, 1067, 795, 1129 and 1377. The House Finance Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1103 and 1397. The House Education Subcommittee on Special Education meets Thursday with Departments of Education and Public Welfare to discuss their policies. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds a special meeting in Harrisburg on Friday to consider changing the cut scores for the third grade PSSA in reading and math. The National Association for the Education of Young Children holds its 16th National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in Pittsburgh on June 10-13. The ASSET Leadership Conference takes place June 11-15 in Hershey. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.



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