EPLC Masthead
EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, February 27, 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 reconvenes in voting session on Monday, March 12 at 1:00 PM.   The Senate reconvenes onMonday, March 5 at 1:00 PM.  This week the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold budget hearings for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (February 27 at 9:30 AM), the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (February 28 at 1:00 PM) and the four State-Related Universities - Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln (February 29 9:30 AM- 2:30 PM).  Click here for more information.

House of Representatives
On February 22,
the House Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing to receive testimony on the impact of the Governor's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 on the four State-Related Universities (Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln).  Providing testimony were: Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh; Rodney Erickson, President of Penn State University; Ann Weaver Hart, President of Temple University; and Robert Jennings, President of Lincoln University.  The presidents were asked to react to the Governor's proposed budget.  Each made specific remarks related to their individual schools, but all agreed that the Governor's proposal for funding higher education places them in very difficult circumstances and seems to be dismantling or eroding what has been a long standing commitment by the Commonwealth to public higher education and particularly to its public research universities.  Lawmakers asked the panelists to react to the Governor's plan to create a commission on Post-Secondary Education.  The commission, as outlined in the Governor's budget, would be tasked with identifying opportunities and hurdles which exist in the Commonwealth's current higher education system.  Nordenberg stated that "there was a fundamental disconnect between the Governor's expressed desire to ensure that there was a strong workforce toward the innovation economy of the 21st century and the action items embedded in his budget."   Legislators were also interested in the kind of economic impact the universities create in terms of jobs, what impact the Governor's budget would have for tuition rates and branch campuses.  Other topics that were discussed included transfer credits to the state-related universities from PASSHE schools and community colleges, student debt load, dropout rates, and inclusion in the "Right-to-Know" law.

To view the video recording of the budget hearing, click here.

On February 23,
the House Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing on the two state pension systems known as the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees' Retirement System (SERS). No written testimony was submitted by the representatives of the pension systems, but lawmakers came prepared with specific questions for the staff of PSERS and SERS. Members of the committee were interested in how layoffs, particularly those in the school system, affect the systems. Jeff Clay, Executive Director of PSERS, reported that PSERS saw a 34 percent increase in retirements this past year over the prior year. He suggested several factors that may have influenced this increase, but noted that the systems anticipate a member's benefits to be fully funded by the time that member reaches retirement age. Questions were asked pertaining to the unfunded liability and the possibility of closing the defined benefit plan and transitioning to a defined contribution plan. Both systems indicated that the debt has already been incurred and thus must be satisfied even if the system transitions to a defined benefit plan. Clay confirmed that Act 120 of 2010 has reduced the cost of the system and stated that although no payments will be made on the unfunded liability this year because of rate collars put in place by the act, rates will gradually increase and "chip away at that debt." Legislators also asked panelists if the Governor's proposed budget will fully fund the state's contribution portion. PSERS and SERS both confirmed that it will, noting their close work with the budget office in putting together the numbers.

To view the video recording of the budget hearing, click here.


Note: The Senate Appropriations Committee also conducted their budget hearing with PSERS/SERS on February 23. Much of the same information was presented at both hearings.


Representative Duane Milne (R-167) resigned recently (January 24) from the House Education Committee.  Milne was the Subcommittee Chairman on Higher Education.  Representative Bernie O'Neil (R-29) will now serve in that capacity.  Representatives Jim Christiana (R-15)and Steven Santarsiero (D-31) have been appointed to the House Education Committee.  Santarsiero is filling the post vacated by former Representative Chelsa Wagner (D-22), who resigned in January to serve as Allegheny County controller.  Click here for a complete list of House Education Committee members.


On February 15, the House Education Committee held an informational meeting on cyber charter school funding and operational issues.  Several operators and administrators of cyber charter schools reacted to and offered specific changes to legislative proposals reforming charter and cyber charter schools.  In addition to their suggestions, they addressed what they believe are misconceptions and myths about cyber charter schools in terms of student academic performance and fiscal operations.  The panelists were then asked to address lawmakers' questions concerning cyber charter school fund balances, educating students with special needs and the need for greater transparency. Members of the committee also wanted to know whether cyber charter schools are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and whether or not they are working cooperatively with traditional public schools to share programs that enhance educational outcomes for all students.   To request copies of the written testimony, contact the office of Representative Paul Clymer (R-145), Chairman of the House Education Committee at (717) 783-3154, or send an email request to [email protected].


On February 16, the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on the Governor's proposed budget for Education for FY 2012-2013 and its impact on students, local school districts and taxpayers.  In addition to hearing about the effects of this year's proposed plan for K-12 spending, Democratic lawmakers also received testimony about the impact of last year's dramatic and far reaching cuts to education.  They were told the cuts resulted in larger class sizes, diminished learning opportunities for students, massive layoffs of education professionals, and districts exhausting reserve funds.  Panelists also voiced concerns over the "quiet freeze" in PLANCON reimbursements to school districts for approved construction projects already in the pipeline and the loss of funding for Accountability Block Grants, which supported full day kindergarten programs.

