EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, January 23, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    School Board Candidate Workshops
    Pennsylvania Department of Education
    Pennsylvania State Board of Education
    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 House and Senate will return to voting session on Monday, January 26.

    The Governor’s Budget Message is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday, February 3, but may be delayed until February 4.  A decision is expected very soon.



    EPLC will sponsor a series of regional full-day workshops for 2009 School Board Candidates.  Workshops will be held in the Philadelphia region (Saturday, February 7), Pittsburgh region (Saturday, February 14), Harrisburg region (Saturday, February 21) and the Lehigh Valley (Saturday, March 7).  Conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, the Workshops are intended for those considering a run for school board (incumbents and non-incumbents), anyone interested in helping others run for school board, or those who just want to know more about the work of school boards and school directors.  Click here for details and to register online.

    EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association will also be participating in a Candidate Workshop for School Board positions sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Indiana County on Friday, January 30.  Click on Additional Information and Registration Form for details.



  • One-third of recent Pennsylvania high school graduates who enroll in a state-owned university or community college are not prepared for college-level math or English and must enroll in a remedial course, according to data released this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).  According to PDE, almost 20,000 students a year must take remedial coursework at a cost of more than $26 million annually.  Students incurred about $12.8 million of the additional coursework costs – an average of $1,300 per student – with the remainder paid by taxpayers.

    A review of data provided by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities and 14 community colleges found that 20,465 of the 62,247 recent Pennsylvania graduates who enrolled in these institutions required one or more remedial courses in core academic subjects during the 2007-08 school year.  Those students enrolled in a total of 37,311 remedial college courses.  Remedial needs were widespread across the state in 522 local education entities (school districts, charter schools, vocational/technical schools) of all demographics.  Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said the “data is further proof of the need to implement statewide graduation requirements to ensure all graduates have the academic skills needed to compete at the college level.”

  • Applications for PDE’s 2009 Regional Summer Schools of Excellence Grants are now available.  These competitive grants will provide up to $6,000 to develop enrichment programs for academically and/or artistically gifted youth.  Local education agencies (including intermediate units, school districts, charter schools, career vocational technical centers, colleges and universities, not-for-profit agencies and other educational organizations or consortia) may apply to establish new programs or expand existing ones.  PDE will fund 15 projects this year.  The deadline for submitting applications is February 27, 2009.



The State Board of Education met this week and took action to amend Chapter 14 (Special Education Services and Programs) to reference federal regulatory updates.  In December 2008, the U.S. Department of Education issued 34 CRF, Part 300 (Assistance to states for the Education of Children with Disabilities Program) final regulations, which amended sections of federal regulations regarding parental consent for continued special education and related services, non-attorney representation in due process hearings, state monitoring, technical assistance, enforcement and allocation of funds.  The addition to Chapter 14 will take effect upon its publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Board also approved proposed revisions to Chapter 33 (College and University Security).  Opportunity for public comments on the proposed changes will be available as they move through the regulatory review process.  Click here for a copy of the proposed changes.

The Board also identified priority areas it will focus on during 2009 – high school reform; student health, wellness and safety; and, teacher and administrator quality.  To support this work, the Board approved allocating $10,000 from the State School fund for the School Safety Working Group in which it previously agreed to participate, and announced its intention to host invitational roundtable discussions on student health, wellness and safety and a series of public hearings on high school reform.

Finally, the Board’s Council of Higher Education adopted a White Paper on College Affordability which makes recommendations for state policymakers’ consideration.  The recommendations are based on testimony from public hearings, a survey of current students and recent graduates convened by the Board and a recent PDE analysis of college costs.  Among its recommendations, the Council suggests expanding need-based student aid, expanding community college opportunities across the state, and establishing a low-cost, no-frills institution that offers accelerated baccalaureate degrees.  Click here for a copy of the draft White Paper reviewed by the Council during its deliberations.  The final version of the paper approved by the Council will be posted on the State Board’s web shortly.



A new report from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) says the rising rate of college costs is outpacing families’ ability to pay at a time when postsecondary education is becoming more necessary for employment.  According to the report, 75% of future jobs in Pennsylvania require education and training beyond high school, but less than half of today’s workforce has the skills and education to fill these jobs.  PPC says the cost of college in Pennsylvania – the sixth most expensive in the nation – may be shutting out some students.

The report says it takes 29% of family income to send a student to a Pennsylvania community college (after financial aid and student loans) and 41% of family income to pay for four-year state institutions, with low-income families dedicating a significantly higher percentage of their income for college costs.  Moreover, students graduated with an average debt of almost $24,000 in 2007, and pressures will be compounded for students in today’s credit market where private loans are being limited and interest rates are rising.

The report recommends that the state help Pennsylvania students and families pay for college by implementing last-dollar scholarships for low-income students to cover all remaining costs of attending a community college or state system university after all other forms of financial aid have been exhausted.  PPC also recommends that the state consider indexing tuition to family income.  To learn more, read “The High Cost of Higher Education” at www.papartnerships.org/collegeafford/.



PennAEYC Announces the Appointment of First Executive Director

The Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) has announced the appointment of Jodi Askins to the newly created position of Executive Director. Ms. Askins currently serves as Associate Executive Director of Early Connections, and Community Outreach Specialist of the Northwest Regional Key in Erie, Pennsylvania. For the past three years she has also served as Co-Chair of QUEST, a statewide advocacy coalition working to improve the quality of early education programs.

Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children opened an office in Harrisburg earlier this year and has been preparing for its first full time Executive Director as part of a strategic plan to play a greater role in the Commonwealth's early education policy. With almost 5,500 members, PennAEYC is now the second largest affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in the country.

Ms. Askins will begin her work on February 2. She can be reached at the Harrisburg office, 301 Market Street, 8th Floor, Harrisburg; 717-213-0581 or by email, jaskins@pennaeyc.org.



Next week…

  • The Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Coordinators hosts a Title I Improving Schools Performance Conference in Pittsburgh on January 25-28.

  • The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on school violence in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

  • 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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