EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, October 29, 2010

    Content in this edition:
    Election Day
    EPLC Education Finance Symposium
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - Governor Rendell
    - State Senate
    U.S. Department of Education
    PA Bulletin
    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.


    • Election Day is next Tuesday, November 2.  Pennsylvania voters will choose a new governor and new United States Senator.  All state House seats, one-half of the Pennsylvania Senate, and all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be on the ballot.  Click here to access the Pennsylvania Department of State's online voting information and resource center for information regarding polling places and voting system demos.

    • Both candidates for Governor have released plans for education.  Here are links to their education plans.
      • To read Dan Onorato’s plan on Pre-K – 12 education click here
      • To read Dan Onorato’s plan on Higher Education click here.
      • To read Tom Corbett’s plan on Education click here.


    EPLC’s 2010 Education Policy Finance Symposium will be held on Thursday, November 18, in Harrisburg.  Early-bird Registration is $39 until Friday, November 12.  After November 12 it is $49 for Registration.  For more information and on-line registration, please go to:  http://www.eplc.org/calendar_events_finance_symposium.shtml.


    UPDATE - Governor Rendell Vetoes Omnibus School Code Legislation

    Governor Rendell has vetoed HB 101, the Omnibus School Code legislation, based on his objection to provisions which would provide for tax exempt status for property owned or leased by charter schools.  The Governor said the bill would provide a tax exemption to non-profit organizations that do not quality as "purely public charities" under Pennsylvania law and would also treat landlords with charter school tenants differently from landlords with other nonprofit tenants, such as senior centers, religious organizations or health clinics.

    In his veto message to legislators the Governor said, “…Having supported many of the initiatives included in this legislation-- including provisions related dating and sexual violence education and prevention, affordability of textbooks for college students and recognition for Vietnam veterans-withholding my signature from this bill is certainly not easy for me. It is my hope that the legislature will act quickly in January to pass legislation encompassing these reforms. Though I understand the importance of the aforementioned provisions of this legislation, I am required to review each bill that reaches my desk for any constitutional defects, and this bill is constitutionally flawed.”

    The Governor continued…..“This bill is constitutionally infirm insofar as it would provide a real property tax exemption for property that is leased to a charter or cyber charter school or an associated foundation by a nonexempt entity. Leased property does not constitute real property "of" the public charity under Pennsylvania's Constitution or under the existing statute which defines a purely public charity, Act 55 of 1997. Although I am not supportive of this purpose, and many respected parties who understand our school funding system share my view, as evidenced by the letters attached, if the legislature wishes to legally provide for this property tax exemption for these entities, they can do so by amending Act 55 to include these entities in the definition of a purely public charity. Further, as written this exemption would itself constitute a violation of the Uniformity Clause, as lessors of property to other tax exempt entities would not enjoy a similar exemption, and, as such, I must withhold my signature from this bill.”

    Additional items that were included in the vetoed HB 101 are:

    • Drop-out and value-added assessment data collection by PDE.
    • Changes to Teacher Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
    • Updates to the power and duties of the Office for Safe Schools.
    • The ability for children to carry inhalers and epinephrine shots while in school.
    • The creation of Economic Education and Personal Financial Literacy programs.
    • The establishment of a model dating violence policy and education resources by PDE in conjunction with the Office for Safe Schools.
    • Science Technology partnerships.
    • “Operation Recognition” – the granting of high school diplomas to honorably discharged Vietnam Vets.
    • The Older Pennsylvanian Higher Education Program.
    • College Textbook Affordability, Accountability, and Accessibility.
    • Sexual violence education at institutions of higher education.


    • On October 8, the Senate Education Committee heard arguments on non-traditional students and the pathways that currently exist for those students in the state of Pennsylvania.  Administrators and students from the York Adams Academy and the Lancaster County Academy testified to the merits of non-traditional schools for students in secondary education.  They argued that these schools provide an alternative route for students to work at their own pace while earning a diploma rather than a GED.  The Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, Amy Morton, also testified to the importance of alternative routes to educating students but stated that these non-traditional schools need to work more closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Education in order to ensure that the students in these programs have their needs met.  Morton called upon the senators to establish new or update existing legislation to facilitate the institutionalization of non-traditional schools into the Department of Education.  Click here to read the full testimony.

