EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, June 22, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Rendell
    - State Senate
    - State House>
    - PA Department of Education
    Research and Reports
    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 state Senate’s 2009-10 budget bill (Senate Bill 850) takes Pennsylvania in the wrong direction and puts the state’s economic recovery and future economic competitiveness in jeopardy.  While the bill was defeated in the House Appropriations Committee, proponents of the legislation continue to defend the legislation’s education cuts.  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.

    Senate Bill 850 would use state and federal stimulus dollars to fund next year’s basic education subsidy only at current year levels – an amount $711.4 million less than that proposed by the Governor.  And they would abandon Pennsylvania’s six-year plan to fix the inequity and inadequacy of the current method by which schools are funded.

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



    Governor Rendell

    Gov. Ed Rendell last week proposed a temporary state income tax increase of one-half percent that would set the rate at 3.57 percent and return it to the current 3.07 percent after three years.  Rendell said despite already making $2 billion in cuts, the increase is necessary to balance the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit and protect critical services for children and families.  The proposed increase would cost the average Pennsylvania family less than $5 per week and raise approximately $1.5 billion per year in new revenue.  In addition to hundreds of program cuts and eliminations, Rendell previously proposed also taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars, increasing the cigarette tax, placing a levy on natural gas extraction, and tapping the state’s Rainy Day Fund.  Click here for a video of Governor Rendell discussing the need for new revenue and making strategic investments in education.  Click here to read a statement from the Governor.

    State Senate

    Last Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills:

    Senate Bill 55: Expands the list of criminal offenses that would prohibit a person from being employed in public or private schools.  The bill creates a tiered system for certain offenses ranging from a three to ten year waiting period before a person could be employed by a school.  SB 55 would authorize school districts, at their own cost, to request a state and federal background check when they have a reasonable belief that an employee has been arrested or convicted of a crime.  This proposal also would require school employees to report convictions to their school’s administrator.  Under the bill, an employee’s failure to report a conviction would result in termination from employment and a fine of up to $2,500.  SB 55 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 56: Expands the duties and responsibilities of the Office of Safe Schools, school entities and police departments in reporting incidents of school violence.  SB 56 was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee to prohibit the Department of Education from outsourcing or contracting-out the functions, duties or responsibilities of the Office of Safe Schools.  As amended, the targeted grants made by the Office would be allocated through a competitive grant review process in which priority would be given to schools identified by NCLB as persistently dangerous, schools with the greatest need to establish safety and order, and geographically dispersing funds across the Commonwealth.

    The amended bill also removes certain offenses (simple assault, terroristic threats and indecent exposure) from the list of crimes that must be reported by a chief school administrator and adds those to list of offenses that an administrator may report.  Under the proposal, charter schools would be required to report incidents of school violence in the same manner as other school entities.  The bill requires school districts to enter into an MOU with police departments that have jurisdiction over school property.  The MOU must contain certain conditions, including immediate notification of police, emergency plans, and a data review process.  The bill references current federal law that pertains to reporting requirements for crimes committed by a student with a disability.  SB 56 also allows PDE to take disciplinary action against any chief school administrator or principal who intentionally fails to submit the report, enter into MOU, or report an incident. In addition to possible disciplinary action imposed by the Professional Standards and Practices Commission, administrators could be subject to criminal prosecution and possible civil penalties ranging from $2,500 to $5,000.  SB 56 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    State House

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

    House Bill 1336: Requires school entities to develop a written policy to allow students to possess and self-administer epinephrine auto-injectors (epi-pens).  Under HB 1336 schools may require an updated prescription and parental approval for the use of epi-pens on an annual basis.  The legislation includes language that protects the school entity, school board members, administrators or employees from civil liability.  Under this proposal, a principal or other chief administrator who is aware that a pupil is in possession of an epi-pen must notify each of the student’s classroom teachers of that fact.  The bill was amended in Committee to reference existing laws and regulations that protect the rights of handicapped students and special education students.  HB 1336 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    House Bill 1647: Establishes a formula for distributing state funding to public libraries for FY 2009-10.HB 1647 has been recommitted to the House Rules Committee.

    House Bill 1665: Sets forth the payment calculations for the cost of tuition and maintenance of exceptional children enrolled in approved private schools and the four chartered schools for the deaf and blind.  Under the proposal, in any fiscal year in which there is no increase in special education appropriations, the increase for approved private schools and chartered schools for the deaf and blind will be calculated using the average of the percentage increase for the appropriation for special education and appropriation for basic education for the last fiscal year in which there was an increase in those state appropriations. HB 1665 has been recommitted to the House Rules Committee.

  • The House Appropriations Committee approved the following non-preferred appropriations bills this week (each bill has been re-committed back to the House Appropriations Committee):

    House Bill 1419: appropriates $43.227 million to the Public School Employees' Retirement Fund for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1699: appropriates $6.251 million to Drexel University for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1701: appropriates $5.871 million to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1702: appropriates $1.661 million to the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1703: appropriates $1.084 million to the University of the Arts (Philadelphia) for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1704: appropriates $38.779 million to the University of Pennsylvania for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1705: appropriates $1.511 million to Salus University (Philadelphia) for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1706: appropriates $0.173 million to the Johnson Technical Institute of Scranton for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1707: appropriates $0.063 million to the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Delaware County for FY 2009-2010.

    House Bill 1708*: appropriates $338.375 million to the Pennsylvania State University for FY 2009-2010 (including $20.302 million in federal stimulus funds).

    House Bill 1709*: appropriates $14.493 million the Lincoln University for FY 2009-2010 (including $0.870 million in federal stimulus funds).

    House Bill 1710*: appropriates $175.504 million to Temple University for FY 2009-2010 (including $10.530 million in federal stimulus funds).

    House Bill 1711*: appropriates $170.734 million to the University of Pittsburgh for the FY 2009-2010 (including $10.244 million in federal stimulus funds).

    * The non-preferred appropriations bills for the four State-Related Universities (Pitt, Penn State, Lincoln, and Temple) include language that prohibits funds from being appropriated to the universities unless they participate in the state’s longitudinal data system and agree to enter into articulation agreements with the state’s community colleges and State System of Higher Education universities, pursuant to state law that requires these institutions to identify a minimum of 30 core credits that can seamlessly transfer between institutions.

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education

    Last week, Governor Rendell announced a plan to attract mid-career professions with expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to the teaching profession by creating a streamlined process to earn a “residency” teaching certificate.  The initiative is designed to help address a projected national shortfall of 280,000 teachers in the math and sciences by 2015.  The proposal is in response to President Obama’s call for state innovation to address math and science education.  Click here for details on eligibility for a residency certificate and requirements for obtaining such a certificate.



    The Center on Education Policy (CEP) released the first in a series of reports examining student performance on state reading and math tests from 2002 (year No Child Left Behind took effect) through 2008.  The 50-state study provides data on student performance at the proficient achievement level, and, for the first time, includes information about student performance at the advanced and basic levels.  According to the findings, “even though NCLB creates incentives for schools to focus on ensuring students reach the proficient level, states posted gains at the advanced and basic and above levels as well.  More gains have been made in math than in reading.”  The report also notes that while there has been some improvement in high school achievement, it still lags behind elementary and middle school achievement.



    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.



    This week…

  • The Senate Labor and Industry Committee meets Tuesday to consider Senate Bill 821.

  • The Senate Education Committee meets Tuesday to consider Senate Bills 629, 820, 929 and 954.

  • The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on Wednesday on the Governor’s nominee, Mr. Joseph A. Dworetzsky, to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1615, 1148 and 1659.

  • The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday to release a report on afterschool programs in Pennsylvania.

  • 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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