EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, June 22, 2007

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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.

    A New Report on School Funding in Pennsylvania

  • The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia released a report this week disclosing that state funding for school districts in Pennsylvania last year reached an historic new low as a proportion of the total cost of funding schools. As a result, gaps between what the top 20 percent of the state's school districts were able to spend per student and what the rest of the school districts spent on their students widened. It is more evidence that Pennsylvania's school districts and children need a new education funding system which will have the state provide a fairer share of the cost of education. The report analyzes data released last week by PDE on expenditures and revenues of school districts in 2005-06. For more information, see www.pilcop.org.

  • FY 2007-2008 State Budget

  • The Senate this week adopted a FY 2007-08 budget that increases spending by 2.7% over the current year by a vote of 49-1. The Senate budget reduces spending by $344 million from the House-passed bill which largely reflected the governor's proposed budget, and added $105.7 million in funding for various programs not included in the House legislation.

    The budget ( House Bill 1286) now goes back to the House where it is assumed by most that the majority of members, led by Democrats, will vote to non-concur in Senate amendments, thus forcing the appointment of a conference committee to negotiate a compromise. This is the typical sequence of events in the annual budget-making process in Harrisburg. But if the majority in the House votes to agree to the changes made by the Senate, the bill goes directly to the governor.

    Within the Education Department, the Senate made numerous changes to the budget previously approved by the House (the House-approved budget represented Governor Rendell's proposed spending plan), including zeroing out funding for some of the Governor's key education initiatives like technical colleges, shared services, and school food services. Other Rendell initiatives experienced cuts (pre-K, classrooms for the future, dual enrollment, high school reform). Changes made by the Senate compared to Governor's budget proposal are detailed below. For more information about the budget, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse.

    Appropriations of State Funds

    Increases approved by Senate to the House-passed legislation

    Basic Education Formula Enhancements - from $2.000 million to $12.000 million
    Governor's Schools of Excellence - from $2.574 million to $2.742 million
    Community Education Councils - from $1.968 million to $2.186 million

    The following existing programs that were eliminated in the House-approved budget proposal are re-funded in the Senate proposal:
    Science and Math Education Programs - from $0 to $2.545 million
    New Choices/New Options - from $0 to $2.500 million
    Job Training Programs - from $0 to $3.500 million
    Alternative Education Demonstration Grants - from $0 to $26.500 million
    Regional Community College Services - from $0 to $0.750 million

    Reductions approved by Senate to the House-passed legislation

    PDE General Government Operations - from $28.222 million to $25.490 million
    PA Assessment - from $31.619 million to $30.752 million
    State Library - from $4.784 million to $4.721 million
    Dual Enrollment Grants - from $10.000 million to $7.000 million
    Accountability Block Grants - from $350.000 million to $275.000 million
    Classrooms for the Future - from $90.000 million to $20.000 million
    Teacher Professional Development - from $30.367 million to $23.367 million
    Adult and family literacy, summer reading, and the adult high school diploma programs - from $23.534 million to $18.534 million
    High School Reform - from $11.000 million to $8.000 million

    The following Rendell initiatives included in the House-passed budget are eliminated completely in the Senate proposal:
    Science It's Elementary - from $15.000 million to $0
    Prescription for PA - Physical and Health Education - from $0.030 million to $0
    Prescription for PA - School Food Services - from $6.543 million to $0
    Shared Services (for school districts) - from $1.000 million to $0
    Technical Colleges - from $2.000 million to $0

    Appropriations of Federal Funds
    These increases and decreases relative to the House-approved legislation reflect changes in anticipated available federal funds.

    Increases in federal funds approved by Senate to the House-passed legislation

    General Government Operations:
  • Migrant Education - Administration - from $0.555 million to $0.600 million

  • ESEA - Title V - Administration/State - from $0.680 million to $0.779 million

  • Homeless Assistance - from $3.226 million to $3.426 million

  • Environmental Education Workshops - from $0.200 million to $0.350 million

  • Charter Schools Initiatives - from $5.000 million to $7.000 million

  • Education Technology - Administration - from $0.522 million to $1.200 million

  • State and Community Highway Safety - from $1.100 million to $1.200 million

  • Foreign Language Assistance - from $0.211 million to $0.247 million

  • Basic Education:
  • ESEA - Title I - Local - from $535.000 million to $625.000 million

  • School Improvement Grants - new program - from $0 to $6.000 million

  • Title II - Improving Teacher Quality - Local - from $127.000 million to $142.000 million

  • Educational Technology - Local - from $3.758 million to $16.480 million

  • Title III - Language Instruction for LEP and Immigrant Students - from $13.000 million to $16.532 million

