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EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, October 12, 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/


In case you missed it - On September 25, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney appeared on NBC NewsEducation Nation Summit 2012. Listen to what each of the candidates had to say about their vision for education:


Click here to read candidate Obama's plan for education.

Click here to read candidate Romney's plan for education.



With just a few remaining days before the end of the legislative session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate will reconvene on Monday, October 15 at 1:00 PM.  


  • On October 2, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1604 (Sen. Browne, R-16) which amends the Public School Code to provide for diabetes medical management plans and training of public and non-public school employees in diabetes care and management. Following a brief overview of the proposal by its prime sponsor Senator Patrick Browne, lawmakers received testimony from Margaret R. D'Arcangelo, M.D. representing the Pediatric Endocrinology Division of the Hershey Medical Center, as well as the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. D'Arcangelo testified that until the lack of full-time nurses in many schools is resolved, SB 1604 would provide the help needed to improve the safety and care of students with diabetes while in school. The Committee also heard from several representatives of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP). The PASNAP testimony raised several concerns with the legislation that would allow other school staff members to administer insulin or glucagon to children with diabetes in emergency situations. In addition PASNAP also voiced strong opposition with language in the bill that would absolve certified school nurses from the clear direction in Pennsylvania's Nurse Practice and Pharmacy Act that certain tasks cannot be delegated. The Committee also heard testimony from several individuals representing the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Click here for an audio or video account of this hearing and here to read the testimony submitted.
  • On September 25, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing with Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis regarding the implementation of Act 141 of 2012 (Financial Recovery of School Districts). The Secretary began his testimony by describing to lawmakers the Department of Education's framework for carrying out the provisions of the Act. PDE developed an Early Warning System that was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on September 8. This system is designed to evaluate both past and current financial data for each school district. The department will begin requesting information from all school districts in order to calculate fund balance ratio, debt ratio, and other factors included in the new Early Warning System. The data will then be analyzed to determine which districts need to provide additional detailed information so the department can appropriately designate which districts will be placed in Financial Watch status. After a district is designated in Financial Watch status, the department will provide technical assistance.The Secretary also reported on the activities of the State Board of Education convening a statewide Advisory Committee (authorized by the Act) to set additional criteria the Secretary of Education may consider when declaring school districts in moderate or severe financial recovery. As reported in an earlier version of the Notebook, the Committee held its first meeting on September 6. Additional meetings are scheduled for October 18, November 14, and December 6.  Tomalis concluded his remarks by giving a brief update on the status of the Chester Upland School District, the first school district to be identified as in "severe" financial recovery status. Joe Watkins has been named Chief Recovery Officer for the Chester Upland School District. The financial recovery plan (developed by the Chief Recovery Officer) is due mid-October and will be reviewed by the department. The Duquesne City, Harrisburg City, and York City School Districts have had preliminary declarations of financial recovery issued to them by the Secretary. Harrisburg and York are preliminarily designated as "moderate" financial recovery districts and Duquesne is preliminarily designated as in "severe" financial recovery. Both York and Harrisburg have challenged the declarations and requested due process hearings prior to final financial recovery designation.  Click here to read the written testimony. Click here for a video and audio account of the public hearing on the implementation of Act 141 of 2012.  


  • On October 10, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on HB 2464, which amends the Public School Code to require school districts to adopt (or amend) their existing policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyber bullying by no later than January 1, 2013. HB 2464 outlines components that must be included in school districts' policies relating to bullying. The Committee heard testimony from Sean Fields, senior associate counsel for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Nancy Baron-Bear, associate regional director for the Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware Anti-Defamation League, and Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, chair of the Pennsylvania State NAACP Education Committee.  Other participants in the hearing included: Sharon Giamporcaro, deputy district attorney with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office; Dr. Fayez El Gabalawi, president of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania School Employee Association; Tammy Simpson, mother of a student who committed suicide as the result of bullying; and several teen advocates against bullying.  
  • On September 25, the House Education Committee unanimously approved the following bills:

