EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, June 29, 2007

    FY 2007-2008 State Budget

  • The General Assembly continued negotiations on the FY 2007-08 state budget this week and is expected to continue discussions into the weekend. The state's fiscal year ends tomorrow on June 30. For details on the education budget as proposed by Governor Rendell, visit EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse.

    This week, the General Assembly sent legislation ( Senate Bill 792) appropriating $40.811 million for the FY 2007-08 operation of the Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System to the Governor for his consideration. The legislature also considered numerous non-preferred appropriations bills as well as legislation setting parameters around the distribution and use of state funding appropriated for education.

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation ( House Bill 842) which makes omnibus changes to the school code. The bill establishes formulas for distributing state funding for FY 2007-08 to support: educational assistance (tutoring); local libraries; small district assistance; basic education (including a base supplement, poverty supplement, foundation supplement, tax effort supplement, growth supplement, and inflation index supplement); limited English proficiency; special education; and accountability block grants. Under HB 842, each district would receive at least a 2.25% increase over the amount it received last year for basic education and at least a 2.0% increase over the amount it received last year for special education. The bill also earmarks $4 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 SD).

    HB 842 also gives school districts more options in how to use accountability block grant dollars. In addition to the eleven uses already approved, districts also could 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. The bill also allows 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 next school year.

    Finally, HB 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. The bill prohibits the Department of Education (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. Currently, employees who do not complete required professional development may have their certificates inactivated at any point during the school year. This bill awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • The Senate this week adopted legislation that establishes parameters around the use of certain appropriations by state agencies. The following provisions were among the strictures for state agencies amended into the legislation by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Within PDE, Senate Bill 728 requires that annual payments from the appropriation to institutions of higher learning for defraying the expenses of deaf or blind students shall not exceed $500 per student. Within the Department of Public Welfare, the bill protects funding for medical schools by guaranteeing that no qualifying state-related academic medical centers shall receive less funding than they received in state appropriations during FY 2004-05 if federal funds currently used to support the schools are not made available to them during FY 2007-08. SB 728 also requires the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to: 1) utilize state funds for matching payments for student aid funds to maximize the receipt of federal funds to the fullest extent; 2) make colleges, universities or institutions that receive a direct appropriation from the state ineligible to participate in the institutional assistance grant program; and, 3) give preference to renewal applicants in distributing funds for agricultural loan forgiveness.

    The legislation also authorizes the creation of certain restricted receipt accounts for the purpose of administering federal grants, including the following accounts within PDE: Education of the Disabled - Part C, LSTA - Library Grants, The Pennsylvania State University Federal Aid, Emergency Immigration Education Assistance, Education of the Disabled - Part D, Homeless Adult Assistance Program, Severely Handicapped, and Medical Assistance Reimbursements to Local Education Agencies. Finally, SB 728 includes unrelated provisions addressing group life insurance for state employees. SB 728 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

  • The House Appropriations Committee 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-committed back 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.

  • Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • The House this week approved legislation that would provide medical school loan forgiveness to physicians who agree to practice in Pennsylvania for 10 years. House Bill 1093 previously was amended to limit loan repayment to doctors who specialize in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. The bill awaits referral to a Senate Committee. For more on the issue, check out the latest edition of EPLC's Education Policy E-Forum, which features an article by bill sponsor Rep. Josh Shapiro on his proposal to help sustain the availability of high quality health care in Pennsylvania.

  • The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has adopted a resolution urging Congress to make changes to the No Child Left Behind Act. The House is asking Congress to improve nine areas of the law, including: providing for state-developed, research-based accountability systems that incorporate multiple measures; providing for differentiated outcomes for schools, with targeted improvement plans for specific subgroups of students; greater flexibility in testing English language learners; aligning the definition of highly qualified teachers with individual state licensure requirements; and, full funding of all NCLB programs.

  • The House also adopted a resolution urging colleges and universities to implement a campus security alert system that utilizes various methods of communication to keep members of the campus community informed during emergency situations. House Resolution 232 urges higher education institutions to acquire cell phone numbers, email addresses and other important personal contact information from all members of the campus community as part of the security alert system, to immediately close campuses in the event of a shooting of any kind, and to alert local media within one hour of such an event.