  • Title VI - Rural and Low Income Schools - Local - from $0.475 million to $0.559 million

  • Title VI - Part A State Assessment - from $12.415 million to $13.264 million
    LSTA - Library Development (State Library) - from $1.650 million to $1.950 million
    Vocational Education - Local - from $52.500 million to $53.000 million
    Early Intervention Services: Individual with Disabilities Education - from $0 to $14.283 million
    Food and Nutrition - from $392.200 million to $415.766 million

    Reductions in federal funds approved by Senate to the House-passed legislation

    General Government Operations
  • Even Start - Migrant Education - from $0.345 million to $0

  • Partnerships in Character Education - from $0.700 million to $0

  • Special Education: Individual with Disabilities Education - Local - from $414.000 million to $406.893 million
    Save America's Treasures (State Library) - from $0.025 million to $0
    Comprehensive School Reform (Basic Education) - from $0.041 million to $0

    Within the higher education sector, the Senate's budget proposal maintains funding for the State System of Higher Education at the level proposed by the House and Governor Rendell. Funding for student grants awarded by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency also was maintained at the level proposed by the House and Governor Rendell, however three changes were made to other parts of the PHEAA budget: Institutional assistance grants (increased from $41.392 million to $42.220 million), SciTech and Technology Scholarships (decreased from $6.800 million to $4.350 million) and Nursing Shortage Initiative (new program added at $2.450 million).

  • The Senate also passed numerous non-preferred appropriations bills this week, which provide FY 2007-2008 funding for higher education and other education-related entities. Non-preferred appropriations require two-thirds approval in each the House and Senate. Each bill has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee:

    Senate Bill 929: Allocates $332.882 million to Penn State University.

    Senate Bill 930: Allocates $167.869 million to the University of Pittsburgh.

    Senate Bill 931: Allocates $172.917 million to Temple University.

    Senate Bill 932: Allocates $13.786 million to Lincoln University.

    Senate Bill 933: Allocates $7.002 million to Drexel University.

    Senate Bill 934: Allocates $49.651 million to the University of Pennsylvania.

    Senate Bill 935: Allocates $12.665 million to the Philadelphia Health and Education Corp.

    Senate Bill 936: Allocates $9.852 million to Thomas Jefferson University.

    Senate Bill 937: Allocates $6.576 million to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

    Senate Bill 938: Allocates $1.693 million to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

    Senate Bill 939: Allocates $1.214 million to the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

    Senate Bill 940: Allocates $1.504 million to the Berean Training and Industrial School.

    Senate Bill 941: Allocates $0.194 million to the Johnson Technical Institute of Scranton.

    Senate Bill 942: Allocates $0.071 million to the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Delaware County.

    Senate Bill 943: Allocates $1.861 million to the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

  • The Senate also approved supplementary appropriations for FY 2006-07 to various state agencies ( Senate Bill 846). Within PDE, SB 846 increases federal appropriations for migrant education ($0.505 million to $0.550 million), homeless assistance ($2.120 million to $2.320 million), and Title IV - 21st century community learning centers administration ($1.834 million to $2.134 million). SB 846 also increases state appropriations for early intervention services ($137.652 million to $140.889 million), charter schools for the deaf and blind ($32.944 million to $33.755 million), and approved private schools ($86.461 million to $92.723 million). SB 846 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

    Senate Actions

  • This week, the Senate approved legislation that would give school districts more choice in how to use their Accountability Block Grants. Senate Bill 399 authorizes grant funds to be used to: establish, expand or maintain programs for instruction on world languages in the elementary grades, either in immersion classrooms or as separate periods of instruction, and fund programs related to the state's current Classrooms for the Future, Project 720 and Science It's Elementary initiatives. This broader authority for the use of Accountability Block Grant funds corresponds with the Senate's decision to reduce or eliminate in the budget bill it approved this week the special line items to fund these three initiatives of the Rendell Administration. SB 399 has been referred to the House Education Committee.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation ( Senate Bill 860) that would establish a higher education loan forgiveness program for public service lawyers. SB 860 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Most schools have comprehensive school safety plans, but need to do a better job implementing and communicating those plans, Auditor General (AG) Jack Wagner told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. A recent survey conducted by the AG found schools lacking a number of what he called key safety measures, such as a single point of entry for each building, staff training in handling situations involving weapons, and procedures for distributing safety plans to staff, emergency responders and parents. Further, 20% of local education agencies who responded to the survey reported they do not have memorandums of understanding with local law enforcement, despite a state law that requires them to form such agreements for reporting acts of violence of school property. Wagner said his office is currently auditing the state Department of Education's Office of Safe Schools and will conduct more in-depth sampling of public schools' safety measures in an effort to form recommendations that schools and the General Assembly can use to improve safety. Read Wagner's remarks to the Committee at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/WagnerTestimonySenateEducatCommittSafeSchoolSurv.html.

