EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, October 3, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Rendell
    - State House
    - Pennsylvania Department of Education
    - Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
    Virtual High School Study Commission
    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.

    REMINDER:  The deadline for voter registration or change of address to participate in the November 4 Election is Monday, October 6.  Information about registering to vote is available at http://www.votespa.com.



    Governor Rendell

    Governor Ed Rendell has announced appointees to the new Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission.  The following individuals will serve on the body tasked with making recommendations for the expansion of early learning and development services for young children and their families.

    Gene Barr, Mechanicsburg
    Dr. Michael Hanes, Camp Hill
    Bruce Bartels, York
    Dan Hoover, Roaring Springs
    Pete Brubaker, York
    William Isler, Pittsburgh
    Denise Cesare, Moosic
    Lloyd Lamm, Harrisburg
    Philip Costabile, Lemoyne
    William Lehr, Palmyra
    Peter Danchak, Dunmore
    Regina Mingle, Chester Springs
    Stephanie Doliveira, Duncansville
    Michael Murchie, Carlisle
    Marcie Eberhart, Pittsburgh
    Rev. Thomas O'Hara, Wilkes-Barre
    Joseph Frick, Newtown Square
    Philip Peterson, Glen Mills
    P. Timothy Phelps, Malvern
    James Rohr, Pittsburgh
    Anthony Ross, Harrisburg
    David Schankweiler, Mechanicsburg
    Kenneth Shoemaker, Carlisle
    Vincentina Taylor, Mechanicsburg
    Kate Woods, Collingswood

    State House

    The House Education Committee Subcommittee on Special Education met in West Chester on Thursday for a public hearing on House Bill 2536 and House Bill 2438.  HB 2536 would create an independent board to oversee the adjudication of disputes between parents and school districts on the appropriate education of special needs students.  HB 2438 would return the burden of proof to school districts to demonstrate that an individual education plan created for a special needs student was appropriate for meeting the needs of the student.  For more information, contact the office of Subcommittee Chair Barbara McIlvaine Smith at (717) 705-1922.

    Pennsylvania Department of Education

    The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently released Common Cents Initiative Pilot School District Reports, which make recommendations to districts participating in this program on potential cost savings through shared services.  The objective of the program is to “make every dollar count in the classroom rather than on administrative costs.”  Districts who voluntarily participate in the initiative receive expert analysis to explore cost savings in the areas of: transportation, food services and nutrition, safety and security, technology, finance and payroll, purchasing, human resources, facilities and real estate, and administration.  Districts that choose to adopt any of the cost-saving recommendations also are provided with technical assistance during the implementation process.  The Common Cents Initiative was created with a $1 million appropriation in the 2007-08 State Budget, and received $987,000 in 2008-09 in order to reach more school districts.  Click here to view the Pilot School District Reports.

    Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

    This week the Department of Revenue reported that Pennsylvania collected $2.3 billion in General Fund revenue in September, $163.8 million, or 6.5 percent less than anticipated.  Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $5.8 billion, which is $281.4 million, or 4.7 percent, below estimate.  



    The Virtual High School Study Commission, created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in Act 61 of 2008, held its first meeting on Thursday to identify key issues it will address as part of its charge to examine the feasibility and costs associated with creating a state-operated, Internet-based high school.  The Commission will organize itself into six subcommittees to address issues related to: technology; governance; funding; accountability; articulation; and curriculum, instruction and assessment.  Further, to inform its work, members requested that the Commission review current research about and models for delivering virtual education, current state initiatives that could be integrated into a virtual curriculum (such as STEM and World Language instruction), and that the Commission gather input from students.

    During its deliberations, the Commission will evaluate options for delivering distance education – via a state-run school, cyber charter schools or some coordinated combination of providers – and discuss options that would allow high school students to attend full-time or to enroll in courses not available in their school districts.  Members extolled the value of virtual learning to provide equitable learning opportunities for students, mindful that students also must have equal access to technology in order to participate.  The 32-member Commission comprised of government officials, education professionals, higher education presidents, parents and the business community must report its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2009.



    No Child Left Behind

    The Center for Education Policy has released its most comprehensive report to date on restructuring efforts under the No Child Left Behind Act.  A Call to Restructure Restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States” examines how the NCLB school restructuring requirements for chronically low-performing schools are being implemented in Michigan, California, Maryland, Ohio and Georgia.  The study found that many schools have remained in restructuring for multiple years with little guidance from the federal government on what to do about persistently struggling schools.  The study also reported that the number of Title I schools in restructuring during the 2007-08 school year increased by 56 percent to an estimated 3,599 schools, about 7 percent of all Title I schools in the nation.  The report makes recommendations for policymakers, state and federal officials and schools to improve the current restructuring process.

    Early Childhood Education

    Pre-K Now has released its annual state-by-state analysis of pre-kindergarten funding, Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009.”  The report finds that despite the country’s worsening economic conditions, the majority of states continue to invest in pre-kindergarten programs.  According to the report, “most state legislatures recognize quality pre-k as a smart policy that promises substantial returns to states, provides immediate economic relief to families and improves the future prospects of young children and the communities in which they will live and work as adults.”

    High School Reform

    Recently, the Alliance for Excellent Education published the report From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate.”  This report outlines the Alliance’s Framework for Action to Improve Secondary Schools, which is built upon consensus among educators, researchers, policymakers and other authorities on the specific problems of secondary schools as well as the research and best-practice solutions.  The report identifies seven policy areas (alignment and rigor, accountability, student supports and options, highly effective educators, supportive communities, college access, and investment) that are necessary to provide a comprehensive and systemic approach to improving secondary schools and achieving national objectives.



  • The Pennsylvania STEM Initiative is partnering with the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) to build public and private sector partnerships to engage girls in STEM-related education programs (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Individuals interested in learning more about the collaborative initiative and how you can get involved in its work are invited to attend an informational meeting with NGCP and PA STEM on November 7 at Penn State Harrisburg.  For more information, contact Tanza Pugliese at tanza@teampa.com.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now accepting applications for 2009 environmental education grants.  DEP encourages schools, universities, intermediate units, non-profit groups and community conservation districts to apply for the funds to support programs and projects that increase environmental awareness and understanding.  Click here for more information.



    Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate will be in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (October 6-8) next week.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education hosts an Alternative Education Conference in Grantville on October 6-7.

  • The 2008 National Value-Added Conference takes place October 6-8 in Columbus, OH.

  • The Pennsylvania PTA and Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center gather in the State Capitol on Wednesday for an event celebrating October as Parent Involvement Month.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education hosts a conference on Educating Homeless Children in Pennsylvania in Grantville on Thursday.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Education Foundations hosts a Leadership Conference in Downingtown on Thursday.

  • The Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts holds its annual conference in Lancaster on October 10-11.

  • 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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