  • The House Education Committee approved a legislative package related to teacher recruitment and retention on Wednesday. One bill in the package, House Bill 921, would provide signing bonuses for certain teachers hired to work in critical shortage areas and was held over in order to allow members to prepare additional amendments to the bill. Each of the following bills adopted by the Committee has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee:

    House Bill 919: Establishes a Specialty Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program for Pennsylvania residents who teach in certain positions and a Professional Personnel Recruitment Initiative Program to provide grants to institutions of higher education for teacher recruitment efforts.

    HB 919 was amended to allow specialty teachers and principals in any school district to qualify for loan forgiveness; in its original form, loan forgiveness was available only to teachers in urban and rural districts. "Specialty teachers" would be designated by the Secretary of Education as a category or subject area (such as math, reading, computer science, science or special education) based on where there is insufficient staff to meet the needs of the district. The Secretary also would be responsible for designating school districts eligible to participate in the program. Specialty teacher categories and eligible school districts must be designated no later than January 1 of the year preceding the beginning of the academic year during which qualified applicants are eligible for the program.

    In order to qualify for loan forgiveness, the bill establishes criteria for applicants related to their college education, PRAXIS exams, teacher certification, and satisfactory teaching experience. The program would be available to specialty teachers within their first five years of full-time teaching. Eligible applicants would receive loan forgiveness over a five-year period as follows: first year (5%), second year (10%), third year (20%), fourth year (25%), fifth year (40%). Additionally, the amount of forgiveness would be capped for each recipient who has a college GPA of 3.51 to 4.0 at no more than $5,000 in any given year ($25,000 maximum total) and at no more than $2,500 in any given year ($12,500 maximum total) for applicants with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.5. If a recipient fails to maintain eligibility, the recipient would be removed from the program and must repay, with interest, any awards made during any ineligibility period. However, a recipient may receive a repayment waiver from PDE if they are unable to maintain eligibility because of administrative action on the part of the school district (such as being switched to another teaching position that does not qualify for forgiveness), due to illness or catastrophic illness of an immediate family member, parental leave, or other extraordinary circumstances.

    In the event that funds appropriated by the General Assembly are insufficient to fully fund all eligible applicants, priority funding would be given to applicants currently receiving loan forgiveness awards via the program. The program would be administered by PHEAA, which is required to establish regulations and procedures to administer the program and to make an annual report on the program.

    The Professional Personnel Recruitment Initiative also created by HB 919 would provide grants to Pennsylvania higher education institutions for efforts to recruit teachers to work in designated specialty teacher categories and for the recruitment of principals to work in designated school districts. Grants would be made available on a competitive basis.

    Higher education applicants must submit a plan that: 1) demonstrates how they will recruit teachers and principals, 2) shows that their application was developed in association with participating designated school districts and teacher and administrator professional organizations, 3) assesses the need for principals or specialty teachers in these underserved districts, and, 4) creates a recruitment plan to demonstrate how potential teachers and principals will participate in the program. The recruitment plan must show what supports will be given to candidates, including scholarships, academic support, PRAXIS test preparation, placement efforts, and a multiyear program of professional support for newly hired teachers and principals.

    Teachers participating in the program must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher, successfully complete required certification exams, agree to teach in a PDE-designated school district for at least five years, and maintain a satisfactory job performance rating. Teachers who do not meet these criteria must repay all financial assistance. Principals participating in the program must meet all certification requirements of PDE and agree to serve in a designated school district for at least five years. Principals who do not meet these criteria must repay all financial assistance.

    Finally, HB 919 allocates $1.000 million to PDE for the Specialty Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and $0.500 million to PHEAA for the Professional Personnel Recruitment Initiative Program for FY 2007-08.

