EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, October 13, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Give Kids Good Schools Week
    EPLC News
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Adopted Legislation
    - State House
    - State Senate
    Pennsylvania Department of Education
    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.



    October 12 through 18 is Give Kids Good Schools Week. This is the centerpiece of the Give Kids Good Schools campaign of the Public Education Network and its partners across the country.  The campaign strives to give Americans the tools they need to learn the facts about quality public schools, vote to support and promote quality public education in their community and across the country, and act by letting public officials and others know that quality public education is a top priority all year long.  For more information, go to www.givekidsgoodschools.org.



  • Residents of the Pittsburgh region are invited to submit applications for the new Parent and Community Leadership Institute sponsored by EPLC and the Pennsylvania PTA.  The Institute is for individuals who want to know more about education policy issues and want to join a network of community leaders who are able to influence important statewide and local education policies.  The free, 12-hour program will be held over four Tuesdays (October 28 and November 11, 18 and 25) from 6:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.  Subjects include (Session 1) Governance of Education; (Session 2) Standards, Assessments and Accountability; (Session 3) Financing Public Education; and (Session 4) School and Community Partnerships; Public Advocacy.  For program details and to apply online, see www.eplc.org/PCLI.html.

  • There are less than two weeks until the 2008 Education Policy Leadership Awards Reception on Wednesday, October 22.  This year, EPLC will honor Carolyn Dumaresq with the Edward Donley Education Policy Leadership Award.  The Center also will recognize with the EPLC Partner Award the Education Law Center and Good Schools Pennsylvania.  In addition, the Center will present the EPLC Leadership Program Alumni Award to Laura Cowburn and Dr. A. Lee Williams.  For reception tickets and program ad information, visit www.eplc.org/awards/reception.html.



    Adopted Legislation Sent to Governor

  • The General Assembly has adopted legislation limiting school districts’ and local governments’ ability to appeal property assessments.  Under Senate Bill 1258, appeals may be filed only if one of five circumstances occurs: 1) an appeal is made to an assessed value established during a countywide reassessment by September 1 of the taxable year following the year during which the new value takes effect; 2) a property is divided and sold in smaller parcels; 3) improvements are made to a property; 4) existing improvements are removed or destroyed from a property, or 5) a change occurs in the productive use of a property by materially altering the nature of its use or through alterations or additions which modify its use.  The bill would apply to counties of the second class A through eighth class.  SB 1258 now awaits the Governor’s approval or veto.

    Governor Ed Rendell last week spoke out against the measure which is similar to legislation he vetoed over the summer.  Rendell said the bill “essentially eliminates the basic right of school districts and municipalities to challenge assessments when a property is dramatically under-assessed.  When these few property owners pay less than their fair share, it forces homeowners and other property taxpayers to have higher property taxes and face higher than necessary millage increases.”  Rendell expressed disappointment that amendments made to SB 1258 did not reflect an agreed-to compromise on the “spot assessment” issue.

  • State House

  • The House adopted legislation last week (House Bill 120) requiring students who withdraw from school or who are illegally absent for more than 10 days to be interviewed as to why the student is absent or dropping out and to make the student aware of alternatives to leaving school.  If a student fails to complete the interview, the student’s parent or guardian must complete an interview on behalf of the child or may face a civil penalty imposed by the school district.  The interview is to be conducted by a school principal or individual designated by the principal.  Additionally, HB 120 requires PDE to develop a standard form for exit interviews that school districts would be required to file with the Department.  Data from exit interviews would be incorporated into PDE's report on graduation and dropouts.  This legislation does not apply to students withdrawing to attend a charter school, cyber charter school, home education program, non-public non-licensed school, private academic school or approved higher education institution.

    HB 120 will not be considered further during this session unless the Pennsylvania Senate decides to reconvene before November 30, which it has indicated it will not do for the purpose of considering legislation.  All bills introduced during the 2007-2008 session of the General Assembly and not enacted into law will expire when the session ends on November 30, 2008.  For a bill to be re-considered next year, it must be re-introduced and start the legislative process from the beginning.

  • Last week the House also passed House Bill 2518 which would create an Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  Under this proposal, the Governor would be required to execute a compact with other states and establish a state council that would standardize the process for transferring student transcripts, course sequencing, graduation requirements and eligibility for extracurricular activities for military dependents.  The bill was amended in the Appropriations Committee to change its effective date from immediately to July 1, 2009.  Unless the Senate reconvenes, House Bill 2518 will not see any further legislative action this session.

  • State Senate

  • Last week the Senate adopted Senate Bill 739, which would allow community colleges, state-related or state-owned institutions of higher education to charge resident tuition rates to any active military personnel, their spouses or dependents who are taking college courses or receiving other education services through the Internet or by electronic means.  SB 739 has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.  The House has a very limited schedule before November 30 and it is not likely this legislation will be acted upon before the November 30 end-of-session deadline.

  • The Senate passed Senate Resolution 309 which directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a fiscal impact study on the pension and post-retirement health benefits of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System.  The Committee is directed to issue its report to the Secretary of the Senate by June 30, 2009.



    Rebecca Synder, a language arts teacher at Greater Latrobe Senior High School, has been selected as Pennsylvania’s 2009 Teacher of the Year.  Snyder, who chairs the language arts department at her school, was chosen from among 12 finalists to represent Pennsylvania in the National Teacher of the Year program.  Pennsylvania has participated in the Teacher of the Year program since 1965.  The program is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the National State Teacher of the Year.



    Early Childhood Education

  • In 2007, Pennsylvania established the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program which provided approximately 11,000 additional children ages three and four access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs across the state.  The year end report released from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning highlights the accomplishments of the Pre-K Counts program in terms of student learning, parent engagement, teacher qualifications and class size.

  • The findings of the report indicate that children and families participating in Pre-K Counts are benefiting from Pennsylvania’s $86.4 million investment in early childhood education.  The results show that children who are at the greatest risk of school failure are receiving access to high quality programs, and that children are learning.  Ninety-four percent of children participating in Pre-K Counts finished the school year with age-appropriate skills and behavior or emerging age-appropriate skills and behavior.  The report also examines other factors, such as parental involvement, teacher qualifications and class size.

  • Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children recently presented its annual report on School Readiness in Pennsylvania: 2008.  The report uses a variety of indicators to measure a child’s readiness to learn and later succeed in school. According to the report, Pennsylvania showed progress in most areas, but lost ground in a few.  The report shows that full-day kindergarten programs are making a difference in later school achievement as evidenced by improved proficiency scores on the PSSA.  The report also acknowledges that “the action taken by the General Assembly this July to pass a rational school funding bill was the most important step taken for children in our state in decades.”  In addition to education data, the report includes information about young children’s access to health care and their communities and families.



    The Pennsylvania Senate has recessed its 2007-2008 legislative session work and currently does not plan to reconvene to consider legislation until the new Senate is sworn in on January 6, 2009.  The Pennsylvania House has adjourned for the remainder of October and plans to reconvene for four days on November 12, 17, 18 and 19.

    This week…

  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators hold their annual School Leadership Conference on October 14-17 in Hershey.

  • The National Association of State Boards of Education holds its annual conference on October 16-18 in Arlington, VA.

  • 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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