Friday, September 28, 2012

Fwd: Education Notebook - #12-19 - 9.28.12

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From: The Education Policy and Leadership Center <>

EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, September 28, 2012
In this issue
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC web site at

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate returned to Session this week on Monday (September 24) after a summer recess that began early in July. Fewer than ten session days are scheduled by the House and Senate before the November 6 General Election.

Governor Corbett 
On August 15, the Corbett Administration's Program Policy Guidelines (PPGs), which provide direction for the preparation of agency budget requests for the Governor's 2013-2014 Executive Budget, were published in the Administrative Circular.

"The 2013-14 Budget is to be predicated on the fact that the Pennsylvania economy is still in recovery and has not yet emerged from the "Great Recession." Additionally, continued increases in pension obligations and other cost drivers, such as Medical Assistance, prison costs and debt service obligations, are projected to consume an even greater share of the Commonwealth's budget next year. Therefore, agencies should not assume funding increases for the 2013-14 fiscal year and should continue to evaluate current programs and recommend changes that will improve program management and operations reduce costs and optimize direct services."

The Governor's policy directive is a good indicator of the Administration's plans for continued austerity seen in previous Corbett budgets.

To read the full text of the PPGs, click here.

On August 22, the House Education Committee, hoping to build a strong case for additional state funding for public school libraries when discussions begin for the 2013-14 state budgetheld an informational meeting on the study conducted by the State Board of Education pursuant to HR 987 of 2010.

HR 987 urged the State Board of Education along with the Department of Education "to conduct a study of public school library resources and services in this Commonwealth for students in kindergarten through grade 12, measuring and comparing funding, facilities, access to print and electronic resources, professional support and programming and instruction in the use of information and research among this Commonwealth's public schools and districts and evaluating how these elements are allocated in relation to student and community circumstances, such as poverty, disability, race and English language ability."

In order to meet the requirements of HR 987, the State Board collected data on library resources, services, staffing, and funding currently available in the schools via an electronic survey tool. After collecting the baseline data, the board partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to conduct the analysis. In addition to the data collection, the board also held roundtables to solicit public input on the draft of the School Library Study. The draft report, along with the public feedback, was then presented at a public meeting of the State Board of Education for further review and comment prior to the adoption of the final report (September 2011).

At the House Education Committee hearing, state lawmakers received testimony from Mr. Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education and Mary Kay Biagini, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, on the work and findings of the board pursuant to HR 987.

Among the findings highlighted at the hearing:  
  • Of the 2,180 schools participating in the survey, 94 percent have school libraries.
  • 128 schools have no library and 103 of those are in the School District of Philadelphia.
  • Schools with libraries show higher academic success.
  • While 95 percent of schools have librarians, only 44 percent of them are full time.
  • For the ten-year period from 2000-2001 school year through the 2010-2011 school year, the largest percentage of libraries (39%) received between $1 and $10 per student, and an additional 21% of libraries received district funding between $11- $15 per student.
  • In 2010-2011, 3 percent of libraries received no district funding for library resources.
  • The 2011 Guidelines for Pennsylvania School Library Programs, published by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, set a benchmark for funding at $41 per student for elementary schools, $45 per student for elementary schools and $50 per student for high schools.
Following Mr. Wittig's and Ms. Biagini's presentation, the Committee heard from the following individuals representing various statewide organizations and agencies: Sandra Zelno, Education Law Center; Julie Lesitsky, President of the PA Parent Teacher Association (PTA); Eileen Kern, President of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association; Matthew Hutcheson, Superintendent, Jeanette City School District; Graig Henshaw, School Librarian in York City School District; Allison Burrell, School Librarian in Southern Columbia School District; Debby Malone, President of the Pennsylvania Library Association (PLA), Kristy Oren, junior at Hamilton College; and Sean Gregory, 2012 graduate of Danville High School. Written testimony was submitted by Martin Hudacs, Superintendent of Solanco School District and Alice Lubrecht, Secretary, Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education.

To watch a video account of the House Education Committee's informational hearing on school library funding, click here. To read the testimony submitted, click here.  

