EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, July 2, 2010

    Content in this edition:
    State Budget
    Pennsylvania Policymakers

    - State Board of Education
    - State Senate
    - State House


    The Pennsylvania House and Senate each approved a budget for 2010-2011 and sent it to the Governor on June 30.  The Governor has not yet signed the Budget because related legislation has not yet been approved by the Legislature.

    A report on the status of the Pennsylvania State Budget and education line items will be included in a Special Edition of the Education Notebook to be distributed shortly.


    State Board of Education

    The State Board of Education and the State Board of Vocational Education met in Harrisburg on Wednesday, June 30 and Thursday, July1, 2010.  The Board unanimously approved the Common Core Standards, the Technical Institute Guidelines and the PSSA-M (math) Performance Level Descriptors and Cut Scores.

    Common Core Standards: The Common Core is an effort led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to develop voluntary national academic standards.  Information was presented by the University of Pittsburgh School of Education pertaining to a Study that examined both the content alignment and alignment of cognitive rigor of Pennsylvania’s reading, writing and math standards in grades 3, 5, 8 and 11. The Board expedited the process for adoption of the Common Core Standards in order to strengthen Pennsylvania’s chances for selection for funding in the second round of the federal Race-to-the-Top initiative.  By adopting the Common Core, the voluntary national standards would represent 85% of Pennsylvania’s standards in math and English.  The State Board will engage in further public deliberations to determine the remaining 15% of state standards in those subject areas.  The Board stated its willingness to work with the education community in the detailed development of the full implementation of Common Core Standards by 2013.

    Technical Institute Guidelines: The Technical Institute Guidelines are intended to serve as a source of information for the administrators and boards of school directors regarding the organization of technical institutes and the administration of adult career and technical education.  The Department of Education was praised for its work in preparing this comprehensive manual which represents the first time in over 20 years that a document was completed and approved by the State Board which details the authorization, participation, organization and operation of technical schools in Pennsylvania.
    PSSA-M: The Board adopted the PSSA-Modified (math) performance levels and cut scores as provided by the Department of Education from the work of its contractor, the Data Recognition Corporation. No more than two percent of a school district’s students may take the PSSA-M.  The PSSA-M contains embedded supports which may include: fewer items; simplified language, format, and layout; and added visual aids/hints, when appropriate for the item.  Problem solving may be included throughout the reporting categories, within the context of grade-level appropriate settings and content.

    State Senate

    • The Senate this week passed the Higher Education College Textbook Affordability, Accountability and Accessibility Act (Senate Bill 929), which requires all Pennsylvania colleges to implement policies and guidelines to minimize the cost of textbooks.  The bill requires faculty to select the least expensive, educationally sound textbooks and materials and for universities to promote textbook rental and buy-back programs.  It also requires textbook publishers to provide faculty with both the wholesale and suggested retail price of books, copyright dates for the past three editions, information about substantial changes between the current and previous edition, and information about whether there are alternative formats of the material available and the price of those alternative formats.  SB 929 also requires textbook publishers doing business with higher education institutions in Pennsylvania to offer their textbooks digitally, in whole or part, by January 1, 2020.  The cost for digital texts may not exceed the price for the print version.  The bill also increases coordination between university officials and bookstores to require university officials to notify bookstores not just of upcoming courses and material needs, but also how many students are enrolled in those courses and the maximum enrollment for a course.  SB 929 has been re-referred to the House Education Committee.

    • On June 22, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee approved Senate Bill 1171, which seeks to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for influenza vaccination.  SB 1171 would require the Department of Health (DOH) to review and enhance current immunization activities to focus on vaccination of all children ages six months to eighteen years of age, increase immunization awareness about injectable and needle-free delivery methods, work with appropriate state agencies and licensed child care facilities to distribute information on the benefit of annual immunization against influenza, and examine the use of schools and alternative venues to administer the flu vaccine to children.  Under this proposal, to the extent that influenza vaccinations are available, the DOH must offer both injectable and needle-free delivery methods.  The legislation would require the DOH to annually report on all school-based vaccination programs administered or funded by the DOH.  SB 1171 awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

     State House

    • The House this week approved legislation (House Bill 704) to reform the way the state funds special education.  The new funding formula established in House Bill 704 would count the number of students actually receiving special education services, rather than use the current system for funding special education which is based on the assumption that 16% of each district’s students receive special education services.  An amendment to HB 704 creates different funding weights for students depending on the severity of their needs.  School districts would receive funding for students with disabilities weighted in three different categories – students with severe disabilities, moderate disabilities and minor disabilities.  HB 704 also creates a special legislative commission that would make decisions about how to implement certain components of the special education funding formula.  House Bill 704 has been re-referred to the Senate Education Committee.  For more information about the special education funding reform bill from the Education Law Center, see http://reformspecialedfunding.org/.

