EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, September 19, 2008

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Rendell
    - State House
    - Pennsylvania State Board 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.

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



    Governor Rendell

    Governor Ed Rendell signed two executive orders this week creating state panels to expand Pennsylvania’s early childhood education initiatives by increasing awareness and involvement from business and civic leaders, as well as the general public.

    The dual panels – the Pennsylvania Early Learning Council and the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission – will help plan and make recommendations for the expansion of early learning and development services for young children and their families while enlisting the support of the Commonwealth’s business leaders for continued investments in early childhood education.

    The Early Learning Council will be composed of representatives of educational and business entities, higher education, Head Start agencies, local governments, law enforcement agencies, the media and others.  The Investment Commission will be made up of business leaders as well as the secretaries of Education, Public Welfare, Community and Economic Development, Budget, and Planning and Policy.

    Among other duties, the commission will recommend strategies for the Commonwealth to engage business and civic leaders in education planning and advocacy, host an economic summit on early childhood investment, and increase business, civic, and public awareness of the importance early childhood education.  The National Governor’s Association provided a grant to Pennsylvania to complete this work.

    State House

  • The House Education Committee approved the following legislation on Wednesday (each bill has been placed on the House Tabled Bills Calendar):

    House Bill 2743: Requires the Office for Safe Schools to develop anonymous telephone hotlines for students, parents, school employees and members of the community to report potential or actual violence or possession of weapons on school property.  The bill was amended to require the Department of Education to establish policies and procedures to deter false reporting of incidents.

    Senate Bill 1376: Allows any assets of York Academy to be transferred to York College.

    Senate Bill 472: Establishes the Science Technology Partnership Program within the Department of Education for the purpose of improving science education in schools and school districts.  Grants would be made available to institutions of higher education that establish a partnership with three or more schools or school districts to make scientific or technical equipment available to students, augment the science curriculum and provide professional development opportunities to science educators.  SB 472 would place in statute the existing Science in Motion program, which was created in 1997 by Juniata College.  The program currently operates in 331 public, private and parochial schools, 220 school districts and 11 college and universities with the support of $2.7 million in state funds.

  • A joint public hearing of the House Committees on Education, Intergovernmental Affairs and Veteran’s Affairs and Emergency Preparedness was held Thursday to discuss legislation (House Bill 2518) that would create an Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  HB 2518 would require the Governor 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 Committees received testimony from representatives of the Council of State Governments, National Military Families Association, U.S. Army War College, South Middleton School District, and Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  Click here to read the testimony.  HB 2518 is slated for a vote in the House Education Committee on Monday, September 22.

  • The House Labor Relations Committee met in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday for a second public hearing on House Bill 2626, which provides for collective bargaining rights for lay teachers and other lay employees of religiously affiliated schools.  For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair Bob Belfanti at (717) 787-5780.

  • Pennsylvania State Board of Education

  • The State Board of Education met Wednesday and Thursday and took action on the following items:

  • School District Merger: The Board approved an application for the first-ever voluntary merger of two Pennsylvania school districts.  Board members praised the effort to combine the Center Area and Monaca School Districts as in the best interest of the educational needs of students.  The Board hopes this consolidation undertaken in Southwestern Pennsylvania will serve as a template for other districts to evaluate whether their communities also may benefit from a merger.  The Center Area-Monaca merger is slated to take effect on July 1, 2009, reducing the number of school districts in Pennsylvania to 500.

    PSSA Science Assessment: The Board approved performance level descriptors and performance level cut scores for the state’s new science assessment.  Descriptors narratively explain the academic expectations associated with the exam’s four performance levels – advanced, proficient, basic and below basic.  Cut scores identify the range of points associated with each performance level.  Pennsylvania’s science assessment was administered for the first time this past spring in grades 4, 8 and 11, as required by state law and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  Results of the assessment should be available in mid-October.

    Revisions to Academic Standards: The Board approved proposed revisions to state academic standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening and Mathematics.  A review of the standards was led by Intermediate Unit 15 with the intent of clarifying the state’s current standards.

