EPLC Masthead
EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, February 3, 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/



The Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate reconvene in voting session on Monday, February 6 at 1:00 PM. The Governor will deliver his budget message before a joint session of the House and Senate on Tuesday, February 7 at noon.

UPDATE on Legislative Redistricting Plan


On January 30, responding to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling last week that ruled the Legislative Reapportionment Plan to be unconstitutional, House Speaker Sam Smith (R-66) filed suit against Secretary of State Carol Aichele in U.S. District Court asking for a declaratory judgment that the legislative boundaries (effective since 2002) that the Supreme Court declared in effect until further notice are unconstitutional.


Responding to the Smith lawsuit, Senator Daylin Leach (D-17),Senate Judiciary Committee Minority Chairman, held a press conference on January 31, to announce that Senate Democrats will intervene as a party to the state lawsuits to argue that the 2001 lines have never been found to be unconstitutional. Leach asserts that the Smith lawsuit is an attempt to replace the district lines that have been found to be constitutional for the last 10 years with district lines that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled were unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission is in limbo with re-drawing those lines until the State Supreme Court issues its opinion saying exactly what is unconstitutional in the Reapportionment Plan and what needs to be fixed.


To view more about the Smith lawsuit, click here.



On February 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue released the January 2012 collections. Pennsylvania collected $2.2 billion in General Fund revenue in January, which was $10.4 million, or 0.5 percent, less than anticipated. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $13.8 billion, which is $497.2 million, or 3.5 percent, below estimate. For more information, visit www.revenue.state.pa.us.



A new report released on January 30 by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) shows that charter school closures have declined over the past three years. In 2010-2011, 6.2 percent of charter schools that were reviewed for renewal were closed, down from 8.8 percent in 2009-2010 and 12.6 percent in 2008-2009. This year's report includes an Index of Essential Practices, which summarizes authorizer implementation of practices ranging from having established application criteria and interviewing applicants to having established charter renewal and revocation criteria. According to NACSA, more than the type or size of an authorizer, the implementation of key practices and how well they are executed likely influence whether authorizers approve strong applicants and close underperforming schools.

On January 31, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released "The State of State Science Standards," which provides a review and analysis of guidelines that drive K-12 science curriculum and instruction in every state and the District of Columbia. According to the report's findings, K-12 science standards in most states "remain mediocre to awful, placing America's national competitiveness, technological prowess and scientific leadership in grave jeopardy." More than 75 percent of states received grades of C or lower, and a majority received D's or F's.


Pennsylvania's science standards were among the majority earning a D under the Institute's analysis. Specifically, the report states that "Pennsylvania science standards are generally poor. If a bright spot exists, it's in the earlier grades, where the coverage does occasionally earn reasonable marks for rigor. In high school, however, the material generally descends into flabbiness and disorder. By no means could these standards serve as the foundation for a sound science curriculum for students in the Keystone State."


According to the Fordham Institute report, there are four general areas where states' science standards fell short or were flawed:

  1. While many states are handling evolution better today than during the last Fordham Review in 2005, anti-evolutionary pressures continue to threaten and weaken science standards in many jurisdictions.
  2. A great many standards are so vague for educators as to be completely meaningless. Only 7 states earned full credit scores for clarity and specificity while 29 earned a one or zero out of three.
  3. Science educators, curriculum developers, and standards writers have focused excessive attention on "inquiry-based learning"-attempting to help students learn through "discovery" instead of direct instruction of specific content. In too many states, these inquiry standards are vague to the point of uselessness -depriving students of an education based on substantive scientific content.
  4. Mathematics is essential to science, yet few states make this link between math and science clear-and many seem to go to great lengths to avoid mathematical formulae and equations altogether. Students cannot adequately learn physics and chemistry without understanding mathematical concepts and mastering quantitative operations.

 To read the full report, along with complete state rankings, click here.


On February 1, Representative Eugene DePasquale, (D-95) and Mike Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) held a press event at the state capitol to unveil legislation that would create a program to implement solutions that work in school districts where students desperately need proven, effective programs and the resources to fund them. The legislation, labeled the Priority Assistance Grant for Education (PAGE), would direct a total of $30 million to 18 school districts that are in academic or financial distress. The eligible school districts would use those funds to pay for a range of proven, research-based programs such as full-day kindergarten, class size reductions, or tutoring initiatives. The impact of the funds would be monitored by a state commission.


The 18 targeted school districts include: Harrisburg City, Steelton-Highspire, York City, Lancaster, Lebanon, Clairton City, McKeesport Area, Sto-Rox, Woodland Hills, Aliquippa, Reading, Greater Johnstown, Chester-Upland, Erie City, Albert Gallatin Area, Allentown City, Farrell Area and Norristown Area school districts. Senator Judy Schwank, (D-11) is introducing identical legislation in the Senate. The PSEA supports the PAGE initiative as it contains key elements of their proposal "Solutions That Work," which was released last summer.


On January 31, students from the four State-Related Universities (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) held a press conference at the state capitol to express their opposition to any cuts in state aid to their institutions in the 2012-2013 state budget. Several student representatives of the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students(PASS) spoke about how the cuts to higher education have caused tuition to rise, making it difficult for students to complete their education. Students emphasized the need for lawmakers to view funding higher education as an investment in Pennsylvania's economic future. They called for the Governor to make it a priority in what they termed a responsible budget-one that does not include more increased funding for prisons than for colleges and universities and does make natural gas companies pay their fair share.  


EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for legislative candidates and other voters interested in education issues. The day-long 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.


On February 14, students and parents from across the state are coming together to demand that Governor Corbett and the Legislature make equitable school funding a top priority in the next budget. To register for the "Fall Back in Love with Education: Valentine's Day Rally for Public Education" visit www.showloveforeducation.eventbrite.com. For more information about the event, contact [email protected].

  • 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 Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing on SB 1381, which provides for employment history review, on Wednesday, February 8 at 10:00 AM.
  • The 2012 Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, a major gathering of progressive activists and leaders in Pennsylvania, will be held February 10-12 in Philadelphia.   Click here for more details and to register.
  • The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference will be held February 12-15 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. For more details, click here.
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA) is holding its 22nd annual conference "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 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 on March 6-9 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey. For more information, click here.
  • The Pennsylvania State System of Assessment (PSSAs) will be administered:
      • March 12-23    PSSA Math and Reading (Grades 3-8, 11)
      • April 16-20       PSSA Writing (Grades 5, 8 and 11)
      • April 23-27        PSSA Science (Grades 4, 8 and 11) 

                 To view the complete 2011-2012 PDE Testing Calendar, 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.