EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, May 2, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State House
    - State Senate
    - Pennsylvania Department of Education
    Pennsylvania Bulletin
    Other News

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

    There is no more important state policy priority this spring than for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to enact a permanent school funding formula and fully fund it with at least $2.6 billion in additional state funds in no more than six years.

    For more information on the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign and additional tools and resources for citizen advocacy, please go to http://www.paschoolfunding.org.

    State House

    The House Education Committee convened in the Pleasant Valley School District on Tuesday for a public hearing on the Governor’s education funding initiatives. Representatives of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign who appeared before the Committee expressed support for the Governor’s basic education funding proposal as a critical step to fix the state’s education finance system and fund it in six years, and put forth four recommendations to strengthen the proposal by: 1) paying a higher state share of funding per pupil to districts with limited local wealth; 2) including a plan to address special education; 3) assuring transition funding for all districts of 2%; and 4) applying additional accountability provisions only to districts that fail to make adequate yearly progress.

    The Campaign also discussed the evolution of Pennsylvania’s school funding system to provide an historical overview of how, over time, the state has drifted away from including a consistent and rational formula in its education funding process. Click here to read the Campaign’s testimony to the Committee.

    The Committee also heard from representatives of local school districts and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak. Zahorchak told committee members, “We cannot afford any more one-year fixes that fail to solve the problem for Pennsylvania’s students. Our opportunity to create a permanent funding formula is right now – and I am here to ask you to take action along with this year’s budget to enact a long-term solution to our students’ needs.” Read the Secretary’s full remarks here.

    Legislation to establish a new funding formula has been introduced in both the House and Senate. For more information, see www.paschoolfunding.org/learn_more_legislative.shtml.

    State Senate

  • On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation (Senate Bill 1063) that would consolidate local earned income tax collection into county-based systems. The bill excludes Philadelphia whose local tax collection system is governed by a different law. An amendment approved by the Senate will allow Allegheny County to create four tax collection districts within the county. Under SB 1063, a school district located in more than one county would be included in the tax collection district that includes the greatest share of the district’s population. SB 1063 has been sent to the House and now awaits referral to a House Committee.

  • The Senate Education Committee passed the following bills on Tuesday. Each bill awaits further consideration by the full Senate:

    Senate Bill 472: Establishes the Science Technology Partnership Program. Under the program, the Department of Education would award grants to higher education institutions that partner with public or non-public schools to provide technical equipment and instructional programs in science and provide professional development opportunities to science educators. To qualify, a partnership program must include at least three public schools or school districts. SB 472 also requires annual reporting on the program.

    Senate Bill 731: Requires school districts to adopt policies that would allow students to self-administer epinephrine auto injectors (epi pens) in certain situations. SB 731 would require epi pens to be added to current district policies governing the use of asthma inhalers. Requirements for the use of epinephrine auto injectors would be the same as for inhalers, except that districts may prevent students under age eleven from carrying epi pens. School district policies for asthma inhalers and epi pens must be distributed to parents as part of the district’s student code of conduct and published on the district’s web site. Such policies must specify the conditions under which a student may lose the privilege to carry either device.

    Senate Bill 1283: Requires Pennsylvania’s community colleges, State System of Higher Education universities and state-related universities to submit quarterly reports to the institutions’ host communities about disciplinary action taken against students who were convicted of criminal activity in the host community. SB 1283 requires reports to be filed of criminal activity that occurs both in the municipality in which the institution is located and in municipalities where off-campus, institution-owned or affiliated housing is located. The report must include information provided to the college or university by court officials or obtained by the college or university through the state’s Common Pleas Case Management System. Summary offenses for traffic violations would not need to be reported.

    Senate Bill 1285: Requires Pennsylvania’s community colleges, State System of Higher Education universities, state-related universities and independent institutions of higher education to provide parents with a written copy of the institution’s: drug and alcohol policy; disciplinary process for violations of drug and alcohol policies; sanctions for violations of drug and alcohol policies; notification process for parents whose student violates drug alcohol policies; and, drug and alcohol prevention policies. Institutions also would be required to provide policies regarding whether the institution discloses certain personal information about a student without the student’s consent when it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or others (as authorized by federal law) and whether the institution considers parents appropriate parties for the disclosure of such information.

    Senate Bill 1312: Increases the state reimbursement for school nurse services from $7 to $12 per student.