A number of presenters noted the challenges that school districts face with yet another year of level funding for Special Education. This will be the fifth consecutive year of flat funding for the Special Education line item.  Concerns with the concept of "block granting" the funding for basic education were also raised.  Specifically, testifiers pointed to the decision of the Corbett Administration (under this new proposal) to no longer use formulas to reimburse districts for transportation costs and social security obligations as troublesome because it effectively freezes funding at the 2011-2012 level and shifts the state's burden onto local tax payers moving forward.

Testifying at the Democratic policy hearing were panelists representing the viewpoints of urban and rural school districts, school business officials and teachers.  In addition, testimony was received from the Education Law Center and Education Voters Pennsylvania.  Testimony and materials collected at the hearing are available by visiting: http://www.pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/.



FEDERAL UPDATE: President Obama's Proposed Education Budget FY 2013

On February 13,
President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2013 Budget. The following materials are available showing what this budget provides for the programs and activities of the U.S. Department of Education:

What does the President's FY 2013 Education budget request mean for your State? State tables show how funds will be distributed under State formula-allocated and selected student aid programs.


Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, in cooperation with the Juvenile Law Center, released a new report, Maximizing "Fostering Connections" to Benefit Pennsylvania Youth, which details the benefits Pennsylvania can achieve by fully implementing the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.  The report concludes that implementing Fostering Connections can help more youth achieve permanency through adoption or legal guardianship and can help those who stay in foster care until age 21 make a successful transition to adulthood, while decreasing costs to the commonwealth. The Governor's proposed budget for fiscal 2012-13 calls for implementing the federal law as a way to maximize new federal revenues that will lead to improved outcomes for youth in foster care and yield our state and counties millions in savings.


Recently, the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission released three reports of interest to the education community.  They are:  Instructional Output and Faculty Salary Costs of the State-related and State-owned Universities (known as The Snyder Report);  Information Disclosure of the State-related Universities (known as The Stairs Report); and The Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Needs and Responsive Services.The Joint State Government Commission serves as the bipartisan and bicameral research agency of the General Assembly.

On February 14, the
Educational Testing Service (ETS) issued a new primer that reviews how states are assessing preschool students.  The report examines the challenges of assessing young learners and identifies sound practices states can consider using.  Specifically, the report looks at:


  Which learning outcome measures, if any, are specified in Pre-K policies?

  Do these specified measures fall under the categories of direct assessments, observation checklists or scales, or a combination of both assessment approaches?

  How much choice do Pre-K providers have in selecting the measures to be used in their classrooms?

  How frequently are learning outcome measures to be administered and reported?





The State Board of Education has announced that it will conduct several regional public hearings to receive public input ondraft proposed revisions to Chapter 4 (Academic Standards and Assessment) pertaining to Keystone Exams.  A copy of the draft proposed regulation that will be the subject of this hearing is available on the Board's web site at www.education.state.pa.us. The hearings will be held on February 29 (Norristown); March 7 (Pittsburgh); and March 14 (Harrisburg). For registration details, click here.

The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) has released an

invitation to present at its 38th Annual Family Involvement Conference scheduled for October 28-31 in Lancaster. Teaching faculty, guidance counselors, administrative staff, parents, and parent groups are encouraged to submit proposals to present at this conference.  L.E.A.s, State Departments of Education, colleges, and universities are all encouraged to apply.  The deadline for submitting proposals is March 15th, but early submission is strongly recommended. For more information, visit www.familyinvolvementconference.com.

The Pennsylvania Library Association recently held a press event in the Capitol to announce a new campaign, PA Forward. The new initiative, designed to enhance the mission of Pennsylvania libraries, will make library services available for everyone and strengthen the link between libraries and workforce development. Resource sharing and statewide delivery will be improved and more databases will be available as a result of PA Forward.

EPLC will again conduct a series of regional workshops for 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.


On February 28, the National Center for Education Statistics is hosting a webinar on Testing Integrity, which will feature expert panelists in the following areas: prevention of testing irregularities; detection and analysis; response and investigation; and testing integrity practices and procedures for online and computer-based assessments. For questions about event content, please contact Dr. Eunice Greer at [email protected] or (202) 502-7488.




  • 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 Legislative Reapportionment Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the adoption of the Preliminary Reapportionment Plan on Tuesday, February 28 at 1:00 PM.
  • 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.
  • Mark Your Calendar!  Education Voters Pennsylvania will hold a "Call to Action for Education" on Monday, March 5.  Tell the Governor and your state legislators "No more cuts to education!"  For more information on how you can participate, visit www.educationvoterspa.org.    
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) will hold it 57th Annual Conference and Exhibits March 6-9, 2012 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey.  For more information, click here
  • The College Textbook Policies Advisory Committee of the State Board of Education will meet on Monday, March 12 from 10:00 AM to noon.  For more information, click here.
  • The State Board of Education will meet March 14-15 in Harrisburg.
  • 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.