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EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, April 26, 2013

In this issue
PENNSYLVANIA STATE BUDGET UPDATE
PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERS
The Governor's Office
House of Representatives
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
EPLC NEWS
DATEBOOK

The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC web site at www.eplc.org/publications_wpn.shtml
 

PENNSYLVANIA STATE BUDGET UPDATE

 

Most legislative discussions concerning the 2013-2014 state budget continue to remain beyond the public view as lawmakers wrestle with an uncertain state revenue picture and the uncertainty around several key policy questions.  But the House of Representatives, however, did consider and approve during the week of April 22 a package of business tax cuts proposed by Governor Corbett that are predicted to reduce state revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars annually once all the cuts take effect. 

 

Education and human services advocates as well as others are concerned that while state policymakers have defended cuts in funding for K-12 education, higher education, and other human and community services for the past two years, many state lawmakers continue at the same time to vote for tax cuts for some businesses that will permanently reduce state revenues in future years. 

 

While this week's business tax cuts are argued to help create job and tax revenue growth in the future, critics say that there will only be $1 dollar of new revenue generated for every $7 of tax cuts for some businesses.  

 

The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign will hold a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda at 10:00 a.m. on April 30 to let the legislators and the Governor know that they should prioritize support for public education in the 2013-2014 state budget and make a commitment to restore the nearly $900 million of cuts in state support for K-12 education during the next three years.   

 

PENNSYLVANIA POLICYMAKERS

The Pennsylvania Senate will reconvene in voting session on Monday, April 29 at 1:00 PM.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will reconvene in voting session on Monday, May 6 at 1:00 PM.

 

The Governor's Office

 

Governor Corbett on April 25 signed into law House Bill 2 (Act No. 3 of 2013) which establishes the Special Education Funding Commission.

 

The Commission must develop a funding formula for the distribution of any increase in special education funding above the 2010-2011 funding level.  In identifying the factors used in the formula, the Commission may determine the parameters for three cost categories based on level of service needs, and determine how those categories are weighted in the formula.  The current formula assumes that the average daily enrollment of each district includes 16% of students with special needs.  A new formula will aim to reflect actual costs incurred by districts and distribute the money accordingly.  The Commission may also consider a student count averaged for each of the three most recent years for each category so that school districts do not overidentify eligible students; and make adjustments for geographic price differences and the three year averages of the market value/personal income aid ratio and equalized millage rates for each district. 

 

Any formula developed by the Commission would not go into effect unless enacted by the General Assembly and will be used only for the distribution of increased funding. 

 

The Commission, a fifteen member panel, must issue a report of its findings and recommendations no later than September 30, 2013.  In addition, the Commission is charged with receiving public input and gathering information on charter and cyber charter school funding reimbursement related to special education students, and to draft proposed regulations and legislation based on its findings.

 

This legislation, championed by Representative Bernie O'Neill (R-29) and Senator Pat Browne (R-16), received strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

 

House of Representatives  
  • On April 24, the House Education Committee reported the following legislation from Committee to the House for further consideration:

House Bill 1031 (Rep. Jim Marshall, R-14) would establish a Pennsylvania Community College Affordability Task Force within the Department of Education to examine the viability and sustainability of the current community college funding model, accessibility of community college services and long-term affordability of a community college education.  The Task Force would be composed of 19 members, four of whom shall be community college students and faculty appointed by the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.  The Task Force must issue a report of its findings and recommendations within 180 days after the first meeting.  HB 1031 was unanimously reported as committed.

 

HB 1031 is identical to the most recent version of Senate Bill 360 (Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24) which was reported out of the Senate Education Committee on February 12 and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 8.

 

House Bill 1164 (Rep. Thomas Murt, R-152) would require public institutions of higher education to give course registration priority to veteran students, to be known as the Higher Education Course Scheduling Preference for Veteran Students Act.  The Committee adopted an amendment (Rep. Ryan Aument, R-41) extending the amount of time within which a public institution of higher education must provide veteran students with course registration priority to 180 days, pursuant to guidelines that shall be developed within 90 days of the effective date by the Department of Education.  Schools with existing policies complying with the Act would not be required to adopt new policies.  HB 1164 was unanimously reported as amended.

 

House Bill 1123 (Rep. Gordon Denlinger, R-99) would amend the Private Academic Schools Act definition of private academic school to provide for online schools which shall not include cyber charter schools.  The bill would require the State Board of Private Academic Schools to promulgate within 18 months any rules, regulations, policies, principles and standards necessary to provide for the inclusion of online schools.  The Board must not issue a license to an online school until those rules, regulations, policies, principles and standards are in effect.  HB 1123 was unanimously reported as committed.

