EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, June 15, 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.



    Governor Rendell and the State Legislature are now negotiating what might turn out to be the future of school funding reform in Pennsylvania.  Here are the competing proposals.

    Governor Rendell has proposed maintaining state support and using federal stimulus funds to add a $418 million increase to the state appropriation for basic education subsidies to school districts.  This amount is required to fully fund the second year of the six-year school funding reform plan begun last year.  The Governor’s proposal would keep school finance reform in Pennsylvania on schedule and on track to be fully implemented over six years.  This position has been supported by legislation approved by the House Education Committee.

    The Senate's 2009-10 budget bill (Senate Bill 850) approved a few weeks ago takes Pennsylvania in the wrong direction and abdicates the state's responsibility to pay for its own public schools.   The Senate position would reduce state funds for basic subsidies for the first time ever.  The federal dollars would be used to supplant rather than add to the state funds.  The second year of the six-year plan would NOT be funded, and the plan for school funding reform in Pennsylvania would effectively be killed.  Pennsylvania would be left with Rhode Island as the only two states without a school funding system to support students and their schools.  And school districts would be left dependent on property taxes more than ever before.

    Take action today.  Contact your local legislators to let them know you want the state to maintain its support of public schools and use federal stimulus funds to provide increased funding.
    For more information on the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign, please visit www.paschoolfunding.org.



    State Senate

    Last week, the Senate approved the following legislation:

    Senate Bill 281: 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.  SB 281 awaits referral to a Committee in the House.

    Senate Bill 687: Makes all school property (real and personal) owned by a charter school, cyber charter school, or an associated nonprofit foundation or leased to a charter school or cyber charter school at or below fair market value exempt from every kind of state, county, city, borough, township or other tax.  It also exempts them from costs or expenses for paving, curbing, sidewalk, sewers or other municipal improvements, provided that any charter or cyber charter school or owner of leased property may make a municipal improvement or contribute a sum toward the cost of improvement.  SB 867 has been referred to the House Education Committee.

    Senate Bill 736: Requires school entities to develop a written policy to allow students to possess epinephrine auto-injectors (epi-pens).  The bill was amended to make reference to existing 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.  Schools 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 awaits referral to a House Committee.

    Senate Bill 598: Provides for liability for tuition and enforcement of payment for students educated in a rehabilitative institution and provides for determining the cost of tuition.  SB 598 clarifies that during pendency of any issues or disputes regarding tuition charges, including appeal, the student will continue to receive educational services, including special education services.  SB 598 awaits referral to a House Committee.

    State House

  • The House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines on June 8 to reject the state budget plan put forth by Pennsylvania Senate Republicans (Senate Bill 850), which was adopted in the Senate along party lines during the first week of May.  The Senate budget proposal would cut $729 million in state dollars for the basic education subsidy, divert those state education dollars to other purposes, and use federal stimulus funds to fill the hole caused by the Senate’s cut to flat fund basic education at 2008-09 levels.  It does not allow the state to stay on track with its six-year plan to phase-in more adequate and equitable funding for all students.  Within the education budget, SB 850 also cuts funding for early childhood education, dual enrollment, public libraries and more.

  • On Wednesday, the House Education Committee approved two bills aimed at school dropout prevention and data collection:

    House Bill 1602: Requires public school principals to conduct (or assign someone to conduct) an interview with each student who withdraws from school or who is illegally absent for more than 10 days.  Under this proposal, if a student fails to complete the required exit interview, the school principal must conduct an interview with the student’s parent or guardian.  If the parent fails to comply, the school district may impose a fine in accordance with penalties for violating compulsory attendance requirements.  HB 1602 requires PDE to establish and distribute a form that must be used during the interview process.  The form must be filed with PDE within 30 days after the interview and the data (excluding name and address) will be used in conjunction with the state’s Electronic Dropout/Graduate Report. HB 1602 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 1618: Requires PDE to implement and maintain a high quality data collection and reporting system on graduation and dropout rates and to serve as a clearinghouse of information, policies and strategies aimed at decreasing the number of dropouts.  HB 1618 requires PDE to create a statewide definition of the term “dropout” by the 2010-11 school year if none is provided by federal law or regulation and to annually report graduation rates, dropout rates and graduation-gap rates in the state.  Dropout data collected and reported under this proposal must be disaggregated in the following categories: limited English proficiency, low income, special education, gifted education, race/ethnicity, school entity, charter school or cyber charter school, gender, geographic area and other categories determined by PDE.  Dropout information would be made available to the public through the PDE website.  HB 1618 has been re-committed to the Rules Committee.

  • The House Finance Committee last week passed legislation (House Bill 1463) that would allow a school district to designate some or all of its estimated unreserved fund balance for future pension obligations in advance of a projected increase in the employer contribution rate.  HB 1463 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.

  • The House Labor Relations Committee passed legislation last week (House Bill 1569) that requires school districts to maintain a workers’ compensation safety committee by December 31, 2010.  A district that does not have such a committee could lose state funding equal to the discount the district would otherwise received under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  HB 1569 would not apply to districts that are not eligible for a premium discount or reduction in contribution rates as a member of a group self-insurance fund.  HB 1569 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.



    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).

    With more than 225 graduates in its first ten years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  Act 48 credits are available to individuals holding Pennsylvania teaching or administrative certificates, and State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.

    Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.

    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 House and Senate are scheduled to be in session each week (at least on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) until the state budget is adopted.

    This week…

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee meets Monday to consider Senate Bills 55 and 56.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1336, 1148, 1647 and 1665.

  • The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday pursuant to Senate Resolution 20 and House Resolution 127.

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum 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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