EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, August 24, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    State Budget
    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.



    The Pennsylvania state budget impasse continues with no public signs of progress.  This Thursday, school districts will miss a second monthly payment due from the state totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.  The delay in state payments will cost every school district either additional borrowing costs or lost investment income.  Many districts which adopted budgets in June anticipating the state would honor the new school funding formula are forced to consider decisions to reduce programs for students.  Many early care and early education providers across the state are in crisis, unable to pay vendors and employees.  Some parents and young children will find their programs temporarily closed.

  • Comedian and education advocate Bill Cosby joined Gov. Ed Rendell at the State Capitol last week to release a new report that shows Pennsylvania’s investments in public education are working and should be continued.  A new report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation making across-the-board academic progress.  Speaking at the State Capitol last week, CEP President Jack Jennings said a 50-state study of test results from 2002 to 2008 identified Pennsylvania as the only state to see increases in student achievement in both reading and math at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  CEP is an independent nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

    Specifically, the report found that Pennsylvania was the only state to reduce the percentage of students performing at the lowest achievement ranking, increase the percentage of students who are at least on grade level, and increase the percentage of students who are at the highest achievement level.  Rendell said the “report confirms that our investments in student achievement are paying off and making us a more competitive state” and that we need to continue making these investments in order to build on this success.  Click here for details on the CEP report.

  • An attempt by Senate Republicans to override certain state funding for social service and education programs previously vetoed by Governor Rendell failed last Wednesday.  Attempts to restore funding for tuition grants to college students, mental retardation programs, domestic violence programs, veteran’s programs, emergency mortgage assistance, rape crisis centers and homeless funding failed by identical votes of 30-19.  After those votes failed, Republican leaders in the Senate held off on considering six additional proposed overrides.  Senate Democratic leaders said they voted against the override attempts because they want to pass a whole budget, not a piecemeal budget, and because they oppose service cuts that would have occurred due to reduced funding levels in some of the proposed overrides.  In order to be successful, the override votes required approval of two-thirds of the Senate, meaning four Democratic Senators needed to cross party lines to vote with the majority Republicans in that chamber; only Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) voted with the Republicans.  If the Senate would have approved the overrides, similar approval would be required in the House.

    Spokespersons for many of the organizations and activities that would be funded with the vetoed line items urged that the Governor’s vetoes be supported rather than accept reduced funding levels.

  • House Republican leaders last week introduced another state budget proposal which reflects an idea previously discussed by some House Republicans and some “Blue Dog” members of the House Democratic Caucus.  The plan would increase funding for the basic education subsidy by only $150 million.  Click here for details about the budget legislation introduced by House Republicans.



    For the first time, a report which uses the results of three international assessments in reading, math and science to analyze how the United States compares with other countries in student performance and meeting internationally-benchmarked performance levels is now available through the National Center for Education Statistics.  Bringing together results from the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), taken by nearly one million students from 85 countries, showed that students in several countries consistently outperformed U.S. students across the core subject areas.  According to the report, although mathematic scores of U.S. students have improved since 1995, there have been no gains in science or reading.  For more about this special analysis of international assessments, click here.



    The Pittsburgh Public School District has been selected as a finalist to potentially receive a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness.  According to the Gates Foundation website, teachers matter most to student learning.  The goal of the Foundation’s project is for every student to have an effective teacher every year of their schooling.  With this in mind, the Foundation plans to spend half a billion dollars (over the next five years) to develop and test methods to assess teacher effectiveness along with supporting innovative programs that employ new ways of recruiting, training, and assigning classroom teachers.  A final decision is expected this fall.

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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