    House Bill 922: Establishes the Urban Educators Recruitment Program within PDE. The program would provide scholarships to college students committed to teach in an urban public school district for at least five years. Scholarship recipients who do not complete five years of teaching in an urban district must refund the money to PDE within one year of leaving the district, unless PDE finds that the recipient was unable to complete their service because of administrative action on the part of the school district, due to illness or catastrophic illness of an immediate family member, parental leave, or other extraordinary circumstances.

    The program also would provide resources to State System of Higher Education institutions to provide students with information about teaching opportunities in urban public schools. Additionally, urban school districts with critical shortages of certified teachers would be identified and posted on PDE's web site; the list would be updated semiannually. Finally, the program would provide informational sessions and experiential programs related to urban education to middle and high school students enrolled in urban public schools.

    HB 922 requires annual reporting on the program and appropriates $2.000 million to PDE to support the program in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

    House Bill 923: Establishes the Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program. HB 923 requires certain first-year teachers employed in an eligible school district to participate in this two-year induction program (eligible school districts are districts with a high turnover rate for new teachers in a two-year period and that are economically disadvantaged as determined by the Secretary of Education). PDE must provide the BEST program to all eligible school districts, however, participation by new teachers is mandatory only in districts that choose to apply for funding under this program. Educators in participating districts must complete the program in order to earn their permanent teaching certification. Participation in the BEST program may count toward an educator's state-mandated Act 48 professional development requirements.

    HB 923 requires PDE to adopt and implement criteria and standards for participation in the program, including criteria for eligibility of educators and standards for local program quality and intensity. The BEST program must support locally designed, high-quality induction programs that provide intensive, mentor-based individualized support for each participant and a performance-based assessment. PDE also must provide for the development and administration of a system to ensure the quality and effectiveness of local teacher induction programs. Finally, the Department must conduct and track research related to best practices for teacher induction and professional development.

    The bill allows an eligible school district or consortium of eligible districts to apply for funding to establish a local teacher induction program. For each new teacher who participates in the program, the district would receive $1,500 as long as the district meets all the criteria required by PDE. Funding for an educator with a level I certificate is limited to two years or until the educator has completed the program, whichever occurs first. Finally, no more than 10% of the amount appropriated can be granted to any single eligible school district.

    House Bill 924: Establishes the Call Me Mister Program to recruit African American males to become elementary school teachers. HB 924 allows PDE to contract with and provide funds to approved institutions of higher education to offer and facilitate the program. Community colleges and Pennsylvania postsecondary institutions authorized to award teaching degrees chosen by the Secretary of Education would be eligible to apply for program funding. Selected institutions would use state funds to administer the program and award tuition grants to qualifying applicants. PDE and the contracted higher education institution jointly would establish program guidelines and admission criteria. HB 924 appropriates $1.000 million to PDE to support the program in FY 2007-08. No more than 5% of the annual amount appropriated may be used for administrative costs.

    In 2003, The Education Policy and Leadership Center released a report that made numerous recommendations related to teacher recruitment and retention in Pennsylvania, many of which are addressed by this legislation. For more information about EPLC's recommendations, read "Head of the Class: A Quality Teacher in Every Pennsylvania Classroom".

  • The House Appropriations Committee passed the following legislation this week:

    House Bill 847: 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.

    HB 847 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 was amended to include special provisions that grandfather current Pennsylvania county, district, or assistant county or district superintendents or associate superintendents, and also allow 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. HB 847 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 71: Requires municipalities to notify school districts monthly about plats approved for residential development, as well as residential development plans granted final approval. HB 71 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • The House Rules Committee passed the following legislation this week:

    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. HB 894 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • Schools would be prohibited from opening before Labor Day if House Bill 258, adopted by the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee on Monday, becomes law. The bill exempts year-round schools and allows other school to seek approval from Secretary of Education to begin school prior to Labor Day for situations beyond the control of the district resulting from major construction or renovation to the school building or a natural disaster. HB 258 does not prevent school districts from conducting in-service days for teachers prior to Labor Day. The bill has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

  • 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.


  • Next Week...The National Education Association holds its annual meeting in Philadelphia June 30-July 5. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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