EPLC Education Notebook

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Pennsylvania Bulletin
    - PA State Board of Education
    - Health Care Consolidation
    - State House
    - State Senate
    Take Your Legislator to School Day

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

    Pennsylvania Bulletin

  • Changes to Chapter 49 (Certification of Professional Personnel) that realign the state's teacher certification system and establish additional teacher training requirements took effect on September 22 upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Beginning in January 2013, the state will issue new teaching certificates in early childhood (grades preK-4), elementary/middle (grades 4-8), and secondary (grades 7-12).

    Beginning in January 2013, the state also will issue new certificates in special education (grades preK-8) and special education (grades 7-12). Individuals seeking a special education certificate (preK-8) will be required to obtain an additional certificate in one of three areas: early childhood, elementary/middle, or as a reading specialist; individuals seeking a special education certificate (7-12) will be required to obtain an additional certificate in either secondary education or as a reading specialist. Finally, the regulations also include a certificate for Special Education Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired and Speech/Language Impaired which will cover all grades (preK through 12).

    These new certificates do not apply to current teachers.

    The regulations also provide a safety valve to address potential staffing issues by allowing the Secretary of Education to grant exceptions to the new certificates on a case-by-case basis and to grant statewide exceptions, if necessary, for a limited time. Additionally, the regulations provide for an accelerated program of study through which individuals who hold an early childhood certificate can earn an additional elementary/middle certificate, and vice versa.

    Additionally, preK teachers must be certified in early childhood if they work for a community provider which contracts with a school district. PreK teachers must obtain certification within five years of the start of services (for new contracts) or within five year of these regulations taking effect (for current contracts).

    The regulations also establish teacher training requirements in meeting the needs of diverse learners. Prospective teachers must take 9 credits or 270 hours of training in accommodations and adaptations for diverse learners in inclusive settings and 3 credits or 90 hours in instruction for English language learners. Individuals training to teach vocational education must complete 3 credits or 90 hours of instruction in working with diverse learners (for a Vocational Instructional Certificate I) and 6 credits or 180 hours of instruction in working with diverse learners and 3 credits or 90 hours of instruction in working with English language learners (for a Vocational Instructional Certificate II). These new training requirements must be integrated into college & university preparation programs by January 1, 2011.

    Finally, schools must include activities on teaching diverse learners in inclusive settings in their induction programs for new teachers and must offer all teachers the opportunity to participate in ongoing professional development focused on teaching special needs students and English language learners.

    Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education Kate Shaw has announced PDE will consult with three separate work groups focused on middle level, early childhood and special education to assist with the implementation of these new regulations. PDE will form a fourth work group focused on English language learners and will integrate its work into that of the other three groups.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education has designated the East Allegheny School District and the West Mifflin Area School District to accept high school students being reassigned from the Duquesne City School District. The September 22 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes questions and answers about how the reassignment process will be conducted. This formal notification in the Bulletin actually reflects actions already taken by the Department of Education to make student assignments prior to the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year several weeks ago.

  • The September 15 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes notice of the index by which school districts may increase taxes without seeking voter approval for FY 2008-2009 (as required by Special Session Act 1 of 2006). The 2008-09 index is 4.4%. The index is the average of the percentage increase in the Statewide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index. An adjusted index for districts with a market value/income aide ratio greater than .4000 will be posted on PDE's web site by September 30, 2007.

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission recently provided comments on proposed changes to the state's Special Education regulations (Chapter 14). See www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol37/37-37/1726.html for a copy of IRRC's comments.

  • Pennsylvania State Board of Education

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved proposed regulatory changes to Chapter 42 (Program Approval) at its September 19-20 meeting last week. For more information, see www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed.

  • PDE presented its annual teacher certification report to the State Board last week. The report addresses the number of initial certificates issued by PDE, the number of educators hired as first year teachers by public schools, and the number of emergency permits issued to public schools.

    The Department issued 21,075 Instructional I certificates in 2005-06, up from 12,687 issued in 2004-05 and 10,776 issued in 2001-02. The number of certificates issued spiked in the past year because 2005-06 was the first year teachers could earn additional certificates by passing a test and more people have been earning multiple certificates. The report also shows Pennsylvania's private colleges and universities are beginning to rival the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in teacher production. PASSHE recommended 6,758 students for Instruction I certificates in 2005-06, while private colleges recommended 6,663 and state-related institutions recommended 2,161. Figures also show growth in the number of biology, chemistry, physics, math and early education teaches certified since 2001-02. Finally, number of teachers serving on emergency permits declined statewide, with the Philadelphia School District decreasing the number of emergency certified teachers from 2,650 in 2001-02 to 1,156 in 2005-06. For a copy of the report, see www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_teacherqs.html#research.

