EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Senate
    - State House
    EPLC News

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



    The end of the state’s fiscal year passed this week with no action on a state budget for 2009-2010.  As budget posturing and negotiations continue, it is imperative for legislators to hear that funding for basic education and maintaining Pennsylvania’ s first funding formula in almost two decades, is non-negotiable with their constituents – even if it requires legislators to increase revenues.

    A recent poll of registered voters found that 63 percent favor continued investments in education through implementing the second year of the six-year formula the legislature adopted last summer even if it requires a one-half percent increase in the income tax.
    Take action today.  Contact your legislators.  Let them know you are in the majority in wanting the state to continue to implement the new school funding formula – even if it requires a state tax increase to do so.

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



    State Senate

  • The Senate passed Senate Bill 88 to clarify 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 district provided that the parent maintains the residence.  SB 88 has been re-referred to the House Education Committee.

  • The Senate Education Committee approved the following bills this week:

    Senate Bill 881: Establishes a tuition control study commission to examine the costs of college education in all sectors of higher education in Pennsylvania and determine how the state can authorize controls on annual tuition increases.  The commission would be comprised of state legislators, the Secretary of Education, chair of the State Board of Education, chief executive of PHEAA, representatives of each higher education sector, and current college students.  The Commission must issue a report of its recommendations and findings by December 31, 2009.  SB 881 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 899: Expands eligibility for grants from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.  SB 899 changes the eligibility guidelines for students to receive EITC grants by opening the program to students from families making less than $60,000 per year, rather than the current $50,000 level, and expands the income allowance for each eligible student and dependent member of the household from $10,000 to $12,000.  It also establishes a higher income eligibility threshold for students with disabilities, which is tiered depending whether or not the child attends a special education school.  Under the bill, the Department of Community and Economic Development would annually adjust all income eligibility guidelines to reflect any upward changes in the consume price index for the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland area in the past 12 months.  The bill adds definitions for “eligible student with a disability,” “special education school,” “support level” and “maximum allowable household income for students with a disability.”  SB 899 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 954: Allows the state’s approved private schools and chartered schools for the deaf and blind to apply to PDE for emergency permits (related to teacher certification) as if the teachers were employed by a public school entity as long as all other conditions for obtaining an emergency permit are met.  SB 954 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Senate Bill 968: Requires the State Board of Education to adopt regulations establishing standards for the use of seclusion by a school entity, approved private school, state-operated program or facility or other public or private organization providing educational services to children with disabilities or providing early intervention services.  Such standards must include the appropriateness of use for all students, training for personnel, and parental consent and notification.  Seclusion is defined in the bill as the confinement of a student alone in a room from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.  SB 968 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 971: Requires school districts of the second, third and fourth class to utilize the services of the local elected tax collector, and establishes requirements for school districts that collect school real estate taxes on their own.  Districts that handle this function in-house must certify, with school board approval, which employees are responsible for collecting taxes.  The designated employees must maintain the same basic training, examination, continuing education, and bonding requirements as elected tax collectors.  Further, SB 971 would permit only those employees who are properly certified and bonded to interact or consult about tax matters with taxpayers.  SB 971 also requires a district to post hours of operation where they can be clearly noticed at the office designated by the district for tax collection.  Finally, SB 971 requires districts to set fair compensation for all elected tax collectors.  Compensation must be based on, but not limited to, stationery paper, supplies, printing, notices, postage, telephone services, office equipment, software licenses, cost to hand deliver of lien filings, office rental, cost of meeting all requirements for timely filing, reporting, issuance of tax receipts, bonding and continuing education of all employees of the tax collector.  SB 971 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

  • State House

  • On Wednesday, the House Education Committee adopted the following legislation:

