EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Rendell
    - State Board of Education
    - Department of Education
    - Independent Regulatory Review Commission
    Pennsylvania Bulletin

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



    Applications are being accepted for the 2008-2009 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).   The EPFP is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).

    With almost 250 graduates in its first nine years in Pennsylvania, this national program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  Act 48 credits are available to individuals holding Pennsylvania teaching or administrative certificates, and State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.

    Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. 

    Visit http://www.eplc.org/fellows.html for a 2008-09 schedule, application, and additional program information.  If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Fellowship Program and its requirements, please contact Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or cowell@eplc.org.



    Governor Rendell

    Governor Rendell has vetoed legislation that would have restricted school districts’ and municipalities’ ability to appeal property assessments.   Passed by the General Assembly on July 4, Senate Bill 1247 and House Bill 1438, would have permitted assessment appeals only during a countywide reassessment, when a property is divided into smaller parcels, when improvements are made to a property, or when existing improvements are removed or destroyed.  School districts would no longer have been able to appeal a property’s assessed value when the property was sold.

    Rendell recognized that under the current system some property owners experience spot reassessments when a local government appeals an individual property’s fair market value, often resulting in a tax increase if the appeal is successful.  However, in the absence of county-wide reassessment, Rendell said current law ensures that all homeowners carry their fair share of the local property tax burden and also affords taxpayers an avenue for redress if they feel their property has been undervalued or overvalued.  In his veto message, Rendell urged lawmakers to address a long term solution to this issue by passing legislation to compel counties to conduct regular assessments.  In the short term, the Governor called on legislators to craft a compromise that addresses property owners’ concerns about spot reassessments while ensuring the appropriate sharing of the local property tax burden among all property owners.

    State Board of Education

  • The State Board of Education has posted an application online for prospective high school students who would like to serve on the Board.  Any public high school may nominate a student for the position of student member or student member-elect, however, at any given time a school may have only one student representative on the Board.  Applications will be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils, which is responsible for selecting and supporting the student members.  Click here for a description of the expectations of student representatives.  The deadline to apply is July 28th.

    The Board recently decided to add student representatives from the high school and postsecondary levels to serve in a non-voting capacity, and plans to have students selected to begin serving at its September 2008 meeting.

  • The State Board of Education will hold public hearings on draft revisions to state academic standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Mathematics in Harrisburg (August 6), the Lehigh Valley (August 15), and Clarion (August 21).  Click here to find draft revisions to the standards.

  • The State Board of Education will hold a public hearing August 18 on the proposed merger of the Center Area and Monaca School Districts.  The Board also will accept objections and written public comments on the proposed merger through August 8.  Information about how to participate in the public hearing and how to submit public comments to the Board is available at www.pde.state.pa.us/stateboard_ed/cwp/view.asp?Q=144392&A=3.  On June 12, 2008, the Center and Monaca School Boards voluntarily approved an application to combine into one school district.  Under state law, the State Board of Education must review and approve the districts’ application.

  • Department of Education

  • PDE has released a list of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grant recipients for 2008-09.  Click here to learn more.

  • PDE announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued new guidelines for eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals and free milk.  Schools and other institutions may use these guidelines to determine admission to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program for Children, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

  • Independent Regulatory Review Commission

    The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) has issued comments on a State Board of Education plan to develop end of course exams to assess student proficiency for high school graduation.  IRRC raised questions about the Board’s statutory authority to establish high school graduation requirements and also questioned the rationale for the proposed changes.  Before it moves forward, IRRC asked the State Board “for a more thorough explanation of why the current system is not adequate to address the problem the proposal seeks to address”, and said the State Board should consider making changes on a case-by-case basis, rather than a statewide mandate, if it determines regulatory changes are necessary.

    IRRC also asked for clarification on many details of how the plan would be implemented, and asked the Board to explain how the proposal protects all students, given concerns expressed about the negative impact of high stakes tests on students living in poverty, minority students, English language learners and special needs students as they might experience increased dropout rates and narrowing of the curriculum to focus more on standardized testing.  The Commission also called for a more adequate analysis of the plan’s fiscal impact that takes into account costs to school districts to validate local assessments as well as costs associated with potential litigation.

    These challenges by IRRC follow recent legislation approved by the Pennsylvania General Assembly that prohibits the Board from moving forward with its proposal during the 2008-09 fiscal year.



    The Independent Regulatory Review Commission has issued comments on proposed regulatory changes to Chapter 42 (Program Approval), which governs higher education institutions.  To read IRRC’s comments, see the July 12 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.



    Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has been selected Chairman of the National Governor’s Association.  Rendell will focus on strengthening infrastructure investments during his tenure with the NGA, including improvements in school facilities.



    Next week…

  • The National Conference of State Legislatures holds its annual meeting July 22-26 in New Orleans.

  • 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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