EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 18, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Election 2008
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Property Tax Relief
    - 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.

    ELECTION 2008
    The state is buzzing with the excitement of next week’s primary election on Tuesday, April 22. To learn more about the presidential candidates’ views on education, visit their web sites at:

    Hillary Clinton: www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/education/
    John McCain: www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/19ce50b5-daa8-4795-b92d-92bd0d985bca.htm
    Barack Obama: www.barackobama.com/issues/education/
    Ron Paul: www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/education/

    While much of the debate is focused on the presidential race it is critical that education advocates go to the polls fully informed on the positions candidates for the Pennsylvania General Assembly have taken on public education issues.

    The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign (PSFC) conducted a Pennsylvania legislative candidate survey a few weeks ago. Before you go to the polls, please be sure to take a minute and review the positions of those running for office in your community on public education. CLICK HERE to see the results of the candidates’ survey. Be sure to thank your candidate for expressing their public views on important education issues. But if they failed to respond to the Voter Information Survey, ask them why not.

    Election Day is critical to the future of public education and we urge you to support candidates who make a commitment to a high quality public education for every child.


    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania State Senate are in recess for the Primary Election. The Senate returns to session on April 28 and the House on May 5.

    Property Tax Relief

    Budget Secretary Michael Masch this week announced that state gaming revenues have reached the level required by law to allow the distribution of these funds for property tax relief in October 2008. PDE will notify each school district of its property tax reduction allocation by May 1 and make this information publicly available at www.papropertytaxrelief.com.

    Masch certified that the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund currently has $600.1 million available for property tax relief, with an additional $101.9 million set aside in a reserve account. Based on projections of additional gaming revenue expected through September, these funds will allow statewide school district property taxes to be reduced by 10 percent – an average of $169 per household – except in Philadelphia, which will receive wage tax relief in lieu of property tax relief. Funds also will be used to provide enhanced property tax relief for senior citizens. This level of property tax relief is projected to grow in the future as additional gaming facilities begin operating. For details, see www.budget.state.pa.us/budget/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=219530&PM=1.

    The use of gaming revenue for property tax relief was approved by the state in Special Session Act 1 of 2006, which also limited future school tax increases to an inflationary index. The PA Department of Education (PDE) previously reported that 341 school districts have adopted resolutions certifying they will not increase local taxes above the index allowed by Act 1 this year. The Department also has released information about districts that are seeking approval for a tax increase above their index to support costs beyond their control in the 10 categories identified as exceptions by Act 1.

    Independent Regulatory Review Commission

    On Thursday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved final form regulatory changes to Chapter 339 (Vocational Education). Among the changes, the regulations identify the accountability standards for approved career and technical education programs established by the Secretary of Education; outline the approved program review process; provide flexibility in meeting minimum instructional time requirements; and, outline the technical institute program standards.

    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.

    Education Funding

  • Pennsylvania ranks 44th in the nation in state support for public education, according to the annual report on “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2005-06 (Fiscal Year 2006)” from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). According to the report, Pennsylvania provided 35.4% of public education revenues in 2006, with 56.5% coming from local sources and 8.1% from the federal government. While the state exceeds the national average in spending per pupil ($10,723 compared to $9,154), Pennsylvania lags in the share of education funding provided by the state, with the national average for distribution of revenue at 44.4% local, 46.5 % state, and 9.1% federal. This low state share places a disproportionate burden on local property taxes as a source of revenue.

  • Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts

  • Children participating in state-funded Pre-K programs showed significant progress in acquiring early learning skills during their participation, particularly those who were at risk of school failure. A two-year study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and its Children’s Hospital found that children enrolled in Pre-K Counts Public-Private Partnership programs exceeded national norms for school readiness and early school success in major pre-academic skills at kindergarten transition. Further, the total number of children with at-risk or delayed development was reduced by 50% after participation in Pre-K Counts. For details on the positive child and program outcomes, see www.prekcounts.org/files/SPECS_4_08.pdf.

  • The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2007

  • The U.S. Department of Education recently released results of the voluntary writing assessment administered to 139,900 eighth graders in 45 states in 2007. Results show Pennsylvania’s performance in writing has improved since 2002 and exceeds the national average, which did not change significantly over the past five years. Though achievement gaps still persist, among the student subgroups tested, Pennsylvania saw improvements for males, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and students receiving free- and reduced-price lunch. Overall, 36% of the state’s eighth graders scored proficient or advanced in writing, compared to a national average of 31%. Click here for a snapshot of PA’s performance. Click here for full results of The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2007.

  • Assessment Comparisons

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released comparisons of 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results to 2003 state assessment results in math and reading.

  • Steve Hicks, an English professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, will take over as president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). Hicks will begin his two-year term in June.

  • The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Thursday held a luncheon in honor of students participating in the Legislative Fellowship Program. College students interested in applying for this internship experience should contact Ray Whittaker at (717) 783-1027 or rwhittaker@pabmc.net.

    Next Week...

  • Tuesday is Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania.  Polls are open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools holds its annual meeting in State College on April 23-25.

    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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