EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, November 16, 2007
PA State Board of Education
- Statewide Education Costing-out Study
- Special Education Regulations
- Report of the Task Force on School Cost Reduction
- Statewide School Employees Health Benefits Proposal
- State House
- State Senate
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
PA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATIONStatewide Education Costing-out Study
After years of theories, guesses and estimates, Pennsylvanians finally have an answer to the question of what it takes to provide a high quality education to every student, as this week the State Board of Education unveiled the results of a statewide costing-out study on Pennsylvania's public education system. The costing-out study was mandated by the General Assembly last year and completed by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates.
The costing-out analysis found that $12,057 is the average level of funding required to ensure that every student reaches state standards of academic achievement. The study identified a base cost per student of $8,003 and the additional funding needed to close the achievement gap for students in poverty, English language learners and children with special needs. The base cost amount was also adjusted to further close the resource gap for districts that are growing, rural or faced with other educational challenges. Overall, the study found that Pennsylvania's system of public education is underfunded by $4.61 billion (26.8 percent more than current spending). 474 out of 501 school districts in Pennsylvania are currently spending below their adequacy levels.
The Pennsylvania study reinforces the assertion made by education advocates that too many schools districts are not receiving the funding needed to ensure that students receive a high quality education. Advocates have stressed that the resource needs of struggling school districts will not be met without a more effective and equitable statewide funding system. The costing-out study recommends that state funding should take into account factors such as inflation, changes in student demographics, and the resources needed to help all students meet Pennsylvania's performance expectations and academic standards.
In examining the equity of the current school finance system for students and taxpayers, the study found that districts with the greatest need generate the least local revenue per pupil, despite the fact that they typically make a greater tax effort than districts with more wealth. These inequities are not sufficiently addressed by state aid under the current funding system.
While the costing-out study examines the cost of education per student and the impact of local tax effort, it does not propose a new formula for distribution of state aid. That is the work still to be done by the General Assembly.
Pennsylvania is not unique in using the costing-out process to determine what resources and conditions are required for students to meet the state's learning standards and how much funding is required to provide those resources. A new publication from EPLC reviews the results of costing-out studies across the nation and the role of legislatures in enacting subsequent reforms. In a recent statewide poll, a majority of Pennsylvanian's said the state's current system for funding education is unfair and voiced support for enacting reforms to increase the state's share of education costs as well as overall funding for education.
The poll was commissioned by EPLC as part of the Pennsylvania Education Funding Reform Campaign. For more about the Campaign, and information about how you can take action and endorse the work of the Campaign, see www.goodschoolspa.org/learn/PA_costing-out_study.php.
Special Education Regulations
The State Board adopted final form revisions to regulations governing special education (Chapter 14) on Thursday. Key changes include: placing focus on positive behavior supports; changing the timeline for evaluating students for special education services from 60 school days to 60 calendar days (however, calendar days would not count during a school's summer break); prohibiting the use of prone restraints in educational settings; and establishing training and professional development criteria for paraprofessionals. Other revisions were made to reflect recent changes in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and recent court rulings. A copy of the revised regulations will be available on the Board's web site at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/site/default.asp?g=0 (the version of Chapter 14 posted on the Board's site at the time of this publication does not reflect the final changes adopted by the Board).
The Board also announced it plans to establish a task force to explore issues related to discipline for children with autism as it did not feel it had enough time to examine the unintended consequences of the regulations for these students.
PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERSTask Force on School Cost Reduction
The Task Force on School Cost Reduction released a report of its final recommendations this week. The Task Force was established by Special Session Act 1 of 2006 to examine all school district costs and offer options to local governments and the General Assembly to minimize or reduce costs to school districts. The report makes recommendations in the following areas: tax collection, health care, school construction and green building, special education, transportation, charter and cyber charter schools, shares services, and mandate waivers.
Statewide School Employees Health Benefits Proposal
Sen. Raphael Musto (D-14) this week introduced legislation to establish a board to explore the creation of a statewide health benefits program for school employees. Senate Bill 1140 has been referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. A meeting to consider similar legislation ( House Bill 1841) this week in the House Education Committee was cancelled.
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.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.