    • On June 23, the House Education Committee approved the following legislation:

      House Bill 2519: would take the education-related provisions enacted in the state’s most recent Fiscal Code bill and place them in the Public School Code.  Without this housekeeping measure, these programs and policies would not continue in their current form because the fiscal code expires on June 30, 2010.  The bill contains language that allows for the distribution of state funding for community colleges, special education, the educational assistance program (tutoring), Accountability Block Grants, public libraries, homebound instruction and Education Empowerment districts, as well as the state’s new funding formula for distributing basic education funding.

      In addition, the bill also addresses the expansion of articulation agreements between community colleges, the 14 State System of Higher Education universities and state-related universities (University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University and Lincoln University); closure of the Scranton School for the Deaf and Scotland School for Veterans Children; certified safety committees; and stipulations for federal stimulus funds.  All of these items were already provided for in the state’s most recently enacted Fiscal Code and would be moved to the state’s Public School Code by HB 2519.  HB 2519 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.

      House Bill 2540: would expand professional or temporary professional school employees’ eligibility for paid leave in the case of the death of a near relative to include the death of a grandchild.  Currently, “near relative” includes first cousin, grandfather, grandmother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-law or sister-in-law.  HB 2540 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.

    • Both the House Rules and House Appropriations Committees this week gave approval to House Bill 2060, which would require public and non-public school students participating in athletic activities, their parents and coaches to receive information about the nature and risk of concussions and head injuries.  Athletic activities include all interscholastic athletics, cheerleading, noncompetitive cheerleading, and club sponsored activities, practices and scrimmages.  Under this proposal, any student who exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion or head injury while participating in an activity must be removed from play immediately.  Before a student athlete can resume participation in the activity, they must be evaluated and cleared, in writing, by a licensed physician trained in the management of concussions.  HB 2060 would require coaches to complete a concussion management certification training course.  The bill sets forth penalties for coaches that violate the requirements of this new article.  The state Departments of Health and Education would be tasked with developing guidelines and materials to inform and educate student athletes about the dangers of head injuries and risks associated with continuing to play after such an injury.  HB 2060 awaits further consideration by the full House.

    • On June 30, the House Education Committee approved the following legislation:

      House Bill 2507: would prohibit charter schools from operating within 300 feet from an entity licensed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  The current law does not specifically prohibit this and HB 2507 would correct that oversight. Under the proposal, charter schools currently in operation would not be affected by this requirement.  HB 2507 is in the full House for consideration.

      House Bill 2603: would allow a suburban Philadelphia school for the deaf to qualify for a state special education program.HB 2603 would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to approve an application for Approved Private School (APS) status if an applicant meets certain criteria such as: being an auditory-oral school for the deaf, member of the national organization of schools that advances listening and spoken language education for children with hearing loss, has at least 3 faculty members who are listening and spoken language specialists as certified by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and are compliant with all content areas or test domains examined by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.  HB 2603 would allow the Clarke School for Hearing and Speech in Bryn Mawr to qualify for the APS program, which provides a free appropriate special education for students with severe disabilities. Clarke would become the sixth school approved to provide services to deaf students through the program.

      House Bill 2061: would require school entities to submit an annual report on the interscholastic athletic opportunities for students in grades 7-12 to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Information such as the total number of students by gender and race/ethnicity involved in interscholastic athletic competitions, number of teams, total expenditures for each team, and the number of trainers and coaches per team would be reported on a disclosure form provided by PDE. Under HB 2061, PDE and school entities to publish, notify and make the disclosure form available to the public.  The completed disclosure form would constitute a public record subject to public inspection under the state’s Right- to- Know Law. In addition, PDE must submit an annual report regarding school entity compliance with the disclosure requirements to the General Assembly by no later than January 15th.


      Next week…

      • The National Education Association continues its 2010 Expo July 1-6 in New Orleans, LA.
      • Latino Hispanic American Community Center Grand-Opening on July 10 in Harrisburg.

      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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