EPLC Education Notebook

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Content in this edition:
    State Budget Update
    Pennsylvania Policymakers
    - House of Representatives
    - State Senate
    - State Board of Education
    PA Department of Education
    Pennsylvania Bulletin
    EPLC News

    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 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.  Don’t forget to register to vote!  The last day to register to vote in the November election is October 4Click here for more information.

    • 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.

    STATE BUDGET UPDATE (as of 4:00 p.m. 9/29)

    SB 1155:  Senate Bill 1155 establishes a natural gas severance tax levied on producers who sever natural gas for sale and profit from commercial use, beginning January 1, 2011.  The base rate of tax imposed by this amendment is 39 cents per unit severed at the wellhead.  The rate will never be less than the base rate.
    A final vote in the House on a proposed Marcellus Shale severance tax is scheduled for tonight (September 29).  This legislation, or something like it, is necessary to complete the revenue package anticipated by passage of the state budget earlier this summer.  However, even if the House approves the bill soon, there is no guarantee that the Senate will agree to the language of the legislation.  Legislators promised themselves (and others) they would pass legislation by October 1 to impose a tax related to Marcellus Shale drilling  and would gain at least $70 million this year for the General Fund in order to fund the budget approved at the end of June.  A vote today would allow the bill to be returned to the Senate this week - prior to the Oct. 1 deadline - for the Senate’s concurrence or non-concurrence with the changes to the legislation.

    Changes to the bill last night (September 28) paved the way for final House action today.  Changes were agreed to when the House approved 154-45 an amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Kate Harper (R-61).  This amendment provides that more of the anticipated new tax revenues will go to an environmental fund instead of the General Fund in contrast to the language of the bill when it came from the Appropriations Committee.

    As provided in the amended version of SB 1155, transfers and distributions of the new revenue are as follows:

    • During fiscal years 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13, the State Treasurer shall transfer the first $75 million of revenue deposited into the Natural Gas Severance Tax Account as follows:
      • $5 million is appropriated to the Department of Labor and Industry for job training programs for skills identified by the Department with the natural gas producing industry.
      • $70 million to the General Fund.
    • The remaining revenue in the account shall be distributed as follows:
      • 40% to the General Fund
      • 32% to the Environmental Stewardship Fund
      • 16% to the Local Government Services Fund
      • 1.6% to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund
      • 2.4% to the Conservation District Fund
      • 1.6% to the Pennsylvania Game Commission
      • 1.4% to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
      • 1.6% to the Department of Public Welfare to provide cash and crisis grants to low-income households under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
      • 1.6% to the Oil and Gas Environmental Disaster Recovery Account
      • .8% to the Department of Environmental Protection for state dam removal, restoration and repair projects.
      • 1% to the Environmental Hearing Board


    House of Representatives

    House Bill 1572 introduced by Rep. Michael Gerber (D-148) would encourage healthier food choices for students during school hours by prohibiting the sale of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.  Additionally, HB 1572 would require schools to offer students the choice of at least two fruits and / or non-fried vegetables each day in the cafeteria.  HB 1572 passed the House (116-83) on September 29 and is awaiting action by the Senate.

    House Bill 2540 introduced by Rep. Pat Harkins (D-1) would expand the eligibility for paid leave for professional school or temporary professional school employees in the case of death of a near relative to include 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 passed the House (187-3) on September 27 and is awaiting action by the Senate.

    House Bill 2728 introduced by Rep. Tim Briggs (D-149) establishes standards for managing head injuries and concussions that occur among student athletes.  HB 2728 also provides for a higher level of accountability from the coaches in dealing with concussion management.  HB 2728 passed the House (169-29) on September 28 and is awaiting further action by the Senate.

    House Resolution 917 introduced by Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr. (D-188) designates the month of October 2010 as “Parent Involvement Month” in Pennsylvania.  HR 917 was adopted in the House on September 20 by a vote of 193-0.


    House Bill 101 originally introduced by Rep. Mark Longietti (D-7) has been amended so that it now includes language from several education-related bills that passed at least one chamber.  This “omnibus” school code bill contains language that would establish the Science Technology Partnership Program, add requirements to PDE’s Office of Safe Schools, allow school property owned or leased by certain entities for school purposes to be tax exempt, create the Higher Education College Textbook Affordability, Accountability Accessibility Act, and would require PDE to report graduation and dropout rates as well as develop a model dating violence policy.  HB 101 has passed the Senate (47-0) on September 29 and awaits consideration in the House.

