EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 17, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Ed Rendell
    - State House
    - House Republican Policy Committee
    - House Democratic Policy Committee
    Research and Reports
    EPLC News

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



    Last summer the General Assembly took the historic step of adopting a fair and predictable school funding formula and making the first year installment on a six-year schedule to reach full funding.  This formula, when fully funded, will give every student a fair chance to succeed in school.  The downturn in the economy and its impact on state revenue has threatened Pennsylvania’s ability to stay on schedule to fund this new equity and adequacy formula.  Fortunately, federal stimulus funds are now available so that Pennsylvania can maintain its commitment to invest in education through the new formula.

    The federal stimulus, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), provides Pennsylvania with $2.6 billion in funds for education over the next two years.  Of this amount, $1.6 billion comes from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which must be used to support basic education or restore cuts in higher education ($44 million).  The K-12 portion of the Stabilization Fund can be distributed only by the state’s basic education formula or, if not, then by default, by the federal Title I formula.  These stimulus dollars give the General Assembly the ability to fund the basic education formula over the next two years while the state economy and state revenues recover, thus enabling Pennsylvania to meet its statutory target for basic education funding in the 2009-10 fiscal year and keeping us on schedule to fully fund the formula by 2013-14.

    Legislators in some states are considering cutting education funding and then using federal stabilization funds to replace state funds.  If the Pennsylvania General Assembly moves in that direction, it will stall progress on phasing in our first fair and predictable school funding formula in almost two decades.

    Appropriating $418 million of the federal stimulus dollars to increase basic education funding now will enable Pennsylvania to avoid cuts in state support for school districts and reduce the necessity for local tax increases to maintain current levels of education for students.  The Campaign is concerned that some legislative leaders are sending messages to school superintendents that will result in unnecessary local tax increases out of fear that the legislature will not appropriate these funds to increase school funding.

    The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign urges the General Assembly to act expeditiously to assure local officials that the Commonwealth will use $418 million in federal stabilization funds in 2009-10 to increase basic education funding over current year levels.

    The Education Policy and Leadership Center serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign and will keep you informed about legislative developments in the coming weeks.  To learn more about our efforts and to endorse the Campaign, visit the Campaign web site at www.paschoolfunding.org.



    Governor Ed Rendell

    Nearly $770 million in state gaming revenue will be available for homeowner property tax relief in 2009.  Budget Secretary Mary Soderberg certified the amount available in the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund on April 15, as required by the 2006 Taxpayer Relief Act which authorized gaming in Pennsylvania to fund school property tax relief.  Governor Ed Rendell said approximately 110,000 senior citizens will pay no school property taxes again this year due to the program, while nearly 580,000 seniors will receive additional relief through the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, which also was expanded by the 2006 Taxpayer Relief Act.  According to Rendell, nearly 2.7 million households in Pennsylvania saw their property taxes reduced in 2008 because of gaming revenue.

    Rendell also said that more than three in four school districts already have reported that they will keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation in 2009.  The state’s Taxpayer Relief Act limits local school tax increases to an inflationary index, unless a larger increase is approved by voters.  Rendell further stressed that it is important the General Assembly target federal stimulus funds for education as the federal law intends to further avoid property tax increases and maintain the quality of our schools.

    State House

    The House Education Committee met in Philadelphia on Wednesday for a public hearing on STEM education’s regional impact on business, industry, higher education access.  For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair James Roebuck at (717) 783-1000.

    House Republican Policy Committee

    The House Republican Policy Committee met in Horsham on Tuesday for a public hearing on food allergy reaction management in public schools.  For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Chairman Stan Saylor at (717) 783-6426.

    House Democratic Policy Committee

    The House Democratic Policy Committee met in Philadelphia on Thursday for a public hearing on higher education as an industry.  For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla at (717) 787-3555.



  • A new International Benchmarking Toolkit is available through Education Commission of the States (ECS) to assist state policymakers, school district officials, principals and classroom teachers with the international benchmarking process.  The new resource provides examples of international standards and what other states are doing to align their standards to international benchmarks.

  • According to a recent study conducted by the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, students at district run schools in Philadelphia made bigger gains academically than students attending the city’s privately managed schools.  The study found that “by 2006, the achievement gap between the privatized group and the rest of the district was greater than it was before the intervention.”  The district spends $6.7 million annually for 28 privately run schools serving approximately 13,400 students.  The contracts of 18 privately managed schools will expire on June 30th.

  • The U.S. Department of Education has released results from the 2007–08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), which examines student financing of postsecondary education in the U.S (including loans and grants from federal, state, and institutional resources).  Among the study’s findings:

    • Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of all undergraduates in 2007-08 received some type of financial aid.  For those receiving any aid, the total average amount was $9,100.

    • About one-half (52 percent) of all undergraduates received grant aid, and more than one-third (38 percent) obtained student loans.  The average grant amount was $4,900, and the average loan amount was $7,100.

    • Nearly one-half (47 percent) of all undergraduates received some type of federal student aid.  About one-fourth (28 percent) received an average of $2,800 in federal Pell grants, and about one-third (35 percent) obtained an average of $5,100 in federal student loans.

    • Among undergraduates financially dependent on their parents, 28 percent came from families with incomes under $40,000 and another 28 percent from families with incomes of $100,000 or more.

    • Three-fourths (74 percent) of all graduate students received some type of financial aid, with an average amount of $17,600.  Forty-three percent took out an average of $18,500 in student loans, and about one-fifth (22 percent) received tuition aid from their employers.

  • Recently, the National Science Foundation joined with NASCAR to produce a 12 module science video series that teaches the science and engineering principles underlying NASCAR racing.  The series, The Science of Speed, engages students in critical thinking and problem solving activities using exciting and real-world situations. According to a 2008 ESPN survey, 43% of adult NASCAR fans have children under the age of 18.  NASCAR is the second most popular sport on television among children under the age of 18 according to Nielsen Media Research.



    EPLC is accepting applications for its Spring 2009 Parent and Community Leadership Institute in Philadelphia.  The Institute is a program for people 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 presented over four evening sessions.  For program details and to register online, see www.eplc.org/PCLI.html.



    Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania House and Senate return to session on Monday, April 20.

  • The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee meets Tuesday to consider Senate Bills 88, 598, 624, 674, 687 and 732.

  • The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on teacher strikes in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

  • The Pennsylvania House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 7, 689 and 349

  • The Week of the Young Child is April 19-25.  For tools and information about planning events to celebrate children and raise awareness of their needs, see www.naeyc.org/about/woyc/.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Education Foundations hosts a “Peers Helping Peers” Conference in Mt. Laurel, NJ on Wednesday.

  • The Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee holds a public hearing on school consolidation on Thursday in the Lehigh Valley.

  • The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics holds its annual meeting and expo in Washington, D.C. on April 22-25.

  • The Pennsylvania PTA holds its annual convention on April 24-26 in Allentown.

  • The Berks County Care for Kids Coalition hosts its Special Needs Conference on Saturday in Reading.

  • 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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