EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, October 15, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    EPLC News
    - Annual Awards Dinner
    - How Money Matters Hearings
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Task Force on School Cost Reduction
    - State House

    The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.

    Annual Leadership Awards Dinner

  • On Wednesday, October 17, EPLC hosts its Annual Leadership Awards Dinner at the Sheraton Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel. Reception is at 6:00 p.m. and Dinner at 7:00 p.m. More information is available at www.eplc.org/donleydinner.

  • How Money Matters Hearings

  • EPLC will kick-off a series of "How Money Matters" hearings on Wednesday, October 24 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Pittsburgh/Southpointe. The hearing is open to the public and begins at 4:15 p.m. with two panels of invited witnesses testifying between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Additional public comments will be invited between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Written comments also will be accepted for the record. A panel of hearing officers will hear the testimony.

    The "How Money Matters" Project of EPLC is an 18-month research project, including a series of public hearings throughout Pennsylvania, designed to examine the relationship of adequate and equitable funding for public schools to student achievement.

    Task Force on School Cost Reduction

  • The Task Force on School Cost Reduction met Wednesday to review recommendations in its final report that will be published in early November. The Committee was established by Special Session Act 1 of 2006 as an advisory body in the Governor's office to explore potential cost savings for school districts. The report will include recommendations concerning charter and cyber charter schools, tax collection, health care, transportation, school construction and green building, shared services, special education, and mandate waivers.

  • Pennsylvania House

  • The House Education Committee held a public hearing in Harrisburg on Wednesday to address higher education affordability. Members heard testimony concerning three pieces of legislation. House Bill 1722, introduced by Rep. Tony Payton, would establish the REACH Scholarship program, designed to provide a full scholarship, covering tuition and fees, to students graduating from high school with a 3.0 GPA and 90 percent attendance rate who agree to attend a postsecondary institution in Pennsylvania and to remain in Pennsylvania for four years after graduation. This legislation is modeled after the HOPE scholarship program which began in Georgia in 1993. House Bill 1403, introduced by Rep. John Pallone, would require the PA State System of Higher Education Board of Governors to fix tuition levels (except student activity fees) so that a student's tuition does not increase during the time an individual continues to be enrolled as a full-time student. Finally, House Bill 108, introduced by Rep. Jess Stairs, would create merit scholarships for all students who have attained a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale at the end of their junior year and meet other academic requirements such as a combined score on the SAT of at least 1000 and a proficient level on the PSSA. These scholarships would be based on academic achievement rather than financial need.

    Dr. Sandy Baum, of the College Board, spoke to the Committee about trends in college pricing and student aid. Christine Zuzack, Vice President of the State Grant Program at PHEAA, discussed the merits of the REACH Scholarship Program and the role PHEAA would have in its implementation, as well as similarities in the administration and processing requirements of the proposed program to others currently handled through PHEAA such as the State Grant Program and the Byrd Scholarship. Zuzack also related concerns regarding privacy issues connected with student data and the need for further study of possible tax liability associated with the scholarship amount because of its annual 40 hour community service obligation.

    Mary Benner, her daughter Kaitlyn Benner - a high school senior, and Diane Simmons, all constituents of Rep. Payton, testified in support of the REACH program and addressed the benefits of it for themselves, their families and their community. Brendan Boyle, President of the Philadelphia Policy Institute, spoke to the three major reasons he supported the REACH Scholarship. "First, Pennsylvania's families need us to make college more affordable. Second, it is in our best interests to do so. Third, the REACH Scholarship is a practical and achievable solution," said Boyle.

    Don Francis, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, raised two main concerns which he described as the Stress Points for Campus Administrators and Principles for State Policymakers to consider as they address the issue of making college affordable.

    Finally, Robert Zemsky, Professor & Chair of The Learning Alliance for Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, shared his prospective based on a study ( "The Rising Tide") of the current state of higher education in Pennsylvania, which Zemsky conducted with EPLC last year. Dr. Zemsky stressed targeting student aid so that "we invest in the problem" and urged policymakers to consider important questions in focusing the Commonwealth's higher education policies: What is the public purpose of higher education? What do you do to increase participation? How do you increase community college access in the areas of the Commonwealth not currently served? How do you invest in secondary education so that all students can read and graduate prepared to continue their education in a postsecondary institution?

    For more information concerning this hearing, contact the office of House Education Committee Chair James Roebuck at (717) 783-1000.

  • On Thursday, the House Education Committee convened in State College for a public hearing on campus safety and security. For more information about the hearing, contact the office of Committee Chair James Roebuck at (717) 783-1000.

  • The House Republican Policy Committee convened in Western Pennsylvania on Thursday for a hearing on school property tax reform. For more information about the hearing, contact the office of Committee Chair Mike Turzai at (717) 772-9943.

  • 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 House Transportation Committee meets Monday (October 15) to consider House Bill 1549.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Education Foundations holds its 2007 Pennsylvania Conference in Pittsburgh on Monday.

  • The Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania holds its annual conference in State College on October 16-18.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1643, 1582 and 1129.

  • EPLC hosts its annual 2007 Education Policy Leadership Awards Dinner on Wednesday.

  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials holds its annual transportation conference in State College on October 18-19.

  • Phi Delta Kappa International holds its Summit on Public Education in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 18-20.

  • For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

    EPLC Education Notebook is published by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Permission to reprint or electronically redistribute the Notebook in whole or in part is granted provided attribution to EPLC is provided.

    The Education Policy and Leadership Center is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization. The Mission of EPLC is to encourage and support the enactment and implementation of effective state-level education policies in order to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.

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