EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, October 5, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State House
    - State Senate
    - Auditor General
    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.

    The House and Senate will both reconvene in voting session on Monday, October 15 at 1 p.m.

    Pennsylvania House

  • The House passed the following legislation this week:

    House Bill 1067: Requires that a student's disciplinary record be transferred to and by both school entities and nonpublic schools when a student transfers in or out of a public or nonpublic school. Currently, this transfer requirement applies only to public school entities. HB 1067 extends this transfer requirement to also apply to nonpublic schools. Further, HB 1067 requires that when a charter school charter is revoked or not renewed, all records maintained by the charter school must be forwarded to the student's district of residence within ten days. HB 1067 awaits referral to a Senate Committee.

    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 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. HB 1377 awaits referral to a Senate Committee.

  • The House Education Committee approved the following legislation this week:

    House Bill 1407: The Committee adopted an amended version of HB 1407, which addresses truancy concerns related to cyber charter schools. The bill requires that when a student enrolls in a cyber charter school the student's school district of residence must notify the cyber charter school in writing if a student is truant. Upon notification of a truant student, the cyber charter school must provide the school district evidence during the first three months that the student is receiving instruction and completing assignments. If the cyber charter school fails to comply by providing monthly reports when it bills the district, the student's school district would not be required to pay the cyber charter school for the student during this time. Finally, HB 1407 makes cyber charter schools responsible for enforcing the state's compulsory attendance requirements. HB 1407 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    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. HB 1838 awaits further consideration by the full House.

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

    House Bill 118: Lowers the compulsory school age in the Philadelphia School District to age six. The compulsory school age would remain at age eight in the rest of the state and for homeschoolers who file notice with the Philadelphia District. HB 118 was amended to take effect in the 2008-2009 school year and awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved the following legislation this week:

    House Bill 1110: Allows higher education loans administered by PHEAA to active duty military personnel to be deferred during periods of active duty (other than active duty for training). Deferral must be requested on forms provided by PHEAA and would end six months after the return to inactive duty or reserve status. All interest incurred on such deferred loans must be paid by PHEAA as long as the student remains in compliance with applicable conditions of the loan agreement and certain state laws related to military affairs. HB 1110 has been place on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    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. HB 1324 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

  • The House Education Committee held a public hearing Thursday on proposed revisions to Chapter 16 (Special Education for Gifted Students) that are currently before the State Board of Education. Proposed regulations clarify procedures for developing gifted individualized education programs (GIEPs), commit PDE to monitor school district gifted programs, and make some changes in teacher caseload requirements.

    Specifically, the proposed changes clarify how parents may make a verbal request to evaluate whether a student is gifted. Current regulations are silent on this issue. Changes also would require school districts to develop a single plan for students who simultaneously have a disability and who are gifted in order to simplify and streamline the process and focus on the student as a whole. Current regulations permit districts to use a single plan or create a separate IEP and GIEP. Further, the changes would require a teacher of the gifted to be a member of a student's GIEP team. Proposed changes also clarify that a GIEP will be based on data and information from a student's Gifted Multidisciplinary Report to ensure that the plan is individualized and based on student needs and levels of performance. Additionally, the changes would make school districts responsible for notifying teachers who work with gifted students of their responsibilities to the student and also alter the maximum individual teacher caseloads to 60 students for itinerant support and 25 students for full-time classes.

    Proposed changes also would require PDE to conduct onsite monitoring of school districts to ensure compliance with Chapter 16 based on a process and schedule outlined by the Secretary of Education. Current regulations permit, but do not require, such compliance monitoring by PDE. Further changes would require school districts to implement final decisions in special education due process hearings and file assurances with PDE that these decisions will be implemented. PDE would have the responsibility to intervene if there is no evidence that the school district will implement the decision. Currently, PDE does not conduct follow up after a final decision in a special education due process hearing, leaving no administrative mechanism in place to enforce implementation of the decision. Finally, while the proposed regulations provide a change in the timelines for evaluation of students for services, they maintain the number of days in which an evaluation must be completed at 60 school days.

