EPLC Education Notebook

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    2008 PA Education Policy and Leadership Conference
    State Budget Hearings
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign

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

    The 2008 Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference takes place March 13-14 at the Sheraton Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel. See the Agenda and Registration Information at http://www.eplc.org/conference.html.

    FY 2008-09 Appropriations Hearings
    Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak appeared before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last week to discuss Gov. Rendell's proposed education budget for FY 2008-09. The Governor proposed increasing basic education funding by 5.88% ($291.3 million) to $5.243 billion, special education funding by 3% ($30.301 million) to $1.040 billion, and career and technical education funding by 2.5% ($1.574 million) to $64.535 million.

    The Governorís proposal also would establish a new funding formula for basic education based on the results of the General Assemblyís costing-out study of 2007. This formula would apply only to the distribution of the proposed increase for basic education ($291.3 million in FY 08-09); the remaining portion of state basic education funding would be distributed via a hold harmless provision, meaning no district would receive less than it did in FY 2007-08.

    The formula is designed to help each school district reach its adequacy spending target by investing $2.6 billion in state dollars over a six-year period. The formula would include adjustments for low-income students, English language learners, district size and regional cost differences. Further, new state funding would be targeted toward districts with the highest local tax levels and the greatest need by incorporating factors related to local tax effort and local wealth. All districts would receive at least a 1.5% increase in basic education funding for FY 2008-09.

    Click here for a detailed description of the Governorís proposed basic education funding formula.

    The plan also sets parameters on how a portion of state basic education funds can be spent. School districts that receive a basic education funding increase that is higher than the inflationary index identified by Special Session Act 1 of 2006 (4.4% for 2008-09) must spend any new dollars over the Act 1 index rate on programs proven to improve student achievement.

    Specifically, the 137 districts that would receive such increases in 2008-09 must invest 80% of those new dollars on state-sanctioned strategies such as extra instructional time, smaller class size, pre-K and full-day kindergarten, and advanced teacher training. These districts also could use up to 10% of such funds to maintain existing programs that meet these goals, and could use up to 10% of such funds for other programs designed to increase achievement that are not part of the state-sanctioned strategies. Districts also could use these funds for one-time related costs, such as books and materials. Further, the 55 of these 137 districts that are identified as needing improvement by the stateís accountability system must receive state approval on their plans for using the new dollars.

    In his budget address, the Governor also called for increasing investments in Dual Enrollment (from $10 million to $12 million), Science Itís Elementary (from $13.5 million to $15 million), teacher professional development (from $30.367 million to $47.056 million), early intervention (from $173.099 million to $185.133 million), and Pre-K Counts (from $75 million to $87.550 million). This investment in Pre-K Counts would provide for an additional 1,000 children to enroll in pre-K and allow some half-day programs to be expanded to full-day.

    His proposal would maintain funding for Pennsylvania Accountability Grants at $275 million, Head Start Supplemental Assistance at $40 million, Classrooms for the Future at $90 million, high school reform at $11 million, and the Educational Assistance Program at $66 million. Rendell is proposing to provide greater flexibility in the use of Educational Assistance dollars to allow the funds to be used for: more learning time for struggling students via tutoring or longer school days or years; to improve curriculum or expand course offerings; or, to offer high-quality intensive teacher training in order to boost student achievement.

    For a review of the full education budget proposed by Gov. Rendell, see www.pdeinfo.state.pa.us/education_budget/lib/education_budget/DEPTSUMMARY_08-09_GOVBUD.pdf.

    House Subcommittee Hearing on Education Budget
    The House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Education held a public hearing in Pittsburgh on March 7 to discuss the Governorís proposed budget at it relates to education and K-12 achievement gap in Pennsylvania. For more information, contact the office of Subcommittee Chair Jake Wheatley at (717) 783-3783.

    The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign last week released a statement on the Governorís basic education funding proposal.

    The Campaign supports the Governor's proposal because it provides an historic investment in the state share of public education and is a critical first step toward a multi-year effort for reforming the funding system based on the essential principles of equity, adequacy, efficiency, accountability and predictability. The Campaign also supports the following four recommendations to be included in the final 2008-2009 budget to ensure that the Governor's proposal aligns more closely with the Campaign's goals and principles.

    PSFC recommends to the Administration and to the Legislature:
    1. At a minimum, maintain state support at the full aid ratio share for all school districts.
    2. Account for special education students and funding for their programs consistent with the Costing-Out Study.
    3. Increase transition assistance from 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent, at a minimum.
    4. Apply revised accountability provisions only to school districts not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

    The goals of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign are:
    1. To implement and fully finance by 2013 a comprehensive, systemic and sustainable education funding plan based on the core principles of adequacy, equity, efficiency, accountability and predictability, and
    2. To allocate sufficient funds in the FY 2008-2009 budget to make a significant start toward implementation of a new school funding formula based on the stateís costing-out-study.

    Visit www.paschoolfunding.org to learn more about the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign, and to become a partner in our efforts.
    Next Week...

  • EPLC hosts its annual Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference on March 13-14 in Harrisburg.

  • The Council of the Great City Schools hosts its annual legislative and policy conference in Washington, D.C. on March 15-18.

  • 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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