House Bill 2318 (Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-101) which amends the Public School Code to allow school districts to incorporate child exploitation awareness education that is age appropriate into the annual health curriculum framework for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The child exploitation awareness education may include, but need not be limited to, defining child exploitation, recognizing types of child exploitation, and creating awareness of warning signs of child exploitation. The bill requires the Department of Education (PDE), through its Office of Safe Schools, in consultation with at least one organization addressing child exploitation, to develop a model curriculum that school districts may use. HB 2318 allows parents to examine the child exploitation instructional materials and the right to opt out their child from all or parts of the child exploitation awareness program


Senate Bill 1225 (Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9) would codify the Library Code in consolidated statute form to improve its readability and reconcile conflicts between the Library Code and regulations that have been issued under it. SB 1225 includes language that would set forth the manner in which State aid for libraries would be allocated. In addition, the legislation would require PDE to appoint a state librarian who is to serve as the Deputy Secretary for Libraries; increase the number of professional librarians on the Advisory Council on Library development from three to six and reduces the number of lay people from six to three; require the State Librarian to establish service standards relevant to emerging technologies; and allow all libraries to make applications to waive standards when state funding is reduced.


  • On September 19, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 2318, which amends the Public School Code to allow school districts to implement, as part of the age appropriate health curriculum, education on child exploitation awareness. State lawmakers were given an overview of the bill and a review of current initiatives such as the Child Abuse and Reporting Training Act (Act 126 of 2012). In addition, they heard testimony regarding the need for such legislation from survivors and legal/medical experts in the field. Testifiers included: Carolyn Dumaresq, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE); Erin Merryn, survivor, activist and speaker; Dr. Paula George, Children's Resource Center of Pinnacle Health; Al Chesley, survivor and former NFL player for the Philadelphia Eagles; Cathleen Palm from Protect Our Children Committee; and Ed Marsico, District Attorney of Dauphin County.  
  • The House Select Committee on Property Tax has conducted several public hearings pursuant to HR 774. The special legislative panel is tasked with studying the interrelationship between all taxes affecting municipalities and school districts, with an emphasis on property taxes. To read the written testimony submitted at each of the hearings, click on the date:  
    • October 1: A joint hearing of the House and Senate Finance Committees along with the Select Committee on Property Tax was held to hear testimony from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) in regards to their report on the impact of House Bill 1776 and its companion Senate Bill 1400. Matthew Knittel, Director of the IFO, explained that for the FY 2013-2014, they found that the expanded sales and income tax revenue sources prescribed in HB 1776/SB 1400 would generate $9.1 billion - approximately $1.5 billion less than the property tax baseline the new revenues are intended to replace. According to IFO projections, that shortfall would increase to more than $2 billion by 2017-2018. Jason Horowitz, Consultant for the Anderson Economic Group, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors reported similar findings. Click hereto read the full IFO report.  
    • September 24: The focus of this public hearing was on the principles of taxation and school budgets. The individuals who testified were: Jay Himes, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO); Nathan Benefield, the Director of Policy Analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation for Policy Alternatives; and Sharon Ward, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Jay Himes explained what he considered the three goals of education finance reform:  
      • Provide adequate and equitable resources to schools that allow for student success;
      • Determine who pays how much of the cost of education (between the state government and school districts); and
      • Determine the property tax mix that provides the necessary resources.  

Nathan Benefield analyzed and compared different state and local taxes to determine   which tax was the "least bad tax." His recommendations on education spending reform were: change the state school funding formula to weighted student funding; redefine the "prevailing wage" law; expand school choices; enact state spending limits; enact comprehensive pension reform; and address collective bargaining reform. Finally, Sharon Ward gave an account of the differences in property tax across the counties and what factors contribute to those differences. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association submitted written testimony.


    • September 18-19: These two days of hearings yielded testimony from representatives of the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association (CCAP) and Pennsylvania Boroughs Association (PSAB). Testimony from the CCAP addressed the mandates as a driver for county property tax rates and potential alternatives to the property tax, and the pros and cons of each. The PSAB testimony examined the issues of property tax as they relate to the financing of Pennsylvania municipalities and the structural cost drivers in municipal financing.


