EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, April 27, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Senate
    - State House
    Pennsylvania Bulletin
    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.



    Legislators are coming back to Harrisburg this week and are beginning to focus on the key budget issues that demand attention.  But there is competition for their attention as many other important issues are slated to be considered.

    Now is the time to put public education funding front and center and we need your help!

    The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign is emphasizing how important it is for the General Assembly to maintain the current state investment in basic education and to allocate $418 million in federal stabilization funds to increase basic education funding using the formula proposed by Gov. Rendell for the 2009-10 budget.

    Take action by letting your local legislators know how important public education funding is to you and your community.

    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 will reduce the pressure on local communities to increase property taxes, while allowing the state to stay on schedule to fully implement the fair and predictable funding formula we all worked so hard to achieve last year.

    In this economic climate, legislators are not yet convinced that maintaining state support for public education should be a top priority this year.  They need to hear from their local constituents that this is very important to YOU.  You can help by contacting your member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate today.

    Take action by clicking here.

    For more information on the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign, please visit www.paschoolfunding.org.



    State Senate

  • Last week, the following legislation was approved by the Senate Education Committee and is awaiting further action by the Senate:  

    Senate Bill 88: Clarifies that a child living outside of Pennsylvania as a result of one or both parents being called or ordered to active duty shall continue to be considered a resident of the school district that was the child’s resident school district provided that the parent maintains the residence.

    Senate Bill 598: Provides for liability for tuition and enforcement of payment for students educated in a rehabilitative institution and provides for determining the cost of tuition.  The bill was amended to clarify that during pendency of any issues or disputes regarding tuition charges, including appeal, the student will continue to receive educational services, including special education services.

    Senate Bill 624: Requires school districts to permit resident students who attend non-public and private schools to participate in extracurricular activities. The bill was amended to clarify that the districts would only have to offer activities that the nonpublic or private schools do not offer.  A second amendment was approved that prevents school districts from arbitrarily making an activity worth credits in order to prevent non-public and private school students from participating when the district had previously offered the activity to non-public and private school students.

    Senate Bill 674: Allows school boards to establish “Operation Recognition” to grant high school diplomas to any honorably discharged Vietnam veterans who did not graduate from high school due to entry into military service.

    Senate Bill 687: Exempts charter schools from payment of real estate tax on realty owned or leased by the charter school.  The effective date of this new section would be retroactive to the effective date of the Article (June 19, 1997).

    Senate Bill 732: Requires state universities that received state funds in fiscal year 2008-09 for the purpose of sponsoring a Governor’s School in 2008 must sponsor the school in 2009 as a condition of receiving any state appropriation for fiscal year 2009-10.  Under the proposal, students attending these Governor’s Schools of Excellence would not be required to pay any tuition or fees to attend and participate in any of the programs in 2009.  The Governor’s Schools of Excellence affected by this legislation include the School for Agriculture Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, School for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, School for Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh and the School for Teaching at Millersville University.  The bill was amended to include the School for Information, Society and Technology at Drexel University.

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on teacher strikes and their impact on public education.  Testifiers at the hearing included the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy which presented their research on the number of work stoppages and comparisons of other states’ policies on public employee strikes.  Also providing testimony to the committee was StopTeacherStrikes.org which questioned the constitutionality of teacher strikes and made several recommendations including: eliminating the right of teachers to strike, teacher tenure and the ability of teacher unions to use public school district’s payroll deduction service to collect union dues and PAC contributions.  The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (AFT-Pennsylvania) testimony examined the purpose and impact of Act 88 of 1992.  Their remarks focused on the reduction in the number of teacher strikes and important features of the act such as preserving students’ instructional time by requiring 180 days of instruction by June 30th.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association identified several issues with the current law including the manner in which union leaderships receive strike authorization, Court of Common Pleas injunctive proceedings and work stoppage.  The hearing wrapped up with testimony from Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak who stated that “By and large, our law works.  It protects the rights of teaching professionals to negotiate as a single unit and that of elected school board members to pursue contract terms that best suit the district.  Most importantly, it protects students by ensuring that they receive 180 days of instruction in each academic year.”  He noted that the most contentious issue at the bargaining table is the cost of health care.  To read the testimony from the hearing, click on http://www.eplc.org/PALegislature2009-10/42209senatehrgteacherstr.pdf.