 

During the meeting: Representative Gordon's staff explained public charter schools and home school co-ops that utilize online curriculum would not be affected by the legislation.

 

  • On April 25 the House Education Committee held a public hearing on bullying and suicide prevention.  The Committee received written or verbal testimony from twenty-one individuals representing school boards, intermediate units, mental health organizations, and a variety of school and teacher organizations, as well as the Department of Education.  For the full list of panelists, and to read testimony if provided, see below.

Lynn Cromley, Director of the Center for Schools and Communities, Center for Safe Schools, emphasized the need echoed by others for a clear definition of bullying.  She noted that bullying can be inappropriate behavior or bullying can be aggressive, criminal behavior that violates civil rights; it is important to recognize it occurs on a continuum and to provide clarity and additional guidance to school administrators on how to implement the requirements in a meaningful way.

 

Shawn McGlichey, Director of Risk Management for Krapf Bus Companies, spoke on behalf of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association.  He explained the prevalence of bullying on school buses.  He urged the Committee to exempt buses from the Pennsylvania Wiretap Law which currently restricts surveillance equipment and audio taping for discipline and security purposes.

 

Dr. Matthew Masiello, Director for the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention stated the way to address bullying is through evidence-based programs.  Yvonne Cook, President of Highmark Foundation, highlighted before the Committee Highmark's success with its bullying prevention initiatives by engaging diverse stakeholders and providing schools and communities with resources and support.  Kay Lipsitz, Director of the Parent Education Network (PEN) discussed PEN's Bullying Prevention Initiative, which hopes to reduce and prevent bullying by engaging and educating all stakeholders and advocating for a reporting system within the schools.  Representative Rapp mentioned the problem of "selective enforcement" which Lipsitz acknowledged is a "very big problem" throughout the Commonwealth.

 

Among those speaking to the issue of suicide prevention was Dr. Erich Batra, Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI), and Joe Volupas, Executive Director of the student empowerment organization Aevidum and English teacher at Cocalico High School.  Dr. Batra emphasized that suicide prevention is one piece to help improve the overall well-being of our children and promote a safe culture in school.  He shared that PAYSPI is available to enhance prevention efforts already in place.  He also noted that the Student Assistance Program (SAP) has been in existence for 28 years and is one component of the comprehensive youth suicide prevention efforts being implemented in school districts across the Commonwealth.  Vulopas expressed the importance of training teachers to identify mental health issues because educators are in the "optimal position to be the first responders", with children spending the majority of their day in the classroom.

 

Charlene Brennan and James McDonald from the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 shared bullying statistics and how the IU is tackling the issues of bullying and suicide.  McDonald noted the evidence that school-wide behavioral support services help prevent bullying by teaching social behavior and promoting a culture where bullying is not accepted or promoted.  However, he said the school-wide systems are currently underutilized in Pennsylvania, noting only 211 schools have implemented school-wide systems since 2007.

 

House Bill 156 (Rep. Dan Truitt, R-156), or the Pennsylvania Safe Schools "PASS" Act,  would require teachers to undergo bullying prevention training every five years and establish an online portal through which acts of bullying would be reported to the state.  In reference to the schools being required to collect bullying data, Dr. Masiello recommended a public health approach to identifying the information to be collected, suggesting the Committee gather legislators, educators, and public health experts to develop the questions.  Dr. Masiello also noted that "from a public health perspective, we have a significant amount of data.  What we do not have is a significant amount of evidence-based, large population programs in our communities to respond to that data."

 

Representative Truitt asked what is different today about bullying that the legislation must address.  Lipsitz reiterated Chairman Paul Clymer's opening statements about the impact of technology, saying that the culture now is such that "in the past if someone was bullied it stopped when someone left school" but now technology enables harassment and bullying to extend beyond school.

 

Sean Fields, Senior Associate Counsel for the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) provided the Committee with PSBA's opinions regarding House Bill 1211 (Rep. Ryan Aument, R-41) which includes mandated reporting and training.  Fields recommended the punishment policy include a range of penalties and do not include specifics so that districts have flexibility, to which Representative Truitt expressed concern that flexibility would provide for selective enforcement.  Fields also raised the issue regarding electronic communications outside of school as it relates to a student's First Amendment rights, and notification issues that may undermine the rights of the victim.