    Special Education Regulations: The Board approved a technical correction to changes recently enacted to the state’s special education regulations (Chapter 14).  The Board will use an expedited regulatory procedure to remove a federal citation adopted into state regulations that conflicts with current practice related to the disciplinary placement of students with mental retardation under the PARC Consent Decree.  This technical change will continue to extend protections currently available to students, which was always the Board’s intent.  Click here for details on the technical correction to Chapter 14.

    Higher Education Regulations:  The Board approved final form regulatory changes to Chapter 42 (Program Approval) for higher education institutions.  Click here for more information.

    Student Representation on the Board: Two Pennsylvania high school students have been chosen to serve as advisors to the State Board of Education.  Elizabeth Williams, a senior at Pocono Mountain West High School, will serve as the high school student member.  Gardiner Kreglow, a junior from Bethlehem Area School District, will serve as the high school student-elect and will succeed Williams next year.  The Board is in the process of selecting two postsecondary students to serve on the Board and anticipates they will join in November.  New student representatives will serve one-year terms in a non-voting capacity.

  • The State Board Committee reviewing Chapter 33 (College and University Security) and Chapter 34 (Branch Campuses for State Supported Institutions) held its first in a series of public roundtable meetings in Harrisburg on September 16.  Representatives from Pennsylvania College of Technology, Kutztown University, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania participated in the discussion.  Comments presented to the Committee focused primarily on the need to examine Chapter 33’s conformity with other state and federal crime reporting laws.  The Committee will hold two additional roundtables on October 1 in Pittsburgh and October 20 in Downingtown.  Click here for details about how to participate in the upcoming roundtable discussions.

  • Independent Regulatory Review Commission

    On Thursday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved final form changes to the state’s gifted education regulations (Chapter 16).  Among the changes, the regulations: establish a compliance monitoring process for school districts’ provision of gifted services; reduce the caseload of students assigned to a gifted education teacher from 75 to 65 (beginning July 1, 2010) and the class roster from 25 to 20 students; require a single IEP for special education students who also are identified as gifted; require the results of student evaluations for gifted services to be provided to parents within 60 calendar days, rather than 60 school days; and also require re-evaluation of students to occur within 60 calendar days (however, this calendar requirement would not apply during a school’s summer break).  Click here for a copy of the regulations, which will take effect upon their publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.



  • School districts may not increase taxes by more than 4.1% for FY 2009-2010 unless a higher increase is approved by voters, based on the new Act 1 index released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Property tax reform legislation enacted in 2006 limits annual school tax increases to this index – which represents the average of the percentage increase in the Statewide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index – unless the increase is needed to fund certain identified costs over which school districts have no control.  For more information about the 2009-10 index, see the September 13 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) has issued comments on proposed regulatory changes that would update the medical requirements and standards for school bus drivers who are being treated for diabetes mellitus.  IRRC said the proposed regulation incorrectly states the changes would have no fiscal impact.  The Commission also called for greater specificity in parts of the proposed changes.  Click here to read IRRC’s comments, as published in the September 13 Pennsylvania Bulletin.


    Children’s advocates gathered in the Capitol on Tuesday to call on candidates for office to “Step Up for Kids.”  Representatives of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the PA State Council of the Service Employees International Union, PA State Education Association and Public Citizens for Children and Youth joined in this national effort to draw public attention to issues affecting America’s children, and to support investments in programs that impact their health, education and well-being.  Click here to learn how you can get involved in making children a priority in public policy debates in Harrisburg and Washington.



    Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate will be in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • The Council for Higher Education Accreditation holds its National Accreditation Forum in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

  • The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets Tuesday to release a report on state agency involvement in processing fingerprint-based background checks for employment and licensure-related purposes.

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum on “New Accountability Provisions Tied to New K-12 State Education Funding” in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider Senate Bill 219 and House Bill 153.

  • The House Education Committee holds a hearing Thursday on the state of special education in Pennsylvania.

  • 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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