EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, December 5, 2008
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reported that the state collected $1.6 billion in General Fund revenue in November which is 5.4 percent ($93.1 million) less than expected. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $9 billion, down by 6.8 percent or $657.9 million.
Governor Ed Rendell this week announced an additional $128 million in budget cuts and other cost saving measures to help balance the state budget in light of the revenue shortfalls. Rendell said savings will come from freezing the salaries of non-unionized state employees and by reducing nearly 400 of the 500 state appropriations over which the Governor has jurisdiction. An itemized list of budgetary reductions was not made available.
On December 2, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) held a forum in Harrisburg to discuss the impact of the national recession on Pennsylvania, what it means in terms of the state budget and options for balancing the budget. Panelists offered national, state and legislative perspectives on the impact of the fiscal crisis. An analysis of the state budget, historic revenue trends and tax policy also were part of the presentation. For more details, including the handouts from the forum, visit PBPC’s Web site at www.pennbpc.org
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
In order to ensure that college students have continued access to Federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education has announced that it will use its authority granted by Congress to purchase 2007-2008 Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL). This action is designed to minimize the potential disruption in student lending until longer term stability measures can be put in place. The Department plans to buy up to $500 million in loans each week, to an aggregate of $6.5 billion. For more information about this initiative, click here.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
Higher Education Affordability
Pennsylvania students face uneven opportunities to attend college at a time when higher education is becoming less affordable both in the Commonwealth and across the nation, according to the latest biennial report card from the National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education. The report, “Measuring Up 2008: The State Report Card on Higher Education”, grades states’ performance in six areas of higher education: preparation, participation, affordability, completion, benefits and learning. The report reveals uneven participation in higher education among Pennsylvania’s young adults, with 32 percent of blacks enrolled in college, compared with 45 percent of whites. Moreover, while the state as a whole is a top performer in college completion rates – 65 percent of Pennsylvania college students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years – the report reveals additional disparities based on race. Only 47 percent of black students graduate within six years, compared with 66 percent of whites.
The report also found that college affordability is deteriorating across the country. Financial aid to low-income students in Pennsylvania is high compared to other states; however, poor and working-class families must devote the equivalent of 61 percent of their annual income to pay costs at public four-year colleges, even after financial aid is taken into account.
The new “Reading First Impact Study: Final Report” released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that there was “no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension” between Reading First schools and those schools implementing similar teaching strategies. However, Reading First had “a significant impact on students’ decoding, phonics and fluency skills – three of the five basic components of reading.” The study was conducted in 248 schools in 13 states. Reading First provides grants to states to assist schools and school districts in their efforts to improve the reading achievement of low-income, low-achieving students through scientifically based instructional programs. The program also funds professional development, materials, strategies, valid and reliable screening methods, diagnostic and ongoing classroom assessments. To read the final report and its findings, click here.
A new study released by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance found that states with genuine alternative teacher certification programs have greater representation of minority teachers in schools and show higher achievement among students. The study’s authors say only 21 of the 47 states that provide an alternative pathway for teacher certification have truly alternative programs; Pennsylvania was one of the 21 states identified as providing a genuine alternative. The authors consider genuine alternatives to require substantially fewer credits than the 30 usually demanded by most certification programs. Click here to read “What Happens When States Have Genuine Alternative Certification”.
2009 Legislative Session Days
The Pennsylvania House and Senate have announced session days for the beginning of 2009.
The Pennsylvania House plans to be in session on the following days:
January 6, 26, 27, 28
The Pennsylvania Senate plans to be in session on the following days:
January 6, 20 (NV), 21 (NV), 26, 27, 28
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.