  • Also at its September meeting, a special State Board Committee met to discuss an application to establish a new community college in the Tuscarora Valley. The application, which was submitted to the Board in July by Intermediate Unit 11, has been forwarded to the Governor's Office and the PA Department of Education for their review and comment. To date, Mifflin County, Juniata County, Juniata School District, Mifflin School District and Juniata Valley School District (located in Huntingdon County) are signed on as local financial sponsors of the college. This is the first application received to establish a community college since 1992.

  • Health Care Consolidation

  • Governor Rendell has announced a proposal to establish a statewide health benefits system for school employees. School districts would enter the proposed statewide health program after their existing health benefits contracts expire. All schools districts, except Philadelphia, would be required to participate. While legislation creating the program has yet to be introduced, Rendell announced it will be advanced with bi-partisan co-sponsorship by Rep. Dan Surra and Rep. Steven Nickol. Although not yet formally introduced, the proposal has been assigned House Bill 1841 as its designated number.

    According to Rendell, a 12-member board with equal representation from the state, school employees and school boards would be formed to devise a single statewide health plan. The board may adopt some form of regional pricing to set premium costs. Additionally, the state would be a partner in funding the proposed health care program. In his announcement, Rendell said the state would pay up to half the annual increase in health care costs, however, the state would not pay more than the inflation rate for private sector health insurance as an incentive for school districts and employees to control costs. Further, the state's payment would be targeted to offset the costs of all school districts, but provide more assistance to districts with the greatest financial need.

  • State House

  • The House Transportation Committee conducted a public hearing September 17 on legislation designed to improve school bus safety. House Bill 216 would require school buses to be equipped with automatic fire suppression systems. House Bill 247 would establish a pilot program to equip school buses with devices to record drivers who illegally pass school buses. House Bill 1183 would prohibit school bus drivers from talking on cell phones unless the bus in parked in a safe area off of a traffic way, the driver has reason to fear for his/her safety, or the driver was reporting a traffic accident or making a 911 call. Finally, House Bill 1793 prohibits the use of school buses that are more than 12 years old.

    Representatives of the State Police, school boards, school bus drivers, and private school bus contractors appeared before the Committee. Questions were raised during testimony about costs associated with installing fire suppression systems and potential safety issues if these chemicals were accidentally dispersed. Additional concerns were raised around setting an arbitrary 12-year cap on the life of school buses that can function appropriately beyond that age if properly maintained. Support was expressed for the concept of HB 247's automated enforcement devices to help combat the illegal passing of school buses, which bus drivers and school board members said is a persistent problem. Finally, support also was expressed for increasing safety by prohibiting school bus drivers from using cell phone while driving.

  • The House Education Committee held a public hearing in Harrisburg on September 19 to discuss cyber charter schools. The hearing focused on legislation that has been introduced to address issues related to funding, accountability and truancy (House Bill 446, House Bill 738, House Bill 1407 and House Bill 1655). Among this legislation, House Bill 446 would require the state to pay for the education of students in cyber charter schools and establish greater accountability requirements for cyber charter schools. An analysis of each bill is available on EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse.

    The PA Department of Education previously called for establishing a single statewide cyber charter school tuition rate based on the most efficient and effective cyber charter school's actual expenditures. Currently, state law treats cyber charter schools like all other charter schools and requires school districts to remit a per student tuition rate to a cyber charter school based on what the district spends to educate a child. More than 15,000 Pennsylvania students attended cyber charter schools in 2006-2007.

    Representatives of school districts, teachers, school business officials, school boards, and cyber charter schools appeared before the Committee, as well as researchers from the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation. For more information about the hearing, contact the office of Committee Chair James Roebuck at (717) 783-1000.

  • The House Rules Committee approved the following legislation on September 17, a procedural action that moves each bill forward in the legislative process toward possible action by the full House. In each case, the legislation was previously reviewed and approved by a House Committee, usually the Education Committee.