On September 21, Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis announced the 2011-2012 PSSA results and linked a slight decline in student performance to adult cheating. According to the Secretary, "As a result of the statewide investigation of adults making changes to students' answer sheets on the Pennsylvania System of Statewide Assessments (PSSAs), combined with increased testing security measures put into place earlier this year, statewide scores on the 2011-2012 PSSAs declined slightly from last year." Statewide, 75.7 percent of student performed at or above grade level in math; 71.9 percent of students performed at or above grade level in reading; 73.2 percent of students performed at or above grade level in writing; and 61.4 percent of students performed at or above grade level in science. Compared to the 2010-2011 PSSA results, the percent of proficient or advanced students declined by 1.4 percentage points in math and 1.6 percentage points in reading. Tomalis views the 2011-2012 PSSA scores as a "reset point" for student achievement in Pennsylvania. Click here to read the full press statement.


On September 12, the State Board of Education approved a resolution honoring the service of board member Connie Davis, who announced her resignation from the board, following the conclusion of her term October 2012. Davis, appointed by Governor Tom Ridge, has served on the State Board of Education since April 1995. In addition to approving the resolution, the board received an update from Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis on Pennsylvania Department of Education's investigation into the irregularities of the Pennsylvania State System of Assessment (PSSA) results. For a summary of the Secretary's remarks, please refer to the "Pennsylvania Department of Education" section of this Notebook. The Secretary also briefed board members on the work of the Advisory Committee pursuant to Act 141 of 2012 (Financial Recovery of School Districts). Please refer to the "Senate" section of this Notebook for a summary of the Advisory Committee's activity.

  •  The Index Calculation as required by the Taxpayer Relief Act (2006) has been published in the September 22 edition of the PA Bulletin (Vol. 42, No. 38). Under section 333(l) of the Taxpayer Relief Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has calculated the index for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-2014. The index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage and the Employment Cost Index. For FY 2013-2014, the base index is 1.7%, same as for 2012-2013. For school districts with a market value/income aid ratio greater than 0.4000,the value of their index is adjusted upward by multiplying the base index by the sum of 0.75 and their MV/PI AR. Click here for more information on the Act 1 Index.
  • On October 1, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) released the results of their joint follow-up school budget survey "School District Cost Cutting Continues for a Second Consecutive Year". The survey results report "stagnate state and local funding, combined with escalating expenditures, has forced school districts, the second consecutive year, to increase class size and reduce elective course offerings, as well as tutoring assistance and summer school." The statewide survey of school districts conducted in August (with a response rate of 53 percent) not only reveals significant program and personnel cuts, but also shows that districts are continuing to reduce supplemental instruction such as field trips and extracurricular program opportunities, including interscholastic sports. Click here to read the full PASBO/PASA survey results.  
  • Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) announced that Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel has been named Executive Director of the National School Boards Association effective December 1, 2012. Gentzel has been with PSBA since 1980, serving in a number of roles including as a lobbyist and assistant executive director for Governmental & Member Relations, for a total of 21 years. Click here to read PSBA's statement. 



  • October 14-20 is "Give Kids Good Schools Week". 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 House Education Committee will hold a public hearing on "Drug Testing for Current and Prospective Employees of School Districts" on Tuesday, October 16 at 9:00 AM.  
  • The House Select Committee on Property Tax Committee will hold a public hearing pursuant to HR 774 on Tuesday, October 16 in Harrisburg at 9:30 AM.  
  • The Public Employee Retirement Commission public hearing on topics of Pension Reform and Funding Status scheduled for Tuesday, October 16 in Harrisburg at 1:00 PM has been cancelled.  
  • 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.  
  • The State Board of Education Advisory Committee on Financial Recovery will meet on Thursday, October 18 in the e-Center, 3rd Floor, 333 Market St., Harrisburg at 2:00 PM. Click here for more information.  
  • The House Select Committee on Property Tax Committee will hold a public hearing pursuant to HR 774 on Thursday, October 18 in Harrisburg at 9:30 AM.  
  • The Public Employee Retirement Commission will hold a public hearing on topics of Pension Reform and Funding Status on Thursday, November 15 at 9:30 AM.  
  • EPLC's Annual Education Finance Symposium will be held on Friday, November 16 in Harrisburg.  
  • The Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association will be holding their 36th Annual Conference ""The PATH II Building Tomorrow" October 18-20 in Harrisburg. Click here for registration and details.  
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania's Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program in partnership with Center for Schools and Communities will hold "Meeting the Challenge Educating Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Pennsylvania" November 19-20 in State College. Click here for details.

For information on upcoming events, please visit www.eplc.org 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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