  • House Actions

  • The House this week gave approval to increase the number of members serving on 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. Under House Bill 795, the new positions would be filled by an election by the elected school board. The other five positions are appointed by the mayor of Harrisburg. HB 795 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

  • Legislation pertaining to three of Gov. Rendell's key education budget initiatives- school food services, technical colleges, and shared services - made its way through the House Education Committee this week. Funding for these initiatives has been included in the House-passed budget but not included in the Senate version reported above. The Committee adopted the following bills on Wednesday (each bill has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee):

    House Bill 908: Requires some schools to offer breakfast, and provides incentive funding for school districts to adopt PDE's recommended guidelines for nutritional standards.

    HB 908 requires schools where at least 20% of enrolled students are eligible for free and reduced price lunch to establish a school breakfast program, beginning in the 2007-08 school year. Public and non-public schools that meet this criterion and do not wish to provide breakfast may request a one-year waiver from the Department of Education (PDE) no later than 45 days before the start of the school year. To qualify for a waiver, a school must show that the expenses associated with implementing a breakfast program will exceed revenues. Within 15 days of receipt of a waiver request, PDE may make recommendations for reducing expenditures and increasing revenues. A school district may choose to resubmit a waiver request within 15 days after receiving PDE's recommendations. PDE must grant waiver requests where, after taking into account the Department's recommendations, projected expenditures for implementing a breakfast program would exceed projected revenues.

    Further, HB 908 encourages schools to implement PDE's guidelines for nutritional standards by providing increased state reimbursements to schools that adopt the guidelines 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 more than 20% 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 (10 cents for breakfast; 10 cents for lunch - if school does not serve breakfast; 12 cents for lunch - if school also serves breakfast to 20% of less of its students; and 14 cents for lunch - if school also serves breakfast to 20% of more of its students).

    Finally, HB 908 requires PDE to publish its recommended nutrition guidelines on its web site.

    House Bill 965: Establishes Technical College programs in educationally underserved areas of the Commonwealth. Programs would provide postsecondary occupational education and training in technical areas where there is high workforce demand. Participants would earn either a certificate or an associate's degree.

    HB 965 requires PDE to develop priority criteria for evaluating applicants for Technical College programs. Criteria must include providing remediation and demonstrating a plan to serve educationally and economically disadvantaged students. The bill also identifies information applicants must provide to PDE, including projected enrollment, evidence of collaboration with industry and local K-12 schools, a regional postsecondary education needs analysis, evidence of ability to offer local program support (including building space), and evidence of fiscal stability. Programs would be approved for a five-year period and could be re-approved by PDE as an alternative program of study. State-owned, state-related, and private or private licensed schools (excluding sectarian institutions) are eligible to serve as a lead sponsor to establish a Technical College program. HB 965 delineates the responsibilities of a lead sponsor institution, as well as the powers and duties of PDE as they pertain to technical college programs.

    Technical College programs would be supported through funds annually appropriated by the General Assembly, including operating support for the lead sponsor institution. Grants also would be available for the purchase or lease of industry-specified equipment.

    Full-time students would have two years to complete the program (or an equivalent period of time for part-time students). Students must meet eligibility requirements to enroll and must have been Pennsylvania residents for at least 18 months prior to enrollment. Students who do not meet entrance requirements may be eligible for remedial or developmental coursework to gain entrance. Priority would be given to educationally underserved students who reside in the area the program is approved to serve. Further, PDE would approve the number of full-time equivalent students to be enrolled in order to receive funding and would set a maximum tuition amount, adjusted annually, to ensure affordability. Students would be eligible for financial aid. HB 965 also requires annual reporting of demographic and program data and student progress and achievement measures.

    House Bill 1021: Establishes the Common Cents program within PDE through which school districts can explore shared services in order to increase the efficient use of resources and improve service delivery for students. HB 1021 requires school districts within each intermediate unit (IU) to decide by October 1 annually whether the IU will apply for Common Cents funding. Two IU's may apply jointly if their school districts agree, however, an IU may only apply once each fiscal year; applications are due to PDE by November 1 annually. IUs will be selected for participation on a competitive basis, with preference given to IUs who have participation from all their member school districts and joint IU applications. Selection also will be made based on regional diversity.