On August 20, the House Select Committee on Property Tax, chaired by Rep. Thomas Quigley (R-146), held its first informational meeting pursuant to House Resolution 774. The select committee is tasked with studying the interrelationship between all taxes affecting municipalities and school districts, with an emphasis on property taxes. Prime sponsors of several property tax reform bills were invited to brief members on their proposals and to respond to questions. The proposals include:  
  • House Bill 2230 (Rep. Grove, R-196) would amend "The Local Tax Enabling Act" to allow counties to enact through voter referendum a one percent sales tax at the local level for the purpose of reducing the property tax levels in the county's school district. The bill would also allow counties, municipalities, and schools district to enact a personal income tax or an earned income tax as a replacement for property taxes.  
  • House Bill 2300 (Rep. Maloney, R-130) is a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow a local taxing authority to exclude one hundred percent of the assessed value of a homestead in determining property tax. Article VIII Section 2(b)(vi) of the Pennsylvania Constitution currently provides that the General Assembly may authorize local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation an amount based on the assessed value of homestead property. The exclusions authorized by this clause shall not exceed one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction. This legislation deletes the phrase "one-half of the median assessed value of all" and replaces it with "100 percent of the assessed value of each" homestead. In order to amend the Constitution, legislation proposing the Constitutional amendment must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions and be advertised in newspapers upon each passage before being submitted to the electorate for approval.  
  • Senate Bill 1400 (Sen. Argall, R-29) would establish an act known as "The Property Tax Independence Act." SB 1400 proposes to eliminate school property and local school nuisance taxes across the Commonwealth and replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.  
The committee announced it will conduct an additional three hearings focusing on the school property tax, municipal property tax and the county property tax. The select panel also intends to invite the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to share their findings of its review of House Bill 1776 (Rep. Cox, R-129) which is identical to SB 1400.

On August 15, the House State Government Committee held a public hearing to receive input on a package of bills introduced by Representative Brad Roae (R-6) that would: allow students attending a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university to opt out of student activity fees; prohibit free or reduced tuition for spouses, children, same sex partners, or relatives of employees of PASSHE institutions; eliminate paid sabbaticals for PASSHE professors; and impose a construction moratorium until June 30, 2014 on non-emergency construction and improvements at PASSHE universities. These bills (HB 2442, 2443, 2444, and 2446) are part of a larger package of bills that the prime sponsor believes will keep the cost of attending PASSHE schools affordable.

Testifiers included: John Robe, Administrative Director, Center for College Affordability and Productivity; Dr. John Cavanaugh, Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; Student Trustee Shane McGrady (Millersville University); Kenneth Mash, Vice President, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF); and Nathan Benefield, Director of Policy Analysis, The Commonwealth Foundation. Written testimony was also submitted by The Center for Higher Education.  

To read the written testimony submitted, click here. A video account of the proceedings, is available for viewing by clicking here.
On August 14, the House Finance and State Government Committees held a joint public hearing on the issue of pension reform legislation. Executive Directors of the Public School Employees' (PSERS) and the State Employees' (SERS) Retirement Systems testified about proposed legislation to change the current defined benefit system to a defined contribution system. In addition to the PSERS and SERS representatives, the Committee members also heard remarks from the Office of Attorney General on matters related to the state's Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act. The following organizations also presented testimony: American Enterprise Institute, Keystone Research Center, and the Commonwealth Foundation. Written testimony was submitted by TIAA-CREF. Click here to read the testimony.

  • On August 7, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that it has met the highest level rating possible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as determined by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). This year marks the fifth time in the past six years that the state has received this rating. Pennsylvania is the only large state, among the seven-largest states ranked by number of students with disabilities, to achieve the "meets requirements" status for five of the past six years, as well as one of the 14 states overall to receive this determination. The IDEA directs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 years. The USDE began evaluating states in 2007 and considers each state's annual performance report, performance plan, and information obtained through federal monitoring visits, as well as other public information, as part of its review. To view PDE's Federal Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Performance Report, click here.

  • On August 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced the award of $6.9 million in federal School Improvement Grants to 10 of Pennsylvania's lowest performing schools. The purpose of the School Improvement Grant program is to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and strongest commitment to use the funds to provide adequate resources in order to raise student achievement in their lowest performing schools. The PDE awarded the grants through a competitive application process and were reviewed and scored by a panel of peer reviewers who then made award recommendations. In order to be eligible, schools must adopt and implement one of four reform models developed by the federal government: Transformation, Turnaround, Restart, and School Closure. To read more about the four reform models and to see a complete list of grantees for the 2012-2013 school year, click here. 

