EPLC Masthead
EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, May 11, 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 Senate and the House of Representatives reconvene in voting session on Monday, May 21 at 1:00 PM. 




On Wednesday, the Senate approved (by a vote of 39-8) Senate Bill 1466 which represents the Senate's version of a state budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. 


General Fund spending for Fiscal Year 2012-2013, as proposed in SB 1466, is $27.656 billion, $517.2 million (1.9 percent) more than the Governor's budget request in February.  Increased revenues over the past few months have allowed the Senate to propose restorations to certain line items in higher education, basic education, early childhood education, and social services. 


While the Senate's spending plan restores $50 million for Accountability Block Grants and adds $50 million for distressed school districts, most of the cuts to public schools enacted last summer for the 2011-2012 fiscal year persist.  Altogether, SB 1466 adds more than $132 million in support for basic education, Accountability Block Grants and early childhood education programs over the Governor's proposal.  However, it still falls far short of restoring the almost $900 million in cuts suffered by school districts this past year. 


The Senate proposal rejects the Governor's proposed Student Achievement Education Block Grant concept and maintains the original (and separate) lines items for basic education, pupil transportation, employee Social Security and services to non-public schools. 


SB 1466 would reduce the appropriation to the Public School Retirement System by $60 million and restore funding to a number of line items.



The Senate Budget (SB 1466) would:

  • Add $50 million for Accountability Block Grants
  • Add $50 million to the Basic Education line for "distressed schools."  Basic education subsidy would increase to $5.405 billion
  • Restore $4.1 million to Pre-K Counts
  • Restore $1.9 million to Head Start
  • Maintain special education funding at $1.026 billion
  • Restore $2.7 million to Public Library Subsidy
  • Increase pupil transportation by $4.3 million
  • Restore most higher education funding to current year (2011-2012) levels:           
    • Adds $64 million to Penn State
    • Adds $40.2 million to Pitt
    • Adds $42 million to Temple
    • Adds $82.6 million the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)
    • Adds $8 million of $19 million cut from PHEAA student grants
    • Restores institutional assistance grants (IAGs) and the Cheney University Keystone Academy to 2011-2012 levels.


For more information, see the Senate Republican Appropriations Committee Printout and the House Democratic Appropriations Committee Printout for SB 1466


Senate Bill 1466 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.  The Budget Secretary has already weighed-in unfavorably to the Senate budget proposal calling it "unsustainable."  The current fiscal year ends on June 30.  The House is expected to vote on a budget bill as early as June 4.



House of Representatives


On May 8, the House Education Committee approved the following bills:


Senate Bill 157 (Sen. Fontana, D-42) would establish a task force on homeless education within the Department of Education and would require it to study the homeless children population and their educational needs.  Under SB 157, the taskforce would be required to make a report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly within one year of its first meeting and periodic reports every three years thereafter.


House Bill 2319 (Rep. Evankovich, R-54) would allow career and technical schools to act as educational improvement organizations for the purposes of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC).


Senate Bill 1296 (Sen. Piccola, R-15) wouldamend the Public School Code regarding superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts for all school districts in Pennsylvania, including school districts of the first class.  The bill would require all initial superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts be for a period of not more than three years (but grandfathering existing superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts).  SB 1296 would set new requirements for the content of the contracts and subjects them to the Right-to-Know Law.  Contracts shall include expected duties, the terms of employment, buy-out, and termination provisions, and may include performance criteria as agreed-to by the school board and the superintendent or assistant superintendent.  SB 1296 would also limit the amount of severance compensation a superintendent or assistant superintendent is entitled to if terminated prior to the expiration of the contract.  The bill was amended in Committee to allow an individual who holds a graduate degree from an accredited higher education institution in "management" or has earned a juris doctorate degree from an accredited law and has at least four years of relevant experience in those fields to become a superintendent or assistant superintendent.


SB 157, HB 2319, and SB 1296 await further consideration by the House of Representatives.