    Senate Bill 1315: Provides tuition reimbursement for volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel at Pennsylvania’s community colleges, State System of Higher Education universities and state-related universities. PHEAA would reimburse participating colleges and universities 50% of a qualified applicant’s tuition for state residents who have successfully completed certain firefighter or emergency medical technician certification. To qualify, an individual must provide a sworn statement that they have participated in at least 30% of the volunteer organization’s emergency responses during the last 18 months, except junior volunteers age 16 to 18 who must participate in at least 20% of emergency responses or have completed at least 20 hours of training. Tuition reimbursement would be limited to five academic years, and individuals must first apply to PHEAA for other available financial assistance before seeking reimbursement through this program.

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education

  • PDE this week notified school districts of the amount of state gaming funds each will receive in FY 2008-09 for property tax relief. The state plans to send out $612.9 million in gaming revenue in this first-ever annual disbursement. Detailed estimates of tax relief by school district are available at: www.pde.state.pa.us/proptax/cwp/view.asp?a=3&pm=1&Q=125387.

  • PDE has announced a consolidated application process for school districts to apply for funding under the Accountability Block Grant, Educational Assistance Program, and proposed Accountability to Commonwealth Taxpayers funding. School districts that are eligible for ABG and EAP funds must submit the new PA-Pact application to PDE by May 19, 2008. Details on the new application are available at www.pde.state.pa.us/k12/cwp/view.asp?a=165&Q=139520.

  • Pennsylvania was one of 12 states to be recognized by the National Governors Association for its early childhood education initiatives. NGA awarded the state a $10,000 grant to support its efforts in this field. For more information, see www.pdenewsroom.state.pa.us/newsroom/cwp/view.asp?a=3&q=139681

    The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency’s Board of Directors has approved a change to the formula for distributing state grants to students. State grants are awarded based on financial need and do not need to be repaid. Grants for 2008-2009 will be reduced by a certain percentage across the board in order to preserve the number of students receiving assistance through the program. PHEAA is still in the process of calculating the maximum grant award levels under the new formula. The reduction was necessary because bond market issues and changes in federal rules – which are impacting student lending nationally – will reduce PHEAA’s resources and not allow it to contribute investment earnings to the program next year. Gov. Rendell has proposed $398 million in state funding for the grant program next year, which represents a 3% increase in state funding.

  • The State Board of Education published proposed regulatory changes to Chapter 42 (Program Approval) in the April 26th edition of thePennsylvania Bulletin. Chapter 42 establishes requirements for the approval of certain programs offered by postsecondary degree-granting institutions in Pennsylvania. The proposed changes would “create a waiver process for private licensed schools who meet certain criteria for the past 10 years from needing a team site visit; allow two-year colleges, colleges, universities, seminaries and graduate degree granting institutions to request a waiver from certain aspects of the program approval application process; require new graduate degree programs to document the academic need and workforce demand for each program or educational offering; and remove sections addressing vocational degree programs which are no longer used.” The Board will accept public comments on the proposed changes through May 25, 2008.

  • The PA Department of Education is seeking public input on the state plan it must submit to the federal government in order to qualify for special education funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – Part B. PDE will hold three public hearings to gather input, as well as accept written comments through June 26, 2008. Hearings will be held from 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. at local PaTTAN facilities as follows: May 27 (Pittsburgh), May 28 (Harrisburg) and May 29 (King of Prussia). Information about how to access a copy of the state plan, how to how to submit written comments, and how to testify at the public hearings is available in the April 26th edition of thePennsylvania Bulletin.

  • Revenues received by the PA State Treasury in April totaled $3.7-billion ($256 million more than anticipated). The Commonwealth's Fiscal Year surplus through ten months is $437 million. Governor Rendell’s budget message in February predicted a June 30 fiscal year-end surplus for 2007-2008 of $427 million.

  • The Board of Governors and Governor Rendell this week interviewed the three finalists for the soon-to-be-vacant position of Chancellor for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The Board is expected to announce a decision within days.

    Next Week...

  • The 2008 National Smart Start Conference takes place May 6-9 in Greensboro, NC.

  • On Thursday, May 8, PCN LIVE Call-In Program will focus on Governor Rendell’s education proposals. Guests will be Ron Cowell of EPLC and Joan Benso of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. The one-hour program begins at 7:00 p.m. Viewers are invited to call 1-877-726-5001 with their comments or questions.

  • 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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