EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, September 18, 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.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE BUDGET
Update - Friday, 4:30 p.m.: Pennsylvania lawmakers slowly inch toward a budget resolution, now more than 75 days late. It appears that the differences on spending have been resolved. The remaining differences appear to be mostly about revenue forecasts. Governor Rendell’s comments since late Thursday evening have been cautiously optimistic. Three caucuses have remained in negotiations with Governor Rendell, but House Republicans have chosen to remain on the sidelines and unengaged during these critical final days. Pennsylvania is a strong executive state and every Pennsylvania governor always has lots of leverage. That usually means...it is not over until the governor says it is over. In these difficult times, this Governor has been fighting on behalf of education and children’s issues, and he has been joined by some important champions within the Legislature.
The Senate Education Committee on Monday held a public hearing on the nomination of David F. Girard-diCarlo to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Click here to watch video of the hearing’s proceedings (requires Windows Media player to view).
This week, House Education Committee Republican Chairman Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) introduced House Resolution 456 which urges the Governor to cease funding for the implementation of high school graduation requirements until the General Assembly establishes a policy on this issue via legislation. The Concurrent Resolution requests the General Assembly to call upon the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to review whether proposed high school graduation requirements have been given due consideration by the General Assembly and by the Governor in accordance with the Regulatory Review Act. HR 456 has been referred to the House Education Committee. (Seems unlikely the Legislature will ask IRRC to determine whether the Legislature is doing its job.)
State Board of Education
At the State Board of Education meeting in Harrisburg this week, the Council of Basic Education received an overview of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) by Tony Bennett Shivers, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of State Boards of Education. Shivers presented information on ARRA’s major funding streams, reporting and disclosure requirements and how ARRA might impact the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Beth Olanoff, Director of PDE’s Office of Policy, then presented a status report of Pennsylvania’s standing in terms of the application process for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and various ARRA competitive education grants.
The Council also received an update on the final form regulations to establish Keystone Exams, which were are expected to be delivered to the House and Senate Education Committees and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) at the end of this week. The House and Senate Education Committees will have at least 20 days to act on the final form regulations and can take action at any time up to 24 hours before IRRC’s meeting. IRRC may vote to either approve or disapprove the regulations at its October 22 meeting.
In addition, Council of Basic Education members were informed about the latest efforts relating to Pennsylvania’s participation in the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve, ACT and the College Board. The college and career ready standards are expected to be published next week, while the grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009. There was significant discussion among some council members regarding the requirement that applicants for federal Race to the Top dollars (Phase I) must agree as part of their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to sign on to the Common Core Standards. In response to those concerns, a spokesperson for PDE indicated that Pennsylvania’s standards are already closely aligned with the Common Core Standards.
School districts will be able to increase local taxes by up to 2.9% next year without seeking voter approval under the index for FY 2010-2011 announced this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Districts with aid ratios greater than .4000 will be subject to an adjusted index that will be announced by September 30. Under Act 1 of 2006, school boards may not increase local revenues above an inflationary index, calculated annually by PDE, unless the increase is required for a limited number of excepted costs that are out of the district’s control. Click here for an announcement about the new index in the September 19 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
On Wednesday, initial findings of a statewide study on bullying prevention were released by the Highmark Foundation, PDE, Windber Research Institute and the Center for Safe Schools. The early results indicate that when schools implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program there were significant decreases in reports of students being bullied and increased perceptions among students about the importance of positive bystander behavior. Through Highmark’s Healthy High Five HALT and PA CARES (Creating an Atmosphere of Respect and Environment for Success) more than 200 schools (K-12) have been given the resources and tools to implement the Olweus program. The final study will be released in November at the International Bullying Prevention Association's annual conference, which will be held Nov. 17 and 18 in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit www.highmarkhealthyhigh5.org or call 1-800-789-1726.
Dr. Kate Shaw, Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, will become the new Executive Director of Research for Action (RFA) in Philadelphia. Prior to her work with the Department, Shaw served for 10 years on the faculty of Temple University’s Urban Education Program. RFA is a non-profit education research organization known for its work in urban school reform and has conducted analysis of reform efforts in Philadelphia. Shaw will take the helm at RFA on December 1, 2009.