    House Bill 258: Prohibits schools from starting for students before Labor Day. HB 258 now sits of the House Tabled Bills Calendar. House Bill 919: Establishes a Specialty Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program for Pennsylvania residents who teach in certain positions and a Professional Personnel Recruitment Initiative Program to provide grants to institutions of higher education for teacher recruitment efforts. HB 919 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee. House Bill 921: Provides for signing bonuses for teachers in critical shortage areas. PDE must establish guidelines for determining which districts are certified as critical shortage areas by November 30, 2007. HB 921 now sits of the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    House Bill 922: Establishes an Urban Educators Recruitment Program within PDE. The program would provide scholarships to college students committed to teach in an urban public school district for at least five years. The program also would provide resources to PA State System of Higher Education institutions to provide students with information about teaching opportunities in urban public schools. HB 922 appropriates $2.000 million to PDE to support the program in the 2007-08 fiscal year. HB 922 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 923: Establishes the Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program. HB 923 requires certain first-year teachers employed in an eligible school district to participate in this two-year induction program (eligible school districts are districts with a high turnover rate for new teachers in a two-year period and that are economically disadvantaged as determined by the Secretary of Education). HB 923 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 924: Establishes the Call Me Mister Program to recruit African American males to become elementary school teachers. HB 924 allows PDE to contract with and provide funds to approved institutions of higher education to offer and facilitate the program. HB 924 appropriates $1.000 million to PDE to support the program in FY 2007-08. HB 924 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 965: Establishes Technical College programs in educationally underserved areas of the Commonwealth. Programs would provide postsecondary occupational education and training in technical areas where there is high workforce demand. Participants would earn either a certificate or an associate's degree.

    Technical College programs would be supported through funds annually appropriated by the General Assembly, including operating support for the lead sponsor institution. Grants also would be available for the purchase or lease of industry-specified equipment. HB 965 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 1021: Establishes the Common Cents program within PDE through which school districts can explore shared services in order to increase the efficient use of resources and improve service delivery for students. HB 1021 has been re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

    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 was then re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note and subsequently reported from the Appropriations Committee today.

    House Bill 1087: Prohibits the Public School Employees' Retirement System from investing in entities engaged in business with a state sponsor of terror. HB 1087 now sits on the House Tabled Bills Calendar.

    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 also 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 was then re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note and subsequently reported from the Appropriations Committee today.

  • State Senate

  • The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday held a public hearing on revisions to Chapter 14 (Special Education Services and Programs) that are currently under consideration by the PA State Board of Education. The State Board intends to adopt final form regulatory changes in November. Final regulations must be published by June 30, 2008 in order for the Commonwealth to continue to be eligible for federal IDEA funding.

    The regulations "establish requirements for identification, screening and evaluation of students with disabilities" and "define the requirements for the development of an individualized education program for each identified student, describe policies for placement in appropriate educational settings, outline requirements for early intervention programs and establish procedural safeguards for the resolution of complaints." Key changes in the regulations surround: standards for sign language interpreters, transition services, identification of students with specific learning disabilities, training for paraprofessionals, positive behavior supports, timeline to evaluate students for special education services, and placing students in the least restrictive environment. For details on the status of proposed changes, see www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_specialed.html.

  • The Senate Education Committee adopted a Resolution on September 19 memorializing the President and Congress to address funding issues, teacher certification issues, issues regarding certain disadvantaged students, and the reliability of present assessment standards in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

  • 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.

  • Good Schools Pennsylvania invites educators, students and parents to participate in Take Your Legislator to School Day during the month of October. Good Schools PA has created a toolkit of information that will guide students and educators through the process of planning and implementing Take Your Legislator to School Day. This day-long program is an opportunity to begin a dialogue between your school community and the local lawmakers who advocate on your behalf. Visit the Good Schools' website to download the toolkit and to contact a Good Schools Pennsylvania Field Organizer in your area for more information.

    This Week...

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum - Capital Breakfast Series on Wednesday.

  • The Task Force on School Cost Reduction meets Wednesday.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider HB 1407, HB 1549, and HB 1125.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing Thursday on proposed revisions to Chapter 14 (Special Education Services and Programs).

  • Pennsylvania international educators will join business, government and community leaders from around the state at the Hilton Harrisburg Hotel on September 28-29 to discuss how they can work together to effectively develop the global workers and citizens that Pennsylvania needs to thrive in the new global economy. The conference, which is open to the public, is titled "Partners in International Education." It is being sponsored by the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PaCIE) and partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). For more information, visit www.pacie.org.

  • 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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