EPLC Education Notebook
Monday, April 6, 2009
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
The Senate Education Committee wrapped up its oversight hearing on the state’s education budget on Monday, March 30. Last week, the Committee began a detailed review of basic education and higher education spending with Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak. Click here for a budget spreadsheet and click here for additional budget materials presented to the Committee.
Program Directors from two of the eight Schools of Excellence highlighted the uniqueness and rigor of the schools’ curricula while alumni drew on personal experiences to demonstrate the need to preserve the schools. Executive Directors of Community Education Councils (CECs) expressed similar disappointment with the Governor’s plan – describing the Councils’ function as a life-line for many educationally underserved rural communities. CECs coordinate partnerships with public, private and state-related colleges and universities, business schools and vocational- technical schools to bring education and training opportunities to people entering or re-entering the workforce.
In follow-up testimony, Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak reported on this year’s budget challenges and the difficult decision to eliminate funding ($2.7 million) for the Governor’s Schools of Excellence. Last year, the Schools of Excellence served 643 students in eight summer programs (Agriculture, Arts, International Studies, Global Entrepreneurship, Health Careers, Teaching, Sciences, and Information, Society and Technology) at a cost of $4,264 per student. According to Zahorchak, this figure represents “nearly half what some of our school districts spend per pupil an entire school year – and an amount that was sadly unsustainable in this recession.”
Recognizing the importance of the schools, PDE previously requested that program operators submit plans for sustaining the schools using private funding by March 15th. Secretary Zahorchak reported that two programs, the PA School for Global Entrepreneurship at Lehigh University and a Health Career Scholars Academy at the University of Pittsburgh, will be held this summer. In addition, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland (Beaver County) will hold a similar program for the arts in July at no charge to students. Several lawmakers expressed disappointment with the unwillingness of some colleges and universities to financially support the Schools of Excellence given the amount of state aid they receive. Panelists responded by reporting on the in-kind contributions, such as faculty and equipment, that universities make to the summer programs
Secretary Zahorchak also noted that the decision to cut funding ($2 million) for Community Education Councils was not easy. For the 2008-2009 academic year, 4,311 students were enrolled in credit earning courses and 8,974 students were enrolled in non-credit courses via the CECs throughout 20 counties. In his testimony, Zahorchak said that rural populations will receive greater benefit if available funding is channeled directly to students through PHEAA grants and the higher education institutions themselves. He also cited the establishment of community college and state university branch campuses, internet access to postsecondary education and training, and the state’s plan to compete for broadband technology dollars available through the federal stimulus as an alternative to CECs.
Legislative Budget and Finance Committee
Last week the Legislative and Budget Finance Committee (LBFC) released new reports on tax exempt property and the financial and academic status of the Duquesne City School District. The LBFC reports are a result of Senate Resolution 363 of 2008, which directed the LBFC in cooperation with the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Local Government Commission to study the impact of tax exempt properties on the fiscal health of local municipalities, and Act 45 of 2007, which requires the LBFC to prepare an annual summary of the financial and academic status of Duquesne City School District.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) last week released $44 billion in federal stimulus funds for education, along with the application and guidelines for $32.6 billion of the State Stabilization Fund. Click here for details from the USDE.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation released its report, Linking Ready Kids to Ready Schools, which highlights policy insights from the Governor's Forum Series and the work being done in five states, including Pennsylvania, around benefits to providing quality early childhood education. As policymakers look for ways to improve student outcomes by creating “seamless” systems of education starting at preschool, communities have been getting it done. SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids), a five year initiative funded by the Kellogg Foundation, has contributed a unique, community-based perspective to the national conversation on what it takes to effectively link learning systems. In particular, SPARK examines what it takes at the beginning of the education pipeline to link early learning to the early grades. The goal is to make sure that children are ready for school and that schools are ready for them — a formula critical for a lifetime of successful learning.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.