    House Bill 1659: Requires full transfer of an Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degree between the state’s community colleges and state system of higher education (PASSHE) universities by December 31, 2011 that would allow students to transfer with full junior standing.  Independent colleges and universities and State-related universities could choose to participate in the degree transfer system.  HB 1659 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 1148: Requires PDE to collaborate with advisory health councils to develop and publish guidelines for managing life-threatening food allergies in schools.  The guidelines must assist school districts with understanding the scope of the problem, detailed policies and protocols to prevent allergic reaction emergencies, systemic planning and multi-disciplinary teaching approaches, staff training, parental responsibilities and emergency response protocols.  School districts may submit their food allergy management policy to PDE to be included in the clearinghouse of wellness policies and information regarding child health, nutrition and physical education.  This information will be made available on the Department’s website.  HB 1148 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 704: Establishes a new funding formula for special education.  Under HB 704, school districts would receive state funding based on the actual number of students receiving special education services, rather than a statewide average number.  Currently, districts receive funding for special education based on the assumption that 16% of each district’s students have special needs.  The bill also enhances the current accountability system for special education to ensure districts use funding effectively to meet student needs and do not over-identify students entitled to special education services.

    The proposed formula for funding special education in HB 704 would mirror the basic education formula adopted by the General Assembly last year.  Specifically, each district would receive special education funds based on: 1) a five-year average of student enrollment in special education; 2) a single multiplier of 1.3 (to reflect additional costs for educating students with all levels of disabilities above the base cost for other students); 3) an additional multiplier providing funding for districts that raise their average rate and quality of education for eligible students in regular classrooms; and, 4) annual adjustments for inflation, local wealth, tax effort and local cost factors.

    The bill was amended to clarify and make reference to federal and state laws pertaining to placing special needs students in the least restrictive environment and the role of the IEP team in making appropriate program and placement decisions for eligible students to address concerns related to the bill’s fiscal incentives for student inclusion.  Under the amended bill, charter schools are eligible to receive funds for extraordinary special education program expenses. The amendment also removes language giving the department the ability to conditionally approve special education plans and revises reporting requirements affecting districts that receive funding increases above an inflationary index.  HB 704 awaits further consideration by the full House.

  • Both the House Local Government Committee and the House Rules Committee passed legislation (House Bill 1754) this week that would require municipalities to notify school districts monthly of plans approved by the municipality for residential development during the previous month.  The notice must include the number and types of units and the expected construction schedule.  HB 1754 has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

  • On Tuesday, the House Urban Affairs Committee adopted House Bill 1661, which places a moratorium on local taxing authorities (including school districts) from undertaking a court-ordered reassessment of property for the purpose of levying property taxes.  The moratorium would remain in effect either until the General Assembly conducts a comprehensive study of the property tax reassessment system and enacts legislation to address lack of uniformity among how counties conduct reassessments or until June 30, 2011, whichever comes first.  HB 1661 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.



  • State Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella announced that, due to the budget impasse, the State Board of Education has cancelled its scheduled meeting of July 15-16 at the University of Pittsburgh.  Chairman Torsella hopes to reschedule the meeting in August.

  • This week the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced the names of members who will serve on the Common Core State Standards Development Work Group and Feedback Group along with launching a new website (www.corestandards.org) designed to provide information and updates.  The groups also announced that college and career ready standards are expected to be ready for public comment in July.  The K-12 standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009.
    Pennsylvania, along with 48 other states, joined the Common Core Standard Initiative.  The purpose of the initiative is to create academic standards that can be internationally benchmarked.



    Applications are available now for the 2009-2010 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).

    The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 10-11, 2009 and continues through June 2010.

    Applications are being accepted now.  Click on http://www.eplc.org/fellows.html for complete details.

    Since space is limited to approximately 30 positions, it is advisable to submit an application as soon as possible.  The application may be downloaded online, but must be submitted by mail with the necessary signatures of applicant and sponsor.

    If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Fellowship Program and its requirements, please contact Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or cowell@eplc.org.



    The Pennsylvania Senate will return to session on Monday, July 6.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has released a proposed session schedule that would have them working every day during the month of July, but they are not expected in Harrisburg this weekend.

    Next week…

  • The Education Commission of the States holds its annual National Forum on Education Policy on July 8-10 in Nashville, TN.
  • 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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