    • UPDATE: Senate Bill 1155 - The inability of the Hose, senate and Governor to agree on terms of a natural gas severance tax apparently has killed the effort to enact it into law this year.  This causes additional budget problems for the current fiscal year since the budget enacted by the Legislature this summer assumed $70 million in new revenue this fiscal year from a new severance tax.

      On an October 19 conference call with key Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate, Governor Rendell asked for counterproposals to a compromise tax plan that he had outlined.  On October 20, the Republican majority in the Senate responded with a letter that did not make a new proposal, but instead restated their previously announced positions. 

      Governor Rendell originally proposed a severance tax in February of 5 percent of the value of the gas at the wellhead, plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet.  Several weeks ago, the House passed a bill containing a higher tax, and the Senate Republicans said they were only willing to support a rate of 1.5 percent, along with numerous loopholes that would reduce taxes for drilling companies even further than that percentage mark.

      On October 11, Governor Rendell offered a new compromise proposal that called for a phased-in tax of 3 percent in the first year, 4 percent in the second, and 5 percent in the third.  He reportedly met several times with legislative leaders and representatives of the drilling industry in developing that compromise.  Hearing no reaction to the new plan, and seeing no evidence that Senate Republicans planned to bring the House-passed bill up for debate, amendment or a vote, the Governor tried to restart the negotiations with the October 19 conference call.  The Senate Republican leaders soon responded with a letter offering the same 1.5 percent rate.  No legislative action followed.

      This legislation appears dead for this legislative session since the General Assembly has recessed for the General Election and Senate Republicans have announced that they will not allow any votes during what remains of the legislative session after the November 2 election.  As a result, the gas industry continues to enjoy a tax haven in Pennsylvania while profitable drilling continues in the Marcellus Shale region.


    On October 26, the Department of Education issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws.  The issued guidance also makes clear that while current laws enforced by the Department do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.

    The guidance, which comes in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explains educators' legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment.  The letter provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.

    The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools.  Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment.  This conference will build upon efforts led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.  Click here for the press release and several additional efforts in the Department of Education's comprehensive approach to end bullying.


    • The final-omitted regulations amending the state’s current academic standards in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Mathematics to conform with the Common Core State Standards Initiative- an effort coordinated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to improve the rigor of academic standards and to ensure comparability of student achievement measurement nationwide, was published in the PA Bulletin on October 16th (Volume 40, No. 42).
    • An announcement was published in the October 23 edition of the PA Bulletin that the PDE will hold a public hearing to review and receive information regarding three cyber charter schools seeking to operate, beginning in the 2011-2012 school year (the V3 Academy Cyber Charter School, Cyber Community Charter of PA and the Frontier Virtual Charter High School).  The hearing is scheduled for Monday, November 29, 2010 in Heritage A (lobby level, PDE 333 Market Street Harrisburg, PA) beginning at 9:15 am.  The applications can be viewed on the Department's web site at www.pde.state.pa.us.  For more information, please click here.


    • A study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) that analyzes whether state-level trends in NAEP reading and mathematics results contradict or confirm trends in state test scores has been released.  The study examined 23 states with sufficient test data--meaning states that had comparable data on percentages of students reaching proficiency for 2005 through 2009 for at least one grade/subject combination.  According to the study’s findings, the majority of states with sufficient data showed gains on both their state test and NAEP.  Other findings of the report show that:
    • Since 2005, test scores have increased in most states with sufficient data. 
    • Within the same state, trends on NAEP usually moved in the same direction as trends on state tests.
    • Gains on state tests tended to be larger in size than gains on the NAEP. 

           To read the full report, click here.


    • The Pennsylvania Art Education Association is holding its annual conference: Art Bridges Community in Pittsburgh from October 28 – 31.

    • VOTE ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – Pennsylvania Polls open 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

    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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