EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, June 5, 2009

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Senate
    - State House
    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.



    State Senate

  • This week the Senate Appropriations Committee reported the following bills from Committee:

  • Senate Bill 287: Requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a reporting standard for the annual financial report (AFR) filed by school districts.  The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duplicative reporting requirements between school districts’ annual audits and the AFR.  SB 287 awaits consideration by the full Senate.

    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.  The bill 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 consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 687: Requires that all property owned by or leased to any charter school or cyber charter school be exempt from every kind of state, county, city, borough, township or other tax as well as costs or expenses for paving, curbing, sidewalk, sewers or other municipal improvements.  SB 687 awaits consideration by the full Senate.

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on the status of the Rendell Administration’s proposal to create voluntary, standardized end-of-course exams for high school students (Keystone Exams).  Lawmakers questioned Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak on PDE’s recent action to contract with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) to develop a series of 10 end-of-course exams, diagnostic tools and a voluntary model curriculum despite legislative opposition to the proposal.  The $201 million contract with DRC covers the remainder of this fiscal year as well as fiscal years 2009 through 2014.  The amount to be spent for the remainder of this fiscal year is $8 million, which was included in the state budget approved by the Legislature last year.  In his testimony, Zahorchak addressed the contract bidding process, whether the contract was in violation of the regulatory moratorium on establishing new high school graduation requirements enacted last year, and contract funding.  Click here to read Zahorchak’s testimony.

  • Following its hearing on Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee reported unanimously the following bills from Committee:

    Senate Bill 281: Prohibits the PA Department of Education from developing any new statewide public high school graduation requirements unless they are approved by the General Assembly.  The bill also prohibits state funds from being spent to develop or implement high school graduation requirements until the General Assembly appropriates such funds.  SB 281 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Senate Bill 441: Allows a certified registered nurse practitioner or a licensed or certified physician assistant to perform the physical exam necessary to receive a teaching certificate.  SB 441 was amended to also update the criteria that disqualify an individual from receiving a teaching certificate to include the illegal use of alcohol or controlled substances.  Individuals disqualified for this reason may receive a teaching certificate if upon review by the PA Department of Education they are determined to be of good moral character.  SB 441 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 736: Requires school entities to develop a written policy to allow school children to possess epinephrine auto-injectors (Epi-pens).  This bill was amended to allow school entities to prohibit students from possessing an epi-pen if they are under 10 years old.  Students also 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.  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 was further amended to require 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 further consideration by the full Senate.

    Senate Bill 893: Establishes a formula for distributing state-aid to public libraries for FY 2009-2010.  SB 893 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee met at West Chester University for a public hearing on higher education affordability and Senate Bills 820 (relating to articulation and transfer of credits) and 881 (relating to tuition controls).  Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA State System of Higher Education, PA Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, community colleges, state-related universities, college admissions counselors and students presented testimony.  For more information on the hearing, contact the office of Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeff Piccola at (717) 787-6801.

  • State House

  • The House approved House Bill 592 this week, which extends educational leaves of absence to spouses of members of the Pennsylvania National Guard or other reserve components of the U.S. armed forces who are called to active duty.  Under current law, institutions of higher education are required to grant an educational leave of absence to members of the PA National Guard or reservists called to active duty.  Upon release from military duty, guard members are restored to the academic status they had attained before their call to duty.  The bill has been re-referred to the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

  • The House Education Committee adopted legislation (House Bill 1493) on Wednesday that would distribute basic education funding using the school funding formula adopted by the General Assembly in 2008, which is based on the findings of the state's 2007 Costing-Out Study, with small enhancements to improve the effectiveness and fairness of the formula.   The legislation will allow the state to meet the year-2 adequacy funding targets of the state’s six-year plan to fully implement its new education funding formula by using $418 million in federal economic stimulus funds to increase basic education funding above current levels.  HB 1493 has been re-committed to the House Rules Committee.



  • Second year results for Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program were released this week.  The results show that children are benefitting academically from Pennsylvania’s early childhood education programs.  Nearly every child (99%) in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills after attending the PA Pre-K Counts program.  The findings also show that nearly three times as many children were proficient in Personal and Social Development (from 2,984 children upon entry to 8,763 at end of year); nearly four times as many children were proficient in Language and Literacy (from 2,164 children upon entry to 8,135 at end of year); and, more than four times as many children were proficient in Mathematical Thinking (from 1,792 children upon entry to 7,910 at end of year).  For more information on PA Pre-K Counts, click here.

  • This week, several retired military leaders held a press conference at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to urge state lawmakers to improve educational outcomes for students and preserve military readiness for the future by increasing the state’s investment in early childhood education.  The retired generals cited a newly released report which indicates that 75% of young people ages 17-24 are unable to enlist in the military because they lack a high school diploma, have a criminal background or are physically unfit, among other reasons.  According to the retired generals, “Our national security 20 years from now is dependent on the investment our country makes in young people today.  Investing in early education will help us build a stronger military and a stronger country.”  For more information on Mission: Readiness, visit www.MissionReadiness.org.

  • McRel and the Knowledge Works Foundation have published a new policy brief on Transforming Urban Education: Implications for State Policymakers.  The brief considers four possible scenarios for the future of urban education and makes detailed recommendations to state policymakers, including service learning opportunities that are relevant and engage youth in activities that improve their communities.

  • A new report from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, titled Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap, looks at graduation rates, 10 year trends and the economic outlook for high school dropouts.  The report includes multiple data indicators broken down by major metropolitan area, including Philadelphia.



Pennsylvania has joined with 48 other states and territories to form the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  The goal of the initiative is to develop a voluntary common core of state standards in English and mathematics that are internationally benchmarked, research and evidence-based, and aligned with college and workplace expectations.  According to Sue Gendron, President-elect of the Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common standards will provide educators clarity and direction about what all children need to succeed in college and the workplace and allow states to more readily share best practices that dramatically improve teaching and learning.”  The college and career ready standards are expected to be completed in July 2009.  The grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009.  For more information on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, click here.



The Pennsylvania House and Senate are in session Monday through Wednesday (June 8-10).

Next week…

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee meets Monday to consider Senate Bill 281.

  • The House Appropriations Committee meets Monday to discuss (and possibly vote on) Senate Bill 850.

  • The House Finance Committee meets Monday to consider House Bill 1481 and House Resolution 272.

  • The House Labor Relations Committee meets Tuesday to consider House Bill 1569.

  • The 2008-09 class of EPLC’s Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program graduate on Tuesday.

  • The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 1602, 1618 and 1442.

  • EPLC hosts a Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

  • 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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