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Education Update for May 20, 2013
From the PDE...
New Secretary of Education – Gov. Corbett announced last week that Ronald Tomalis will leave his post as Secretary of Education on May 31 to become Special Adviser to the Governor on Higher Education. Tomalis will be responsible for overseeing, implementing and reviewing the recommendations made by the Governor’s Postsecondary Advisory Commission. In his place, the governor has nominated Dr. William Harner, superintendent of the Cumberland Valley SD (I.U. 15), to replace Tomalis. Harner has served as superintendent in the district since 2008. Beginning June 1, Harner will serve as Acting Secretary until confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate as Secretary of Education.
In Budget News…
Budget Consideration Timeline – According to a story on Capitolwire (5/16/13), the House is expected to begin deliberations on a state budget bill beginning June 10. The plan is expected to be introduced in the House on May 28 to allow time for lawmakers to draft and submit amendments to the bill by June 3, then review both the bill and all amendments prior to June 10. Over the past two years, legislative consideration of a budget bill began in early to mid-May. This year, ongoing concerns about state revenues and continuing discussions on liquor privatization, transportation funding, Medicaid expansion and pension system costs have delayed final drafting of a budget bill.
Cost of Special Education – In recent years, the cost of special education has exploded. In 2000-01, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the 17 school districts that serve Lancaster County students collectively spent about $47.5 million on special education. By 2011-12, that number had risen to $119.2 million — a 151 percent increase, far outpacing the rate of school spending overall. The population of special education students has begun to level off; in five local districts, students with special needs actually declined between 2000-01 and 2011-12. But even in those districts, costs continue to rise — with no end in sight. Read the rest of the story: “Cost of Special Education Rises; Revenues Don’t” (from lancasteronline.com, 5/19/13)
Unemployment Rate – According to the PA Department of Labor & Industry, the state’s unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.6 percent in April.
In Legislative News…
Legislative Schedule – Both the House and Senate are in a two-week recess for the May 21 primary and Memorial Day. Expect the legislative schedule to be full beginning June 3, as lawmakers work on developing and approving a state budget by June 30 and consider a wide variety of budget and non-budget bills before the summer recess.
Right-to-Know Compliance – Pennsylvania’s 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state’s Right-To-Know Law, even though, as publicly funded institutions, they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state’s Office of Open Records told a Senate committee last Monday. “They don’t feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you,” Executive Director Terry Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. “They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to-know law.” Read the rest of the story: “Pa. Official: Charter Schools Flout Public-Records Law” (from The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/14/13)
Special Education Funding Study – The Special Education Funding Commission, charged with examining how the state funds special education programs, held its organizational meeting last week. The 15-member commission is charged with developing a funding system that recognizes the real number of identified students and their level of need. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks) were selected to co-chair the commission. Other members include:
House: Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), Mike Peifer (R-Pike), and the two House Education Committee chairmen Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) and James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia)
Senate: Ted Erickson (R-Delaware), Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and the two Senate Education chairmen Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester)
Administration: the Secretary of Education, Budget Secretary Charles Zogby and Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq
The commission selected Baruch Kintisch of Pathways Solutions LLC (formerly with the Education Law Center) to assist with data collection.
The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for June 13. The deadline for submitting to the governor a final report outlining the commission’s recommendations has been pushed back from Sept. 30 to Nov. 30.
Common Core and Keystones – Both the House and Senate education committees held hearings focused on the Common Core standards. Additional issues that surfaced during the two hearings were implementation of the Keystone Exams, the standards/testing timetable and federal/state/local control issues. (For more on the controversy, click here to read an article from The PA Independent and click here to read an article from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
Senate Democrats last week held a press conference criticizing the proposed Chapter 4 regulation that would link a student’s eligibility for graduation to proficiency in three Keystone Exams or, if the student is unable to attain proficiency on one or more of the tests, completion of an approved project. Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester) has introduced legislation that would prohibit the Department of Education from taking any action toward implementing the testing until the State Board of Education fulfills a number of requirements, including a report on the costs of the exams, a summary of the changes that are proposed, and the local impact of the modification, among other provisions.
Last Week’s Bill Action –
HB 284 – recommitted to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill amends restrictions on the use of tobacco and nicotine based products in schools by including chewing tobacco and small cigars in the definition.
HB 1020 – approved by the House State Government Committee. The bill amends election law to prohibit school board candidates from cross-filing in all elections.
