EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    -   Task Force on School Cost Reduction
    -   State House
    -   State Senate
    -   Pennsylvania Bulletin
    -   Independent Regulatory Review Commission
    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.

    Task Force on School Cost Reduction

    The Task Force on School Cost Reduction met September 5 to explore potential cost savings for school districts related to special education. This advisory committee established by Special Session Act 1 of 2006 likely will recommend that the formula for distributing state special education dollars be tied more closely to districts' actual costs in its final report due in October. Currently, districts receive special education funding based on the assumption that 16% of a district's students receive special services. The state also maintains a contingency fund to provide some additional support to districts for high-cost students. Task Force members also discussed supporting early intervention programs as a means of reducing future special education referrals and calling for the federal government to fund its fair share of special education costs.

    The Task Force will meet next on September 26 to discuss issues related to No Child Left Behind and teacher certification. For more information about the work of the Task Force, see www.pde.state.pa.us/k12_finances/cwp/view.asp?a=305&q=123154&k12_financesNav=|10481|&k12_financesNav=|4339|.

    Pennsylvania House

    The House Finance Committee took its statewide public hearings on new property tax relief legislation ( House Bill 1600) to western Pennsylvania this week, gathering input in Waynesburg on Monday, Beaver Falls on Tuesday, and McKeesport on Wednesday. HB 1600 would add a 0.5% surtax to the state sales tax and a 0.22% surtax to the state personal income tax (PIT). Revenue generated by the PIT surtax would be placed in a new Personal Income Tax Surcharge Fund; revenue generated by the sales tax surtax would be placed in the state's existing Property Tax Relief Fund, which houses state gaming revenue for property tax relief. Dollars in the Personal Income Tax Surcharge Fund would be distributed to school districts for the purpose of providing property tax relief based on a proposed formula considering each district's average daily membership (enrollment) and local tax effort.

    Pennsylvania Senate

    The Senate Republican Policy Committee met in York on Monday for a public hearing on the state's basic education funding formula and its impact on growing school districts. For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Chair Jake Corman at (717) 787-1377.

    Pennsylvania Bulletin

    The September 8 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes publication of proposed changes to Chapter 16 (Special Education for Gifted Students). The State Board of Education will accept public comments on this proposed rulemaking through October 8. For a copy of the proposed regulatory changes and information about how to submit comments, see www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol37/37-36/1654.html.

    Independent Regulatory Review Commission

    The Independent Regulatory Review Commission recently provided comments on proposed changes to state regulations governing Special Education (Chapter 14), which are currently under consideration by the State Board of Education. Read IRRC's comments at www.irrc.state.pa.us/Documents/Comments/2618%2008-29-07%20COMMENTS.pdf.

    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.

    Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) has issued a policy paper that recommends the state develop and require every high school student to take a series of statewide end-of-course exams aligned to state standards in English/language arts, math, science and social studies. The proposed Graduation Competency Assessments would replace the current local assessment option as a means for students to demonstrate proficiency. Currently, the state requires students to demonstrate proficiency in state standards in order to graduate from high school either by scoring advanced or proficient on state math and reading assessments (PSSAs) or on an equivalent local assessment. However, there is a disconnect between the number of students demonstrating proficiency on the PSSAs and the number of students being awarded high school diplomas. In 2006, 45 percent of high school seniors who graduated in Pennsylvania did not score proficient on the 11th grade reading and math PSSA or 12th grade re-take, or did not take the PSSAs.

    PPC believes Graduation Competency Assessments are a better alternative because they would place assessment closer to the point of instruction and create a sense of relevance for testing and progress of all students, assess small bodies of knowledge at one time, allow students to begin taking the assessment earlier and have multiple opportunities to retake and pass, and diagnose specific areas of weakness allowing for targeted remediation. Under the proposal, high school students would be required to demonstrate proficiency either on the PSSA or on graduation competency assessments, and districts would maintain discretion over additional graduation requirements such as course requirements. To learn more, read "Ensuring Success for All High School Graduates" at www.papartnerships.org/ensuring_success/ensuring_success_factsheet.pdf.

    Next Week...

  • The House Transportation Committee holds a public hearing in Harrisburg Monday on legislation related to school bus safety (House Bills 216, 247, 1183, and 1793).

  • The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee meets Tuesday in Harrisburg to consider Senate Bill 592.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing in Harrisburg on Wednesday on cyber charter schools.

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday in Harrisburg.

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum - Western Pennsylvania Breakfast Series on Thursday in Pittsburgh

  • 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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