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EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, December 20, 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 2013 Session of the General Assembly begins when Pennsylvania legislators take the oath of office the first Tuesday in January (January 1), as required by the state's constitution.  


On November 1, Governor Corbett signed into law  Senate Bill 1225 (Act 210 of 2012). SB 1225 codifies the Library Code in consolidated statute form to improve the readability and reconcile conflicts between the Library Code and regulations that have been issued under it. It also sets forth the manner in which State-aid for libraries will be allocated for Fiscal Year 2013-2014. Funding for State-aid to libraries in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 will be dependent upon appropriations made by the General Assembly in the General Appropriations Act and approved by the Governor. Click here to read the fiscal analysis prepared by the House Committee on Appropriations.  


On November 30, the House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform, pursuant to House Resolution 774 (2011-2012), unanimously adopted its final report with recommendations. The special legislative panel was tasked with studying the interrelationship between all taxes affecting municipalities and school districts, with an emphasis on property taxes. According to the Chairman's final remarks, the Committee, through its work and subsequent recommendations, attempted to find common ground on initiatives or actual legislation that can be acted upon when the legislature convenes in 2013.  Here are just a few of the recommendations approved by the Committee:    

  • At the start of the 2013-2014 Legislative Session, introduce a resolution to re-establish the select committee created under House Resolution 774 of 2011-2012;
  • Amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide for a homestead and farmstead exemption of up to 100 percent of the property value.
  • Review all state-imposed public education requirements that are not mandated by Federal statute or regulation for cost-effectiveness, fairness, and/or educational value.
  • Develop recommendations for achieving efficiencies and increasing cost effectiveness in the construction, maintenance, renovation, and disposition of public buildings and school facilities, helping to ensure that students have access to adequate facilities.
  • Develop a new funding formula for special education based on the actual costs of providing special education instruction and services.
  • Direct an independent entity or entities to determine the actual costs of educating a student at a charter school and at a cyber-charter school and the effects on local school budgets and property taxes.

Click here to read the full report and recommendations.   

On November 26, the Governor's Budget Office released "The Keystone Pension Report: A Discussion of Structural Reform and Relief to Pennsylvania's Retirement System for Long Term Sustainability." The pension report, according to the Office of the Budget, "is intended to provide financial facts, highlight key issues, and advance the dialogue on meaningful pension reform and relief, with the goal of creating a common framework around which solutions can be structured."

The report examines the following questions:
  • What are the state's pension systems?
  • What created the pension problem?
  • What is the pension challenge?
  • What happens if we do nothing?
  • How can we create a framework for solutions?
In setting the stage for what appears to be a top budget priority, the Governor has described     Pennsylvania's two public pension systems (PSERS, SERS) combined unfunded liability of over $41 billion as a "tapeworm" or "Pac-Man" devouring the state's budget and severely undercutting the Commonwealth's ability to fund essential programs and services such as education, public safety and human services.


But not all agree with how the administration's pension report frames the policy dilemma and  solutions. Mike Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA)  believes the Corbett Administration's pension report sets up false choices between fixing the pension dilemma and funding crucial state programs. He faults policy decisions that provide more than $800 million in corporate tax breaks - more than the projected pension debt owed in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 -- for adding to the pension crisis. Click here to read the full statement by Mike Crossey.


The Keystone Pension Report is available at www.budget.state.pa.us.  


On December 5, Secretary of the Budget Charles Zogby gave a mid-year budget briefing which provided a glimpse of what to expect in February when Governor Corbett unveils his 2013-2014 state budget proposal. Secretary Zogby's presentation reiterated the Governor's earlier budgetary directives to state agencies to maintain level funding and to expect that no general fund dollars will be used to backfill reduced federal funds. He also restated the Governor's commitment that no new taxes will be part of the proposed Corbett budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014. 


The Secretary's mid-year budget report identifies the following challenges in crafting the upcoming state budget:  