  • State House

  • On Wednesday, the House Education Committee approved unanimously House Bill 349 which establishes the Older Pennsylvanian Higher Education Program and permits institutions of higher education to offer courses to students 60 years of age or older tuition free.  House Bill 7 which changes the definition of maternity leave of absence for purposes of calculating creditable non-school service was withdrawn from consideration at the request of its sponsor.  The committee voted to table House Bill 689, which provides for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and costs to be included in the school construction requirements of the school code, until it can be determined whether or not the proposal conflicts with other construction legislation recently approved by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

  • On Thursday, the House Gaming Oversight Committee held the first in a series of public hearings on the Governor’s proposed Tuition Relief Act, which was introduced earlier in the week as House Bill 1317.  The committee received testimony from Dr. Kathleen Shaw, Deputy Secretary of Post Secondary and Higher Education, outlining the Governor’s plan to make college tuition affordable for families earning less than $100,000 a year.  The proposal would be supported by new tax revenues generated by legalizing video poker machines in bars and taverns.  According to her testimony, every family will pay what they can afford.  For instance, families earning less than $32,000 a year will pay just $1,000 for tuition, fees, room, board and books if their student attends a state owned university or community college.  Families that do not qualify for PHEAA grants, but who earn less than $100,000 a year, will receive grants for half the cost of tuition at state system schools.

    Some lawmakers voiced opposition to the plan because it excludes families whose students choose to attend state-related (Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, Temple) or private universities.   Dr. Shaw indicated that it would cost two billion dollars to include all students.  The current proposal is estimated at $550 million which will serve approximately 170,000 students.  Other legislators expressed concerns about the addictive nature of these gambling machines and the impact on families and communities.

    PDE’s testimony was followed by college presidents from Reading Area Community College and Bloomsburg University, anti-gambling organizations, Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania State Police.  For more information, contact the House Gaming Oversight Committee at 717-783-3290.



    The PA Department of Agriculture will be accepting applications for the Healthy Farms and Healthy Schools Matching Grant program from April 13th through May 29, 2009. The purpose of the program is to educate kindergarten students and their families about the importance of choosing healthy, locally produced foods while increasing awareness about Pennsylvania agriculture. For more information, see the April 18th edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin or contact JoAnna Gresham, Bureau of Market Development, Department of Agriculture 2301 North Cameron Street, Room 310, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408.  Applications are available at www.agriculture.state.pa.us .



    Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the U.S. Department of Justice released Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2008 report.  Gathering information and perspectives from a variety of sources, the study represents the latest data available on crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school.  It examines topics such as: victimization, fights, bullying, classroom disorder, weapons, student perceptions of school safety, teacher injury and student use of drugs and alcohol. 



  • Education officials gathered at the state capitol on April 20 to honor the 122 Pennsylvania teachers who earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2008.  Pennsylvania now has 498 teachers who have earned NBPTS certification, the highest credential in the teaching profession.  NBPTS certification is a voluntary assessment program designed to develop, recognize and retain accomplished teachers through a performance-based assessment that typically takes one to three years to complete.

    The National Research Council has affirmed the positive impact of NBPTS certification on student achievement, teacher retention and professional development.  Pennsylvania currently provides tuition support for candidates seeking NBPTS certification.  The state also has provided grants to support four universities in Pennsylvania to serve as “Centers for Teaching Excellence” (Gannon University, Duquesne University, Temple University and East Stroudsburg University), which provide locations for mentoring, group work and research activities of local teachers working to earn NBPTS certification.  Since 1987, nearly 74,000 teachers have achieved National Board certification.  For more information about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, go to http://www.nbpts.org/.

  • The Coalition for Effective and Responsible Testing announced an alternative plan to PDE’s Keystone Exams at a capitol press conference on Wednesday.  The proposal, known as “Keystone Exams 2.0,” would be a system of end-of-course final exams for high school students, created by PDE, worth no more than 20 percent of the student’s final grade, combined with a local assessment option.  These new exams would not be high stake exams and would not be a state graduation requirement.  The coalition consists of the following organizations: Pennsylvania PTA; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-PA; Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Pennsylvanians for the Education of Gifted Students; American Federation of Teachers-PA; Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators; Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators; Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals; Pennsylvania Association of Pupil Services Administrators, Pennsylvania State Education Association; Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools; Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education; Pennsylvania Middle School Association; the Autism Society of America-PA; and National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest).



    This week…

  • The Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission holds its 2009 Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment on Monday, see http://paprom.convio.net.

  • The House State Government Committee holds a public hearing on Tuesday to consider Public Television Network funding issues.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing on House Bill 1113 on Wednesday in Harrisburg. 

  • The House Republican Policy Committee holds a public hearing on Remediation on Wednesday in Harrisburg.

  • The House Children and Youth Committee holds a hearing in Harrisburg on Thursday on Childhood obesity.

  • 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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