EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, October 29, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    EPLC News
    - 2007 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium
    - How Money Matters Hearings
    - Education Policy Leadership Awards

    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - New Legislative Proposals
    - PA State Board of Education: Costing-out Study Update
    - State House
    - State Senate

    School District Merger

    Research and Reports



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

    2007 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium

    Register now for EPLC’s annual Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium which will take place November 15-16, 2007 at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel in Camp Hill (just outside Harrisburg). The reduced rate housing block closes on November 2. The event will include sessions on Pennsylvania’s statewide costing-out study, property tax reform proposals, statewide school employee health benefits proposal, proposed statewide education finance reform commission, a new statewide poll results on education funding issues, and more, as well as an address by Education Secretary Jerry Zahorchak and a panel of state policymakers. A preliminary agenda and registration information is available at www.eplc.org/financesymposium.html.

    How Money Matters Hearings

    EPLC held the first in a series of public hearings on “How Money Matters” in Canonsburg on October 24. A panel of hearing officers heard from eight invited witnesses plus public comments from audience members. The “How Money Matters” Project of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (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. The Project is part of a campaign for education funding reform coordinated by EPLC, Good Schools PA, and the Education Law Center. A second hearing will soon be scheduled for early December.

    Education Policy Leadership Awards

    At its Education Policy Leadership Awards Dinner on October 17, EPLC recognized the career accomplishments of State Senator James J. Rhoades who received the 2007 Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals who represent an exemplary model of dedicated service to children, commitment to stronger educational opportunities for all, and hard work to improve the effectiveness of local, state and national education policy.

    The very significant support for EPLC provided by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association was recognized with the EPLC Partner Award. In addition, the Center presented the EPLC Leadership Program Alumni Award to Chris Wakeley, Elaine Harris-Fulton and Jean Masiko.

    Congratulations to all!

    New Legislative Proposals

  • Lawmakers are taking steps to make sure that the state’s soon-to-be-released education costing-out study won’t simply be shelved with the introduced of a bi-partisan proposal to establish a Joint Legislative Commission on Public School Finance. State Representatives John Siptroth (D-189) and Beverly Mackereth (R-196) have introduced House Resolution 460 to create a 41-member commission tasked with analyzing the results of the study and recommending, at a minimum, two formulae for distributing state funding for public education.

    The concurrent resolution requires approval of both the Senate and the House.

    According to Siptroth, the Commission’s four primary goals would be to ensure that:

    • state funds allocated for basic education are distributed both adequately and equitably;

    • the allocation of state funding addresses and is reflective of unique characteristics among districts, including changes in demography and needs of students;

    • the allocation of state funding is linked with measures of accountability; and,

    • school districts remain accountable for meeting state academic standards and attaining student proficiency.

    In addition to examining the costing-out study, the group would be required to:

    • consider national trends in education funding (including foundation programs, percentage equalization and guaranteed yield programs and their potential relevance to Pennsylvania);

    • review methods that try to link funding to accountability systems such as value-added;

    • examine the impact of federal mandates on the Commonwealth’s schools;

    • examine the impact of state regulations, standards and guidelines;

    • study demographic patterns within PA to determine the impact of both growth and decline in student enrollment on districts’ operational costs and the positive and negative aspects of school consolidation as a means to affect cost efficiencies;

    • examine the efficiency of consolidating existing funding programs used to distribute state education funds and to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of targeted categorical funding;

      review potential local cost control mechanisms that may become necessary if the commission’s recommendations lead to the state assuming greater funding responsibility; and,

    • examine opportunities for improved cooperation and consolidation among districts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of school districts’ operations in order to achieve savings and to enhance student achievement.

    The Commission would hold public hearings to solicit public input on proposed funding formulae and other recommendations. It would have one year to complete its work.

    The Commission would consist of representatives of the General Assembly, the Secretaries of Education and the Budget, the State Board of Education, school board directors, teachers, school business managers, school administrators, charter schools, parents of public school students, the business community, education experts and child advocacy organizations, and would be chaired by a public school finance expert from one of the state’s higher education institutions.

    EPLC and other advocates are encouraged that the Commission can help use the groundwork laid by the costing-out study to guarantee that education finance reform efforts continue to gain momentum, but stress that the joint commission should not be cause for delay in the Governor and the Legislature using the 2008-09 budget as an immediate opportunity to make a firm commitment and significant progress to address the needs identified by the costing-out study. In a prepared statement, the organizations said that Governor Rendell and the Legislature have the responsibility to act quickly and boldly to implement the findings and recommendations of the costing-out study and to provide the resources needed to fully support Pennsylvania students.

  • Rep. Lawrence Curry has introduced a resolution ( House Resolution 459) that directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the fiscal impact of tax exempt properties on municipalities and school districts.

  • Rep. Bob Bastian announced he will introduce legislation (as House Bill 1901) that would ban teacher strikes through a constitutional amendment. Bastian said his legislation is part of a larger effort, the Strike-Free Education Pact, which includes House Bill 1369 previously introduced by Rep. Todd Rock. Rock’s legislation would require mediation, fact-finding, arbitration, a mandatory vote, and mandatory negotiating with public transparency during the collective bargaining process.

    PA State Board of Education: Costing-out Study Update

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Education is scheduled to release the findings of the statewide costing-out study mandated by the PA General Assembly on November 14. The report will be presented at the Board’s Study session at 3:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, 300 North Third Street, Harrisburg.