On May 10, the State Board of Education approved proposed changes to Chapter 4 (Academic Standards and Assessment) regulations which modify the current Keystone Exams, which are end-of-course tests that will be required for high school graduation.  The proposed changes to Chapter 4 call for five Keystone Exams to be phased in gradually.  The graduating class of 2017 would need to be proficient in Algebra I, Biology, and English Language Arts (Literature).  A Keystone exam in composition is slated for the Class of 2019 and a Keystone exam for civics and government would be added in 2020.  Contingent upon funding from the General Assembly, five other exams would be developed that districts could use on a voluntary basis in the content areas of geometry, U.S. history, algebra 2, chemistry, and world history.  The proposed regulations also add the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects as an appendix to the state's academic standards.



  • President Obama has declared the week of May 6 through May 12 as "National Charter Schools Week."  Click here to read the Presidential Proclamation.
  • On May 9, the REACH Foundation held an eleventh birthday party for the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program at the state Capitol building.  Hundreds of parents and students along with several state lawmakers spoke in favor of the program and encouraged the legislature to expand the EITC.
  • It's National Teacher Appreciation Week and the U.S. Department of Education has posted a vision document for reforming the teaching profession.  Public comments are welcomed on the Department's web site and will be open until June 19.
  • John Jewett has been named Acting Executive Director of the State Board of Education while Karen Molchanow is on family leave.



  The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality released a practical guide designed to help states and districts create meaningful principal evaluation systems.  The guide takes its readers through eight steps, from creating goals for an evaluation system, to selecting the measures that will be used, to evaluating the system after it has been put in place.


  The School District of Philadelphia recently announced its intention to dramatically reform its school governance model in an effort to improve public school performance.  The District's plan calls for major elements of a portfolio management model to be put in place, including: 


         a reduced central management structure that delegates most operational control to the school-level; and  

         increased accountability and school choice by closing poor performing schools and assembling diverse groupings of public and charter schools into "achievement networks."


As the School District of Philadelphia examines this management approach and the public debates its strengths and weaknesses, Research for Action (RFA) has produced a brief that draws on rigorous, reputable research.  It provides a summary of what is known and what is not known, and poses a set of basic questions for Philadelphia policymakers, school officials, parents, students and members of the education community to consider. 


  This week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) released an update to a "Special Report on Pay-to-Play:  Fees for Participation in Extracurricular Activities (August 2010)," which shows that two years after the initial survey conducted by PSBA and Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association (PSADA), nearly one third (30 percent) of public school respondents indicated charging students $10 to $250, with a statewide average of $65 per-sport.  More than half (55 percent) of the districts reported charging students fees for participation indicate fees are assessed on a per-sport basis.  According to the report, a family with two student athletes each participating in three sports, paying the statewide average of $65, would be expected to pay nearly $400 over the course of an individual school year, and more than $1,500 for four years of high school.  To read the full report, click here.


  • The Taskforce on Child Protection (to consider response to reports of child abuse) will meet on Monday, May 14 at 10:00 AM in Harrisburg.  Click here to view agenda.
  • The House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a public hearing on state budget cuts on Tuesday, May 15 at 10:00 AM in Philadelphia.  Click here for more details.
  • The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) will meet on Thursday, May 17 at 10:00 AM to consider Regulations No. 2928 State Board of Education #6-325: Safe Schools (final omit regulations).  Click here for the full agenda.
  • The Governor's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education will meet Thursday, May 17 at 2:00 PM in Harrisburg. Those interested in attending may register through the Commission's website, www.pahigheredcommission.com.  For more information contact Becky Myers at (717) 772-9048 or [email protected].
  • The House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 1776 (Property Tax Independence Act) in Harrisburg on Monday, May 21, at 10:00 AM.  For more information, contact the office of Representative Kerry Benninghoff, Majority Chairman of the Finance Committee, at (717) 783-1918.
  • Education Voters PA will be holding a "Call to Action for Public Education Day" on May 23.  For more information on how you can participate, please visit www.educationvoterspa.org.
  • The Media Area NAACP and CU Keystone Honors Program will host 2012 Conference on the State of Education in Pennsylvania "Calling for a Trauma Informed Education System" at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (Marcus Foster Student Union, 2nd floor) on Friday, May 25 from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM.  For agenda and registration details, click here.




  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) will hold its 58th Annual Conference and Exhibits March 19 - 22, 2013 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
  • EPLC's Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 11 in Harrisburg.
  • EPLC's Annual Education Finance Symposium will be held on Friday, November 16 in Harrisburg.
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.