HR 139 – passed by the House. The resolution requires the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, “in consultation with stakeholders, experts and parents of gifted students,” to conduct a comprehensive study of the process for identifying children as gifted, the process for developing and implementing gifted individualized education plans, the programs and services provided to gifted students, the cost of providing such programs and services, a demographic breakdown of the children who benefit from those programs and services, and recommendations for changes to law, regulation or policy that may be needed to improve special education for gifted children in the Commonwealth, with the final report provided to the House Education Committee by Nov. 13, 2013.
SB 46 – approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill, known as “Pass the Trash,” amends the School Code providing for extensive employment history reviews.
Committee Schedule –
Thursday, May 23 – House Education Committee to hold a public hearing in the Hempfield SD concerning HB 983 (online education initiatives – requiring the PDE to maintain a clearinghouse of online courses for students in grades 3-12 and requiring school districts to make those approved courses available to students)
Thursday, May 30 – Senate Education Committee to hold a public hearing in the Northern Lebanon HS concerning SB 335 (amends the School Code exempting a school district from paying tuition costs for a student’s attendance in a cyber charter school if the district, alone or in a consortium, offers a cyber program)
Monday, June 3 – House Finance Committee to hold an informational meeting on property tax reform
In State News…
Financial Education Reports – The Task Force on Economic Education and Personal Financial Literacy Education has release its final reports online. Task force members were appointed in July 2011 and represented school administrators, finance or economics teachers, school boards, students, business leaders, faculty from the commonwealth’s institutions of higher education having a background in or knowledge of personal financial literacy, and other groups with expertise in financial literacy education. The task force was charged with doing research on best practices and trends in financial education in order to formulate recommendations on how to improve financial education in Pennsylvania’s schools. Click here to read the reports.
PIMS Data – In order to collect the most accurate data possible for federal accountability and the School Performance Profile, the Department of Education is reminding school officials that it is necessary to require a PIMS data collection period during the Keystone Exams administration window. This year (2013) the Keystone testing window runs from May 13 - 24, 2013. Therefore, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has modified the PIMS Data Collection Schedule to require a PIMS collection at the end of that same time period, May 24 - June 2, with a snapshot date of May 24. This collection will be comprised of the submission of two PIMS templates: Student and Student Snapshot. The collection requires LEAs to submit only their 11th and 12th grade student populations. If it is easier for your LEA to submit a full student population in this collection rather than just the 11th and 12th grade population, please do so. Questions concerning the 11th and 12th grade student population snapshot should be directed to John Nau in PDE's Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In National News….
Failing the Test – In an article recently published on slate.com, David Kirp writes, “It’s a terrible time for advocates of market-driven reform in public education. For more than a decade, their strategy – which makes teachers’ careers turn on student gains in reading and math tests, and promotes competition through charter schools and vouchers – has been the dominant policy mantra. But now the cracks are showing. That’s a good thing because this isn’t a proven – or even a promising – way to make schools better.” Read the rest of the story: “Failing the Test: Why Cheating Scandals and Parent Rebellions Are Erupting in Schools in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta” (from slate.com, 5/7/13)
Across the Nation…
Maryland: Funds for School Construction – Baltimore schools chief Andrés Alonso went to Annapolis last year seeking approval for a bold $2 billion plan to replace many of the city system's crumbling buildings. The idea didn't even make it out of committee. Prospects still looked bleak in January when the Senate president described the financial package as "ridiculous." But by the end of the legislative session in April, a $1 billion version of the proposal had cleared both chambers by overwhelming margins. Read the rest of the story: “$1 Billion for New City Schools: From Non-starter to Law” (from The Baltimore Sun, 5/16/13)
Ohio: Policy vs. Practice – A survey of more than half of Ohio school superintendents revealed, with few exceptions, a wide gap between themselves and legislators regarding what policies will have the most impact. Fewer than 10 percent of superintendents say new state-issued A-F report cards for districts and individual schools will boost student learning. Read the rest of the story: “Educators, Legislators Aren’t on Same Page on Ohio School Reforms” (from The Columbus Dispatch, 5/17/13)
On the Calendar…
May 27 – PASA office closed
June 4 – Legislative Committee meeting (1:00 p.m., PASA office)
June 7 – Women’s Caucus Board meeting (PASA office)
July 4 – PASA office closed
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