  • Pension cost growth of $511 million (PSERS, SERS);
  • Managing growth in welfare spending in light of continued health care cost inflation;
  • Controlling the growth of Corrections costs; and
  • Pending litigation against the Commonwealth. 
Click here to learn more about the budget process in Pennsylvania.
  • On November 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that it received an award of $6.5 million from a federal grant to provide professional development opportunities for educators who provide special education services to students with disabilities. With funds from the federal grant program, Pennsylvania teachers and school leaders will receive intensive and on-going training to establish goals, provide effective instruction, and ensure that all Pennsylvania students graduate from high school with the skills to be successful. Specifically, the professional development provided will ensure that:
    • Educators know and can effectively teach to the Pennsylvania Common Core academic standards;
    • Educators plan and deliver effective instruction that meet the needs of Pennsylvania students;
    • School leaders have the ability to implement policies, practices and procedures that support the learning of all students;
    • Students demonstrate growth and achievement in English, language arts and math;
    • Students can effectively participate and engage in learning, using communication supports and technology;
    • Parents have high expectations for achievement for students; and
    • Institutions of higher education prepare future educators and leaders with the necessary training.
  • On November 29, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that Shaler North Hills Library in Glenshaw (Allegheny County) was one of ten recipients nationally to receive the 2012 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The award is the nation's highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for their service to the community. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (located in Washington, D.C.) annually recognizes institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Click here
    to learn about the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.   
  • On December 4, Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis recognized two outstanding Pennsylvania educators at the Keystone Awards of Excellence banquet in Hershey.


    Ryan Devlin, a teacher in the Brockway Area School District, was named Pennsylvania's 2013 Teacher of the Year. Devlin teaches eleventh grade British literature, eighth grade computer science, and two senior high electives on creative writing and digital media. He also is Chairman of the high school's English department. Devlin is a graduate of Waynesburg University where he received his bachelor's degree in secondary English education. He earned his master's degree in educational leadership from California University of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania's Teacher of the Year program is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National State Teacher of the Year, which was founded in 1995.


    Jennifer Hoffner-Turkowski, a first grade teacher at University Park Elementary School in the Gateway School District, was awarded the 2012 Milken Educator Award. Hoffner-Turkowski has taught for eight years and holds bachelor's degrees in both elementary education and health policy and administration. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in education, including principal certification. The Milken Educator Award, sponsored by the Milken Family Foundation, is one of the nation's top teacher recognition programs that honor K-12 teachers, principals, and specialists with a $25,000 individual, unrestricted award. The first award was granted in 1987 and since that time the foundation has awarded more than $63 million to over 2,500 educators across the nation.  


On December 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reported that the Commonwealth collected $1.7 billion in General Fund revenue for November, which was $23.1 million, or 1.4 percent, less than anticipated. However, fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $9.8 billion, which is $59.1 million, or 0.6 percent, above estimate. To review November collections for sales tax receipts, personal income tax, corporation tax, inheritance tax, realty transfer and others, visit www.revenue.state.pa.us.  


On November 27, the Task Force on Child Protection established by the General Assembly in December 2011 released its final report with numerous policy and statutory recommendations to improve state laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse. Among the key findings and recommendations included in the report:    

  • The Task Force recognizes the importance of children's advocacy centers (CACs) and multidisciplinary investigative teams (MDITs).
  • The Task Force supports a dedicated funding source to establish and sustain CACs.
  • The Task Force recommends that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency conduct a thorough study of the existing CACs and MDITs.
  • The Pennsylvania State Police and municipal police departments should train troopers and officers regarding the efficacy of forensic interviewing within the CAC setting in the investigation of child abuse and child sexual abuse.
  • The Task Force recommends an analysis of state statutes and regulations that require, or fail to require, the disclosure of a licensed professional's sexual misconduct, arrests, and convictions to the relevant licensing or certifying board.
  • The Task Force supports the enactment of legislation to expand reporting requirements where allegations of sexual misconduct have been made. Such legislation should include barring school entities from entering into confidentiality agreements with educators accused of misconduct. 

For more information on the Task Force on Child Protection, visit www.childprotection.state.pa.us 


Notice was published in the November 24 Pennsylvania Bulletin (Vol. 42, No. 47) announcing future meetings of the State Charter School Appeal Board. The board will meet on the following Tuesdays in 2013: February 19; March 26; April 30; and June 11. These meetings will be held in the Honors Suite on the First Floor or Heritage Room A, Lobby Level of the Education Building, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg beginning at 1:00 PM. Click here for additional details.

Recently, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) released a new series of policy guides entitled "Fit, Healthy and Ready to Learn" that address safety and violence prevention in and around schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assisted in the development of the guides which are designed to provide vital tools for state and local education policymakers and administrators, as well as school health professionals, youth-serving organizations, and health and safety advocates. The guides contain recent scientific data, analysis, examples of state and local best practices, and evidence-based model policies that can be adapted by schools, districts, and states. For more information about the guides and how to order visit www.nasbe.org/fhrtl. 


  • The Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators will hold an Education and Workforce Development Symposium on "Preparing Students for the Workforce of Tomorrow" in Hershey February 26-27. Click here for additional information and registration details.
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) will hold their 58th Annual Conference and Exhibits in Pittsburgh March 19-22. Click here for more details and registration. 
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) will hold its 2013 Annual Conference in Harrisburg April 22-23. Click here for more information.
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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