    PDE will contract with a consultant to study and make recommendations about combining services and activities across school districts within each participating IU. Study recommendations must include all of the following services: transportation, food services and nutrition, instructional services, safety and security, health services, purchasing, finance and payroll, facilities and real estate, human resources, technology services, and administration. The consultant's non-binding recommendations also may include sharing services with a municipality.

    The consultant's recommendations must be made publicly available. Within six months of receiving the consultant's report, each school board must separately vote on whether to pursue each recommendation. Following the vote, the IU must request that the consultant create a plan to implement the approved recommendations. Cost savings that result from implementation of the recommendations must be spent on academics, after deducting any one-time expenditures required for the implementation of the recommendations. HB 1021 also directs PDE to appoint an advisory panel to determine whether there are barriers to consolidation of services in state law.

    House Bill 1377: Requires school entities to amend current policies that allow students to possess and self-administer asthma inhalers to also allow students to possess and self-administer epinephrine auto injectors. HB 1377 also exempts school entities, their board of directors or trustees, and their administrators and employees from civil liability as a result of a student using an inhaler or auto-injector or a student being prohibited from using an inhaler or auto-injector if it is believed that the student does not satisfy school policy. Finally, school principals or chief administrators must notify a student's classroom teachers if they are aware of the student being in possession of an inhaler or auto-injector.

  • The House Appropriations Committee this week approved an amended version of legislation introduced by Rep. Josh Shapiro that would provide medical school loan forgiveness to physicians who practice in Pennsylvania for 10 years. The bill was amended to limit loan repayment to doctors who specialize in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. House Bill 1093 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • Rep. Nicholas Micozzie (R-163) this week introduced legislation ( House Bill 1544) that would create a new state education funding formula. The Successful Schools Act of 2007 would provide $3.4 billion in new state funding to 462 of the state's 501 school districts (equivalent to a one percent increase in the state income tax). Of these funds, $3.2 billion would be spent for educational achievement, while $167 million would be used for high tax effort relief. Funding would be phased in over a three-year period, and dollars must be used for practices that have demonstrated success in improving student achievement.

    The funding formula would determine what it costs for students to attain state standards by looking at the amount spent by school districts who are currently meeting the state's 2011 PSSA standards in reading and math for all student demographic groups. Based on the amount spent by these high-performing districts, the formula would then adjust that figure to provide increased funding for a district's low-income, special education and limited English proficient students. No district would receive less that it does currently.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • Governor Rendell has nominated 10 individuals to serve on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, including five reappointments and five new appointments. Dr. James Barker, Constance Davis, James Fogarty, Francis J. Michelini, and Luis Ramos were nominated for reappointment. New nominees are: Corrinne A. Caldwell (to succeed Wallace Nunn), Daniel Fogarty (to succeed Larry Wittig), Sheila Dow Ford (to succeed Edward Donley), Ed Sheehan (to succeed Richard Bunn), and A. Lee Williams (to succeed David Saxe, who has resigned from the Board). Nominees require Senate approval.

  • Auditor General Jack Wagner is calling for a change in the funding of charter schools following audits of three charters that found each school received hundreds of thousands of dollars more in reimbursement than their actual costs of educating students. The three schools audited by the AG were the Pennsylvania Global Academy Charter School and the Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy Charter School in Erie County (both now closed) and the Roberto Clemente Charter School in Lehigh County. Audits found that PA Global Academy received $318,243 more than its actual cost of education during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years, while Northwest Academy received $593,158 more than the actual cost of education during those same years; Roberto Clemente was overpaid relative to actual expenses by $474,888 during the 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06 school years.

    School districts pay tuition to charter schools based on selected budgeted expenditures from the prior school year; up to 30 percent of those costs are reimbursed to the district from the state (actual percentage is based on the amount of state dollars made available for this purpose). "Since the state reimbursement is based on the charter school tuition formula that has no relationship to actual cost of education, the Commonwealth also likely has overpaid for services," said Wagner. The Auditor General pointed to other tuition payment agreements formed by districts - such as when a student attends school in another district - where the tuition formula is based on the actual costs of education and the districts reconcile the actual costs at the end of each year. The audits are available online at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

  • Pennsylvania Education Policy E-Forum

  • While the demand for health care is growing, Pennsylvania is failing to attract and retain doctors. What can be done to protect the viability of a strong health care system in our state?

    In EPLC's latest Pennsylvania Education Policy E-Forum, Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-153rd) discusses his proposal to help sustain the availability of high quality health care by offering medical school loan forgiveness to physicians who agree to practice in Pennsylvania for 10 years. Visit the E-Forum to read Representative Shapiro's recent article about the issue.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...The House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee meets Monday to consider House Bill 258. The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 919, 921, 922, 923 and 924. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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