EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, August 7, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State House
    Pennsylvania Department of Education

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



    Governor Rendell this week signed a budget bill (Senate Bill 850) that includes funding to pay most state workers and to pay for critical public health and safety services.  Rendell vetoed most other funding from the spending bill, but kept in federal funding with one notable exception - federal stimulus funds for Fiscal Stabilization - Basic Education.  Negotiations on basic education funding, how federal stimulus “stabilization” funds will be allocated, and many other programs and services will continue in the House-Senate Conference Committee.  Click here for a list of veto amounts and appropriations in Senate Bill 850.

    There are many other education-related appropriations that are still in dispute including funding for early education, libraries, and the arts, as well as children’s health insurance.  Also, all of higher education funding is in limbo, including PHEAA grants for students, until further action is taken on the budget. 



    State House

  • On Thursday, the House passed the following legislation:

    House Bill 1419: Appropriates $43.227 million from the Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund (PSERS) to provide for general operating expenses incurred by the PSERS’ Board for FY 2009-2010.  HB 1419 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 1661: Places a temporary moratorium on court-ordered countywide reassessments until the General Assembly conducts a thorough and comprehensive study of the state’s property tax reassessment system and enacts legislation (if necessary) to address issues pertaining to inequities, lack of uniformity and protection for homeowners facing sudden and dramatic increases in their property assessments, or until June 30, 2011, whichever comes first.  HB 1661 awaits referral to a Senate Committee.

  • On Tuesday, the House Education Committee approved House Bill 11, which makes omnibus changes to the School Code.  This “omnibus” education legislation typically is enacted annually in conjunction with the passage of the state budget.  House Bill 11 represents a compilation of several legislative proposals that were considered and adopted previously by the Committee.  Among those provisions included in the bill, it addresses: parent involvement programs, National Board certification for teachers, exit interviews for students withdrawing from school, student possession of epi-pens, eligibility for grants from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, transfer and articulation agreements for institutions of higher education, and more.

    The bill provides for the distribution of basic subsidy grants to districts for 2009-10 and continues to distribute basic education funding using the state’s new school funding formula (based on a $300 million increase in the appropriation).  Under HB 11, funding for Accountability Block Grants, the educational assistance program and basic education formula enhancements are rolled into the basic education subsidy for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 11 also establishes a new special education funding formula, similar to the basic education subsidy formula enacted last year.  Formulas for distributing funding for school districts’ charter school costs, intermediate units, approved private schools and chartered schools for education of the deaf and blind, along with state aid to public libraries also are provided for in this legislation.  HB 11 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    In addition to House Bill 11, the House Education Committee approved the following on Tuesday:

    Senate Bill 736: Requires school entities to develop a written policy to allow students to possess epinephrine auto-injectors (epi-pens). The bill makes reference to existing state and federal laws protecting students with handicaps.  Students must demonstrate competency to the school nurse (based on age, cognitive function, maturity and demonstration of responsible behavior) that they know how to self-administer the medication.  School policies must specify the conditions under which a student may lose the privilege to carry an epi-pen.  School entities that prohibit a student from carrying an epi-pen must store it in close proximity to the student and notify the student’s classroom teachers of its location and how to access it.  Further, schools must obtain updated prescriptions and parental approvals annually.  SB 736 also requires the PA Department of Health to provide school entities with technical assistance and information regarding the administration of medication for allergies by school employees.  SB 736 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

    House Resolution 424: Designates Valley Forge Military College as the Official Military College of Pennsylvania and establishes the Valley Forge Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative Program which allows each member of the House and Senate to appoint a legislative appointee to the freshman class, beginning in the fall 2009.  The resolution awaits further action by the full House.

  • On Wednesday, the House Education Committee reported (with a negative recommendation) Senate Bill 281, which prohibits the establishment of any new statewide high school graduation requirements unless approved by the General Assembly.  Under SB 281, PDE is prohibited from developing, implementing (directly or indirectly through any entity) or entering into any contract that provides for Graduation Competency Assessments unless the legislature appropriates funds for their development and implementation.  SB 281 prohibits state funds from being expended for this purpose unless specifically appropriated by the General Assembly.  The bill also prohibits the State Board of Education from developing or implementing any standard that requires school districts to develop new or additional high school graduation requirements, implement model curriculum or use diagnostic testing unless authority is granted by the General Assembly.  Under the rules of the House, the recommendation of a Committee that a bill or resolution be reported negatively will not affect its consideration by the House.  SB 281 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  It appears that this legislation, if it is to proceed further, will have to be reconciled with the recently announced State Board of Education “agreement” concerning state assessments and high school graduation requirements.


    PDE announced this week that nine Pennsylvania colleges and universities will receive a portion of $170,000 in grants that will aid teachers working in Keystone STARS, Head Start and PA Pre-K Counts programs in earning bachelor’s degrees and certification in Early Childhood Education (ECE).  By 2011, all lead teachers in Pre-K Counts classrooms must be ECE certified.  ECE programs with a Keystone STAR 4 rating will be required to have 50% of their lead teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in ECE or a related field by 2010.  According to PDE, these grants will benefit 194 teachers enrolled currently in early childhood education programs, while adding another 397 new teachers to degree-granting programs.  For more information, click here.



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    Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday in Harrisburg.

  • The Pennsylvania State Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention meets Thursday in Harrisburg.

  • Save the Date…

  • EPLC’s 2009 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium will be held on Thursday, November 12, at the Wildwood Conference Center at Harrisburg Area Community College.

  • 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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