EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, April 19, 2010

    Content in this edition:
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - State Senate
    - State House
    U.S. Department of Education

    The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.



    State Senate

  • Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 629, which would require the PA Department of Education to develop a certificate for school social workers and require school entities that employ social workers to hire individuals that hold a school social worker certificate issued by PDE.  Persons that meet the exception for a school social worker under the “Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act” or who are employed as a school social worker in a public or private school prior to the development of a certificate by PDE would be excluded from the new provisions.  The bill would allow school social workers to work under the supervision of a superintendent, assistant superintendent or other school administrator or employee as determined by the school entity.  Currently, school social workers are supervised by individuals holding a home and school visitor certification.  SB 629 awaits further action by the Senate.

  • Last week, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on legislation (Senate Bill 982) that would allow for an increase in state funding for Approved Private Schools (APSs) and Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind when there is no increase in the state appropriation for special education.  Currently, funding increases for APSs and chartered schools are tied to increases in state funding for special education.  However, because special education did not receive an increase in state dollars last year and is slated to receive no increase again next year, support for APSs and chartered schools also has been held flat.  Under SB 982, the state would calculate an increase for APSs and chartered schools by applying the 125 percent multiplier in Act 70 of 2004 to the average of the increase in the state appropriation for special education and basic education funding in the last fiscal year in which there was an increase in state appropriation for special and basic education.

    Representatives of Approved Private Schools and chartered schools testified that the current funding system established by Act 70 of 2004 normally works well to provide a fair, equitable and predictable funding system; however no one anticipated the economic situation where special education would not be receiving an increase in its state appropriation.  School districts received increases in their basic and special education funding due to federal stimulus money, but the APSs and chartered schools were level funded in FY 2009-10 and are proposed to be level funded again in FY 2010-11 since funding increases received through the federal stimulus program are not applicable to the current formula for funding APSs and chartered schools.  A representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Education testified that while PDE does not support the current language in SB 982 as it provides an increase that is significantly greater than what these schools historically have received, PDE is open to discussing solutions to address the schools’ concerns.  To read the full testimony on SB 982, click here.

  • On April 9, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing in Chester County to receive testimony on improving the oversight and accountability of charter schools.  Testifiers included Dr. James Harris, President of Widener University, Dr. Stephen Wilhite of the Widener Partnership Charter School, Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz and representatives of charter schools, including the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools and charter school parents.  In addition, the Committee also heard from statewide organizations representing teachers, school boards and superintendents.  To watch video of the proceedings, click here.


    State House

  • On April 14, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.  Panelists representing K-12 education and higher education joined with business and industry leaders to provide testimony on statewide initiatives designed to accelerate STEM education along with an overview of efforts underway to recruit and retain minority students in the fields of math and science.  Click here to read testimony presented to the Committee.

  • On Thursday, the House Education Committee and the House Finance Committee conducted a joint hearing on House Bill 1286, which would establish the “Accountability in College Textbook Publishing Practices Act.”  The bill would establishes requirements for publishing and selling college textbooks in the Commonwealth, strengthen price disclosure provisions and remove the exemption for integrated textbooks from the unbundling requirements found in federal law.  Lawmakers heard from Bruce Hildebrand, executive director, Higher Education, Association of American Publishers; Dan Lieberman, entrepreneur, Dynamic Bookstores in West Chester; Rich William, analyst for the U.S. federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG); and Steve Falke, regional director, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers.  Written testimony was submitted by Megan Desmedt, state director, PennPIRG.  To read the testimony presented to the Committees, click here.



    On April 14, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies regarding the FY 2011 Education Budget.  Secretary Duncan expressed concern about education jobs.  Due to budget circumstances, schools around the country are eliminating programs such as summer school and extracurricular activities, increasing class size due to staff cuts, reducing class time, and avoiding textbook purchasing.  Overall, an estimated 100,000-300,000 education jobs have been lost.  Duncan urged Congress “to consider another round of emergency support for America’s schools” as “it is very difficult to improve the quality of education while losing teachers, raising class size, and eliminating after school and summer school programs.”  He acknowledged that improvements in education have been made, but that the budget threat could put forward progress with education reforms at risk.  Without another round of emergency support, Duncan warned that the damage may ripple through the economy as a whole.  Click here to read Secretary Duncan’s testimony and click here to watch a webcast of the hearing.



  • Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Mary Soderberg has certified that $772.5 million in gaming revenue will be available for property tax relief in 2010Click here for details.

  • The Governor’s Conference on Higher Education: Rising to the 2020 Challenge will take place June 10-11, 2010.  Registration is now open.  You may register online at http://www.pahigheredconference.com/.  Last day to register is May 15, 2010.

  • Former State Representative John Davies passed away last week.  Davies served in the House from 1975 until 1992, was a very active and well-respected member of the Education Committee, and served as Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee prior to his retirement.



    This week…

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Education holds a public roundtable discussion on proposed changes to the state’s nutrition and physical education policy (Chapter 12) in Lancaster on Tuesday, April 20.

  • The House Health and Human Services Committee meets to consider House Bill 1572 on Tuesday.

  • Education Voters Pennsylvania hosts an Allegheny County Community Dialogue on Public Education on Tuesday.

  • The House Education Committee holds a public hearing on House Bill 1803 on Wednesday.

  • For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

    The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.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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