    Senate Bill 890 introduced by Sen. Mary Jo White (R-21) would require any public or private school entity that provides interscholastic athletic opportunities for students in grades 7 through 12 to submit annual reports to the state Department of Education demonstrating progress toward meeting the requirements of Title IX, the federal statute mandating equal education opportunities for students. The report would be made available to the public and posted online.  SB 890 passed the Senate (48-0) on September 28 and has been sent to the House Education Committee.

    State Board of Education

    On September 15, the State Board of Education held a public roundtable on implementation of the recently (July 1, 2010) adopted Common Core State Standards in Pittsburgh.  The standards (English language arts and mathematics) will be phased in beginning the 2010-11 school year, with full implementation by June 30, 2013.   For more information on the Common Core State Standards roundtables, click here.

    In addition to the roundtable, the Board conducted a regularly scheduled meeting in which it approved the following items:

    •     Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) Cut Scores and Performance Level Descriptors (PDL).  The PASA is the state’s accountability system for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.  The PASA for Reading, Math and Science was developed in response to federal laws that require all students, including those with the most significant disabilities, participate in the state accountability process.  These revisions were a result of the PDE’s Bureau of Special Education and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education conducting standard setting workshops for the PASA during the 2009-2010 school year. 

    •     Assessment Anchors and eligible Content for the Keystone Exams for Algebra I, Biology and Literature.  Assessment anchors are just one of many tools created by PDE to assist educators in better aligning curriculum, instruction and assessment practices with those standards assessed on the Keystone Exams.

    •     Statement of Policy on Local Assessment Validation, which clarifies existing Chapter 4 regulations relating to the use of Keystone Exams in meeting high school graduation requirements.  A district choosing to use Keystone Exams as part of its local assessment system, but not count the exams toward one-third of the course grade, would be required to meet independent validation requirements.  Districts that separate Keystone scores from course grades for the purpose of meeting state graduation requirements would be in compliance with state regulations as long as they require proficiency or above on the Keystone Exams.  Districts that use Keystone Exams to meet state graduation requirements in a given content area would be deemed approved for validation requirements in that content area.  Once state graduation requirements are met, school districts could then determine how the Keystone score is factored into the local course grade. 

    •     A new schedule of board meetings was approved.  Beginning in January 2011, the board will hold meetings on Tuesday afternoons, allowing for earlier starts to Council meetings on Wednesdays.  Full board sessions will be held on Wednesday afternoons rather than Thursday mornings.

    The next meeting of the State Board of Education is scheduled for November 17-18 in Harrisburg


    • The PA Department of Education (PDE) recently announced that 82% of Pennsylvania schools met the required goals for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law for 2010 with record numbers of students performing at grade level in reading and math on the state’s PSSA tests. 

    Overall, three quarters of Pennsylvania students are now achieving at grade level, and the smallest percentage of students ever scored at the lowest level since the inception of the PSSAs.  This marks the 8th straight year that student achievement has risen in Pennsylvania.  Click here for the 2010 Student Achievement Fast Facts produced by PDE.


    • A notice announcing the 2010-2011 schedule of meetings for the State Charter School Appeal Board was published in the September 11 edition of the PA Bulletin (40 Pa.B. 5281).

    • A notice that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has calculated the index for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 under section 333(l) of the Tax Payer Relief Act (53 P.S. § 6926.333(l)) was published in the September 18 edition of the PA Bulletin (40 Pa.B. 5351).  The index is the average of the percentage increase in the State-wide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index.  For the FY 2011-2012, the base index is 1.4%.

    For school districts with a market value/income aid ratio greater than .4000, an adjusted index will be posted on the Department's web site at www.education.state.pa.us by September 30.


    Save these Dates!

    • EPLC will host its 2010 Education Policy Leadership Awards Reception on Wednesday, October 20, 2010.  Click here for information on purchasing tickets and advertising opportunities.

    • EPLC’s 2010 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium will take place Thursday, November 18, 2010 at the Wildwood Conference Center at Harrisburg Area Community College.  More details soon.


    • The Arts Education Collaborative is holding its Regional Arts Education Day 2010 in Pittsburgh on October 11.  Please click here for more information or to register.

    • Please contact Jordan Crosby at Crosby@eplc.org if you would like a copy of AEI Note, EPLC’s new Arts in Education Initiative newsletter.

    • The Pennsylvania Art Education Association is holding its annual conference: Art Bridges Community in Pittsburgh from October 28 – 31.  Please click here for more information or to register.

    • The Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations is holding its annual conference Pennsylvania Museums: Rebuilding and Rebounding on November 8 – 9 in Williamsport.  Please click here for more information.

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