The first meeting of the State Board of Education's Advisory Committee on Financial Recovery (Chapter 18) was held on September 6 in Harrisburg. The committee is responsible for

the implementation of provisions in Act 141 of 2012 directing the State Board to promulgate regulations establishing criteria the Secretary of Education may consider in designating a school district in financial recovery status. A discussion and review of Act 141 and its charges to the Advisory panel were led by the Chair of the advisory committee and State Board member Maureen Lally-Green and Amy Morton, Executive Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). In addition, a presentation was made by Brian LaForme, staff at PDE, regarding the recently published Early Warning System guidelines(Chapter 731). Please refer to Pennsylvania Bulletin section of the Notebook for further explanation.

The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet once a month (October 18, November 14 and December 6). The panel plans to have draft regulations ready for consideration by the Council of Basic Education by the end of December 2012 before presenting them to the full Board for its consideration. The draft regulations will include, at a minimum, the 15 factors for financial recovery status as specified in Act 141, plus any additional factors or criteria the Advisory Committee deems appropriate.

Also noteworthy, the PDE has launched a new web page with information on districts currently in financial recovery status.

On September 8, guidelines (issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education) relating to Early Warning System for financially troubled school districts were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (
Vol. 42, No. 36). According to the notice, the goal of Chapter 731 (relating to Early Warning System- Statement of Policy) is to identify and provide technical assistance to school districts to prevent them from becoming Financial Recovery status school districts under Act 141 of 2012

On August 1, the U.S. Department of Education announced that more than $21.5 million in grants has been awarded to 43 states to cover all or part of the fees charged to low-income students for taking the Advanced Placement tests administered by the College Board and the International Baccalaureate Organization. Grants under the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program are expected to be enough to pay up to $38 per Advanced Placement exam for as many as three exams per student. Levels of funding per state were calculated on the basis of state estimates of the numbers of tests that would be taken by low-income students. Under this federally-funded program, Pennsylvania was awarded $487,964. Click here to view the complete list of states and their award amounts. 

EPLC will host its second annual Arts and Education Symposium on Thursday, October 11 (8:00 AM- 5:15 PM) at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Do not miss this chance to join fellow arts educators, artists, arts advocates, school and community leaders, and state and local policymakers to share information about:

*    State-level and local advocacy.
*    The development of new teacher evaluations.
*    National core arts standards.
*    The role of arts education in preparing a Pennsylvania workforce with twenty-first century skills.

The Symposium will feature Ayanna Hudson, Director of Arts Education at the National Endowment for the Arts, as Keynote Speaker and Remarks by Sandra Ruppert, Director of the Arts Education Partnership.

Registration is $25 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and all Symposium sessions. Click here to register. 

  • The Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators will hold its annual Workshop for Career and Technical Education Adult/Continuing Education Coordinators on September 27-28 at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College. Click here for details and registration.

  • The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing on Diabetes care for students on Tuesday, October 2 in Harrisburg at 10:30 AM.

  • The Public Employee Retirement Commission will hold a public hearing on topics of Pension Reform and Funding Status on Wednesday, October 3 in Harrisburg at 1:00 PM.

  • The PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools will hold its annual conference October 7-9 in Lancaster. Click here for more details and registration.  

  • The House Education Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 2464(Bullying and Cyber-Bullying Prevention) on Wednesday, October 10 in Harrisburg at 11:00 AM.  

  • EPLC's 2nd Annual Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 11 in Harrisburg. Click here for more information. 

  • "Give Kids Good Schools Week" will take place on October 14-20. During the week, communities around the country host events and activities to encourage people to learn, vote and act in support of public education. Click here to learn more. 

  • The House Select Committee on Property Tax Committee will hold a public hearing pursuant to HR 774 on Monday, October 15 in Harrisburg at 9:00 AM. 

  • The Public Employee Retirement Commission will hold a public hearing on topics of Pension Reform and Funding Status on Tuesday, October 16 in Harrisburg at 1:00 PM. 

  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) will hold their joint annual School Leadership Conference on October 16-19 in Hershey. Click here for details and registration.  

  • Save the Date: EPLC's Annual Education Finance Symposium will be held on Friday, November 16 in Harrisburg.  

  • Save the Date: The Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 62nd Annual Conference "Power Up: New Perspectives" will be held November 18-20 in Hershey.

For information on upcoming events, please visit and click on "Events Calendar".

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 the Education Policy and Leadership Center is to encourage and support the development and implementation of effective state-level education policies 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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