EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, March 27, 2009
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
EPLC will host its Parent and Community Leadership Institute in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh during the spring of 2009. The Institute is a program for people who want to know more about education policy issues and want to join a network of community leaders who are able to influence important statewide and local education policies. The free, 12-hour program will be presented over four evening sessions. For program details and to register online, see www.eplc.org/PCLI.html.
Senate Bill 55: Expands the list of criminal offenses that would prohibit a person from being employed in public or private schools. The bill was amended to create 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 to require PDE and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to jointly create an Office of Safe Schools. Under the proposal, charter schools would be required to report incidents of school violence in the same manner as other school entities. The bill adds a list of crimes and offenses that must be reported to PDE and replaces current law pertaining to memorandums of understanding (MOU) with language that 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. Administrators would 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.
Senate Bill 213: Authorizes the Commonwealth to join the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to assist military families with matters related to school enrollment, record transfers, extracurricular activities and graduation requirements. The bill establishes a State Council on Interstate Educational Opportunity for Military Children. SB 213 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.
Senate Bill 329: Amends the state Public School Building Authority Act to raise the level at which the competitive bidding process must occur in the awarding of contracts to $25,000. Currently, the School Building Authority must publicize and conduct a competitive bidding process if the cost of a school building project exceeds $4,000. Under SB 329, the bidding threshold would be adjusted annually by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U). SB 329 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 332: Raises the level at which school districts must solicit competitive bids or price quotes for construction contracts and the purchase of materials, supplies and equipment. The threshold for soliciting competitive bids would be raised from $10,000 to $25,000. The threshold for obtaining written or telephonic price quotes would be raised from $4,000 to $7,000. Under SB 332, these thresholds would be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers. SB 332 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 287: Requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a reporting standard for the annual financial report (AFR) for school districts. The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duplicative reporting requirements between school districts’ annual audits and the AFRs. SB 287 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
PA Department of EducationThe Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) this week announced steps it is taking to increase participation in school breakfast programs. PDE has revised a policy directive that will allow school breakfasts to be included as part of instructional time during regularly scheduled homeroom periods and classroom instruction. PDE also has created a Breakfast Brigade, including eight members from school districts across the state, which will work with schools to implement or expand participation in school breakfast programs by identifying barriers, analyzing costs and developing implementation plans. Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said children who start the day with a healthy breakfast are more likely to be alert and ready to learn. Currently, more than 668,000 Pennsylvania children are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast, but only 29% of those eligible participate in the program.
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools this week released a voluntary Code of Accountability for charter schools that addresses academic accountability, ethical accountability and responsible governance, and financial accountability
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.