EPLC Masthead
EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, January 23, 2012

In this issue

The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC web site at http://www.eplc.org/publications-reports/weekly-policy-notebook/




On January 19, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting to give Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis an opportunity to brief members on the Corbett administration's upcoming agenda for education policy in 2012.  Tomalis began his presentation by highlighting some examples of innovative things that are happening in public education.  He gave an overview  of Pennsylvania's participation in the federal Race to the Top program (RTT), Striving Readers program, and an explanation of his hesitancy (at this point) to apply for the No Child Left Behind waiver, citing  the likelihood of the law to change within the next 12 to 18 months.

Tomalis was asked to give an update on the issue of the statistical irregularities of the 2009 PSSA tests.  He reported that PDE continues its investigation for some schools and charters.  He told members that over half of those schools and charters flagged have been notified by the Department that they have been cleared of any improprieties and that no further inquiries are necessary. 

The Secretary was then asked whether or not the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) monitors fiscally distressed school districts.  Tomalis said that the Department has limited capabilities to monitor schools that are in fiscal distress.  He indicated that he would like to work with the legislature in the spring to develop a better system to identify such districts. 

Responding to questions about support for technical schools and dual enrollment, Secretary Tomalis said that he supports technical schools and that funding is something that PDE must examine.  When he was asked how to strengthen dual enrollment programs, he replied "even though the line item was impacted last year, it's still taking place in many school districts because they see the value in it." 

Tomalis was asked what the biggest challenge is in special education and he said it depends on who you ask.  He noted the struggles that parents face when trying to acquire services for their children, but also commented on the challenges faced by school districts in terms of costs and the litigious nature of special education.     

Lawmakers wanted to know what the Governor's top priorities are for public education.  The Secretary indicated that the Governor was interested still in reforming charter schools, school choice, expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, and implementing a statewide teacher evaluation system. 


Tomalis concluded his remarks by giving an update on the Chester Upland School District financial crisis and called for the PDE and lawmakers to work together to find a legislative solution to assist fiscally distressed school districts.



On January 19, Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis announced that fifty seven schools and organizations will receive $64.4 million from the 21st Century Community Learning Challenge Grant program.  These grants will fund the establishment and sustainability of community learning centers that provide educational services to students in high-poverty and low-performing schools through a variety of academic, cultural or artistic enrichment opportunities that supplement the work being done in the classroom.   Click hereto view the list of award winners.


On January 18, the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (PIFO) held its annual revenue forecasting conference entitled "The 2012 Economy: Half Empty or Half Full?"  The conference examined recent trends in personal income earnings and wages in Pennsylvania, the U.S. and Pennsylvania's economic outlook, and a review of other states' budgets. To read the materials presented at the conference, click here.



On January 17, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and the Education Law Center (ELC-PA) filed a Petition for immediate action in Commonwealth Court on behalf of five families of Chester Upland School District students and Chester Upland Citizens for Educational Progress, asking the court to "ensure the continuing education of all students in the District in accordance with state law mandates."  On the same day as the Petition was filed, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Chester Upland School District reached an interim agreement to permit schools to remain open for a few weeks.  However, PILCOP and ELC-PA remain concerned that there is no long-term plan in place to ensure the rights of students to receive an education for the full school year. 


As a result of the Petition filed, Eastern District Court Judge Michael M. Baylson ordered the state to advance $3.2 million in state allocations to the Chester Upland School District.  The federal court judge has also ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Education not to withhold further subsidies to the district without his approval.  The school district would not have been able to meet its payroll last week without additional money from the state.  A hearing is scheduled for February 23.


To learn more and to read the Petition and Motion for Emergency Relief, visit http://www.elc-pa.org/chestersuit.html  or http://www.pilcop.org/efq.html.  


On Wednesday, January 25, Education Voters of Pennsylvania will be sponsoring a Statewide

Call to Action for Public Education.  Click here to tell the Governor and your state legislators that

Education is important to YOU!


The first day for candidates to circulate and file nomination petitions for the 2012 Pennsylvania elections is Tuesday, January 24.  Primary Election Day is Tuesday, April 24.


EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for state legislative candidates and other voters interested in education issues.  The workshops will be held on Tuesday, March 6 in Monroeville; Monday, March 12 in Harrisburg; and Tuesday, March 13 in Valley Forge. Click here for registration details.


Mark your calendar for EPLC's next PA School Choices Forum being held in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, February 1.  For more information and to register, click here.


The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has released "American Higher Education: Journalistic and Policy Perspectives from National CrossTalk."   To read, download or print, please go to: www.highereducation.org.


 The Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA) is holding its 22nd annual symposium "Preparing Students for the Workforce of Tomorrow: An Education and Workforce Development Symposium" February 21-22 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey. For more information and registration details, click here.







The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing on fiscally distressed school districts on Tuesday, January 24 at 10:00 AM.


The House Education Committee will hold an informational meeting for the purpose of receiving testimony from cyber charter school operators on the issues of cyber charter school funding and other operating issues on Thursday, January 26 at 10:00 AM.


The House and Senate Appropriations Committeeshave announced their state budget hearing schedules.  The Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is on Monday, February 27 at 9:30 AM.  The House Appropriations Committee hearing for PDE is scheduled for Monday, March 5 at 10:00 AM.  


The State Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention will meet on Thursday, February 2 from 12-Noon to 3:00 PM at the PaTTAN offices in Harrisburg. 


The Governor's Budget message is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7.


Save the Date!


The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference will be held February 12-15, 2012 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey. For more details, click here.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will hold a 2012 Budget Summit at the Harrisburg Hilton on Thursday, February 23 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  To register online,
click here.


The Pennsylvania Department of Education's Annual Conference "Making a Difference: Educational Practices that Work! " will be held February 29 - March 2 at Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey.  For more information and registration details, click here.           


The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) will hold its 57th Annual Conference and Exhibits March 6-9, 2012 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey. For more information, click here.



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