    Parents of gifted education students and advocacy associations appeared before the committee and called for more compliance monitoring by PDE, use of multiple criteria to evaluate students for gifted services, establishment of a complaint procedure for parents other than filing a due process hearing, the creation of standards for gifted education students, and the inclusion of graduation planning in a student's GIEP.

    The State Board will accept public comments on the proposed regulations published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin through October 9; comments will be reviewed prior to moving final form regulations. No date has been set for the adoption of final form regulations, however, it is anticipated they will be adopted and effective for the 2008-09 school year.

  • Legislation to establish a statewide school employee health benefits program, as recently proposed by Gov. Rendell, has been formally introduced in the House. Read House Bill 1841 for details.

  • Pennsylvania Senate

  • The Senate passed the following legislation this week:

    Senate Bill 805: Requires the Department of Education to annually report to the General Assembly on the operation of the educational assistance program (tutoring). SB 805 was amended to address the enrollment of students in charter schools. The amended bill prohibits enrollment in charter or cyber charter schools from being capped or otherwise limited unless agreed to by the charter or cyber charter school as part of a written charter. SB 805 has been referred to the House Education Committee.

  • The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that empowers the Governor to appoint the executive officers of a number of state boards, including the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). The appointments would require Senate confirmation. Senate Bill 920 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • Auditor General

  • The Department of the Auditor General (AG) will begin including school safety and security criteria as part of its regular school audits. A new checklist developed by the AG will:

    • review whether a school has developed a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement on reporting acts of violence on school property;

    • determine whether a school has a comprehensive school safety plan;

    • determine whether a school has a visitation policy and a student, staff and visitor identification policy;

    • review whether a school has certain security features, such as single points of entry and egress to buildings;

    • assess whether a school has a designated safety officer or crisis manager and a crisis team;

    • evaluate whether a school's emergency communications system is regularly tested and maintained and has a back-up system in case of failure; and,

    • determine whether a school provides for safe schools and emergency training for staff, faculty and students.

    The checklist criteria were developed due to a recent AG survey that found deficiencies in school safety and security. The AG released his final school safety survey results last week.

  • 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 Council of Chief State School Officers' (CCSSO) Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) issued a report that looks at "Developing Student Achievement Tests Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Accountability Requirements: A Policy Maker's Primer." The paper discusses the purposes of large-scale testing and seven critical components of state assessment systems identified by the U.S. Department of Education's Peer Review Guidance for compliance with NCLB. These components are: challenging academic content standards; challenging academic achievement standards; system of annual high-quality assessments; system of assessments with high technical quality; alignment of academic content standards, academic achievement standards, and assessments; inclusion of all students in the assessment system; and an effective system of assessment reports.

  • David L.Woten Jr., a music teacher at Carson Middle School in the North Allegheny School District, was selected as Pennsylvania's 2008 Teacher of the Year. Woten, who has spent his entire 16-year career in the same classroom at Carson, was selected among 12 finalists to represent Pennsylvania in the National Teacher of the Year presentation.

  • Rep. Tom Tangretti (D-57) will not seek re-election to the State House after the 2007-08 legislative session. Tangretti has served 20 years in the legislature representing Westmoreland County.

    Next Week...

  • The Task Force on School Cost Reduction meets Wednesday in Harrisburg.

  • The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors meets October 10-11 in Harrisburg.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing on higher education affordability on Wednesday in Harrisburg.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing on campus safety and security issues on Thursday in State College.

  • The Pennsylvania Child Care Association holds its annual conference October 10-12 in State College.

  • The National Association of State Boards of Education holds its annual conference in Philadelphia on October 11-13.

  • The Association of School Business Officers International holds its annual meeting in Ontario, Canada on October 12-15.

  • 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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