    Following its release, the Board will hold six regional public briefings on the study. Public meetings will be held as follows (each meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and conclude by 9:00 p.m.):

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 (Luzerne County)
    Wyoming Valley West High School Auditorium
    150 Wadham Street, Plymouth, PA 18651

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 (Delaware County)
    Upper Darby High School Performing Arts Center
    601 North Lansdowne Avenue, Drexel Hill, PA 19026

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 (Philadelphia)
    Benjamin Franklin High School Auditorium
    550 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 (Lancaster County)
    Hempfield High School Hackman Auditorium
    200 Stanley Ave., Landisville, PA 17538

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007 (Clearfield County)
    DuBois Area High School Auditorium
    425 Orient Ave., DuBois, PA 15801

    Thursday, December 6, 2007 (Allegheny County)
    Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3
    Sullivan-McGuffey Rooms
    475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA 15120

    Pennsylvania House

  • The House approved the following legislation last week (each bill awaits referral to a Senate Committee):

    House Bill 1324: Requires educational institutions to grant educational leave of absence to the spouses of active duty members of the PA National Guard or other reserve components of the U.S. armed forces. Currently, this type of leave is available only to active Guard or other reserve members.

    House Bill 118: Lowers the compulsory school age in the Philadelphia School District to age six, beginning in the 2008-09 school year. The compulsory school age would remain at age eight in the rest of the state and for Philadelphia homeschoolers who file notice with the district.

    House Bill 1838: Requires school districts to provide access to their libraries to homeschooled students and home education supervisors. Districts may establish specific times during which home education students are permitted to use their facilities and may set guidelines for use of the facilities by home education students who were previously suspended or expelled from any public or private school.

  • The House Finance Committee on October 24 approved two pieces of legislation that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow for greater property tax relief. House Bill 211 would exempt all honorably discharged, permanently disabled veterans from residential property taxes. Under current law, the State Veterans’ Commission determines on a case-by-case basis if a disabled veteran is in need of a property tax exemption. The bill would remove this requirement for review by the Veterans’ Commission from the Constitution. The Committee also approved House Bill 1947, which would amend the state Constitution to allow the General Assembly to exempt the full value of homesteads and farmsteads from property taxes. Under current law, no more than 50% of the median assessed value of all homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction may be exempted. Both bills have been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

  • On October 24, the House Education Committee adopted legislation ( House Bill 1415) that requires the State Board of Education to develop academic standards for world languages. HB 1415 was amended to clarify that school districts would maintain local control to decide if proficiency in world languages would be a graduation requirement or if all students must participate in a world language program. HB 1415 has been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

  • The House Education Committee approved the following legislation on October 17 (both bills have been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar):

    House Bill 1643: When a child’s parents reside in different school districts, HB 1643 would allow the child to attend either district regardless of which parent has primary physical custody. An amendment to HB 1643 requires parents to clarify in writing which district the child will attend, unless a court order directs which of the districts is the district of residence. School districts would not be required to provide transportation for a child to or from a residence outside of the district’s boundaries.

    House Bill 1129: Establishes the College and University Sexual Violence Education Act, which would require higher education institutions and private licensed schools to provide matriculating students with educational programs in sexual violence awareness.

  • On October 15, the House Transportation Committee held a public hearing on legislation to curtail distracted driving, including House Bill 1549. HB 1549 would prohibit school bus drivers from eating, drinking or using a cell phone while operating the bus. School bus drivers could make calls when they are safely parked off a trafficway. For more information about the hearing, contact the office of Committee Chair Joseph Markosek at (717) 783-1012.

    Pennsylvnia Senate

  • The Senate Republican Policy Committee convened in Chester County on October 17 for a public hearing on funding for growing school districts. For more information about the hearing, contact the office of Policy Committee Chair Jake Corman at (717) 787-1377.

    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.

    The Center Area and Monaca school districts have voted to approve a voluntary merger of the neighboring Beaver County districts. The merger must be reviewed by the PA Department of Education and approved by the State Board of Education. The districts have been studying the possibility of consolidating since 2005. Enrollment in each district is projected to continue to decline. Center Area School Board President Michael Rossi said school directors understand the magnitude of the decision, but believe it is in the best interest of both students and the community in order to provide an enhanced curriculum with more choices, expanded extracurricular activities, increased property values and stabilized millage rates.

  • The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning released an analysis that will help the state better target funding for early childhood programs. The report includes information from 2006-07 on the number of children served by state and federal early childhood programs and funding levels for those programs, as well as an analysis of educational and family risk factors. It identifies counties most likely to benefit from early childhood investments based on those risk factors, such as the percentage of children under five living in low-income families, the rate of births to mothers with less than a high school degree, and the percentage of students who were below proficient on the 3rd grade PSSA in math and in reading. The report found that “more than two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s counties have social and economic conditions that put young children at a higher risk of academic failure.”

  • The U.S. Department of Education has released its 27th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Access the report at www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2005/parts-b-c/index.html.

  • State Senator Roger Madigan (R-23) has announced he will retire at the end of the 2008 legislative session. Madigan served as a member of the State House of Representatives from 1977 until his election to the Senate in 1984.

  • Edward Donley, the founding chairman of EPLC, and the former member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, has been honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the National Association of State Boards of Education. Donley served on the Pennsylvania Board from 1991 through 2006.

    Next Week...

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing on House Bill 1841 (statewide school employees health program) on Monday, October 29.

  • The House Education Committee meets to consider State Board of Education Regulations for Chapter 14 (Special Education) and Chapter 16 (Gifted Education) and House Bills 1695 and 734 on Wednesday.

  • The House Finance Committee meets to consider House Bills 93, 377, 1489, 1600, 1889 and 1948 on Wednesday.

  • EPLC hosts two Pennsylvania Education Policy Forums in Harrisburg on Wednesday and in Western Pennsylvania on Thursday.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education Committee on Chapters 14 & 16 meets Thursday to discuss revisions to Chapter 14.

  • The House Local Government Committee holds a public hearing on House Bill 397 (impact fees) in Langhorne on Friday.

    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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