 

Brennan recommended that HB 1211 or similar legislation should include proactive approaches such as teacher identification training, and bullying avoidance training including teaching empathy and impulse control.  She further suggested safe-school grants be aimed at bullying and suicide prevention with sufficient timelines for implementation to apply for grant money.

 

Michael Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), stated the organization's support for modernizing the current bullying law.  Although PSEA has not taken a position on the legislation, Crossey added that HB 1211 "makes common sense changes" including updating the cyber-bullying and reporting requirements and that PSEA will work with Representatives Truitt and Aument on both HB 156 and HB 1211. 

  

The following is a list of all testifiers.  View online the written testimony from each organization, if provided:

o  Shawn McGlichey, Director of Risk Management for Krapf Bus Companies and speaking on behalf of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association

o    Dr. Erich Batra, Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative

o    Joe Vulopas, Executive Director, Aevidum

o    Susan Lozada, Executive Director of Community and Student Services, Allentown School District

o    Catherine Siciliano, Teacher, Quakertown Community School District and Board Chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Greater Philadelphia Chapter

o    Kay Lipsitz, Director, Parent Education Network

o    Yvonne Cook, President, Highmark Foundation

o    Dr. Matthew Masiello, Director, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

o    Lynn Cromley, Director Center for School and Communities, Center for Safe Schools

o    Rosemary Browne, Program Officer, Highmark Foundation, Central Pennsylvania

o    Sean Fields, Senior Associate Counsel, Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA)

o    Charlene Brennan, Executive Director, Colonial Intermediate Unit 20

o    Janice Cunningham, Director of Resolve Behavioral Health Services

o    James McDonald, Supervisor of Clinical Support Staff

o    Dr. Ronald Prator, Supervisor of Quality Assurance

o    Sandra Binczak, Supervisor of Therapeutic Emotional Support Services

o    Michael Crossey, President, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA)

o    Allegheny Intermediate Unit

o    Department of Education

o    ACLU

o    Anti-Defamation League

 

To listen to the audio recording, click here (Part 1),  click here (Part 2).

 

PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 

Governor Corbett on April 22 announced that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has awarded the national 2013 Green Ribbon Schools Award to four Pennsylvania schools -- Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School, Philadelphia School District; Broughal Middle School, Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County; Nazareth Area Middle School, Nazareth Area School District, Northampton County; and Westtown School, Chester County -- and the first-ever District Sustainability Award to the Lower Merion School District, Montgomery County. 

 

Pennsylvania's five winners were among 78 schools and districts nationwide to be recognized by USDE for working to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.  Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis nominated these schools in February.

 

EPLC NEWS 

 

The April edition of "Focus on Pennsylvania Education" covered School Boards and the Work of School Board Members.  Click here to watch the latest episode!   Looking ahead, the topic for May's episode will be Pennsylvania Education Funding.  The monthly show produced by EPLC and PCN is broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of every month, now through June, and then again this fall in September through December.  PCN also typically repeats the broadcast at later times each month.  To learn more, visit http://pcntv.com/new-series-focus-on-education/.  Information about sponsorships available for the show can be obtained by contacting Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or at [email protected]

 

DATEBOOK
  • On Tuesday, April 30 at 10:00 AM, the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign will hold a press conference at the State Capitol Rotunda urging legislators and the Governor to prioritize support for education.
  • On Wednesday, May 1 at 10:00 AM in Harrisburg, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a meeting to consider the following education related bills: SB 797 (calculation of military members' PSERS benefits) and SB 798 (rights preserved during military leave of absence).
  • Succeed In PA will host its first Dropout Prevention Summit in Harrisburg on Thursday, May 2 from 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM.  Space is limited, and the registration page will automatically close once maximum attendance has been reached.  Click here to register.
  • Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania will host the 2013 PA Arts & Culture Legislative Visits Day at the State Capitol on Tuesday, May 7.  Click here to register.  If you would like more information about this day or need help scheduling appointments with your legislators, contact Jenny Hershour at [email protected]
  • The State Board of Education will meet in Harrisburg May 8 - 9.
  • The Media Area NAACP and the PA State NAACP Education Committee are sponsoring the 2013 Conference on the State of Education in Pennsylvania, which will be held at Cheyney University, Delaware County Campus, on Saturday, May 11 from 9:00 AM - 2:30 PM.  Click here for more information.
  • The last day to apply for an absentee ballot in Pennsylvania before the May 21 Primary Election is May 14.
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.