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Education Update for March 10, 2014
In Budget News…
Survey on Education Funding – Last week PASA, along with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the Central Pennsylvania Education Coalition (CPEC), issued a press release outlining the findings of a recent survey of school system officials concerning education funding and state support for public schools. School administrators, board members and school business officials stated that predictability is needed in education funding, and school funding levels statewide are currently inadequate. They also identified factors to include in a fair, state public school funding formula according to survey responses from nearly 600 of Pennsylvania’s education leaders. Click here (pdf) to read the press release.
February Revenues – According to the Department of Revenue, Pennsylvania collected $1.6 billion in General Fund revenue in February, which was $34.6 million, or 2.1 percent, less than anticipated. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $16.3 billion, which is $75.5 million, or 0.5 percent, below estimate. Sales, personal income, inheritance and realty transfer tax revenues all came in below estimate, while corporation tax revenue came in 5.7 percent above estimate.
Job Growth – According to the Keystone Research Center, job growth in Pennsylvania has slowed steadily over each of the past three years, with only about a quarter of the number of jobs created in 2013 as in 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery. The Center found that Pennsylvania ranked 48th out of the 50 states in job growth last year – compared to seventh in 2010. The state’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, has hovered at or above the national jobless rate since mid-2012. “By several measures, Pennsylvania’s recovery is still limping along,” said Stephen Herzenberg, Ph.D., an economist and co-author of the report. “If job creation is the test for effective policies, Harrisburg needs to re-evaluate the policies of the past three years.” Click here to read more about it.
However, Capitolwire (3/10/14) notes that, at least for January 2014, that criticism is not applicable: Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for January– the lowest rate for the state since November 2008, when it was 6.2 percent - compared to a 6.6-percent national rate (which again went up last month to 6.7 percent, although Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for February has not yet been released).
Gaming Revenue – According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, total revenue generated through slot machines at Pennsylvania casinos during February was down 7.5% compared to the amount generated a year ago. In addition, general revenue from the state’s casinos was 8.4% lower than in 2013. (from a press release, 3/5/14)
In Legislative News…
Legislative Schedule – The House and Senate will be in session Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week. They will return to Harrisburg for three session days next week and then will be in recess the week of March 24.
On the Committee Calendars –
Monday, March 10: Senate Appropriations Committee – to consider SB 871 (amends the Public School Code to require that the governing body of a community college that has enrollment in excess of 20,000 students, consists of more than 4 campuses, and is approved by PDE and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, negotiate with local sponsors for its annual operating costs and capital expenses. The amount negotiated must not exceed an amount equal to the community college’s operating expenses minus student tuition, the state’s share, and 50% of the annual capital expenses of the college. The bill affects the Harrisburg Area Community College.)
Thursday, March 14: House Democratic Policy Committee to hold a public hearing to discuss the bond between education and economic development.
Monday, March 17: House Education Committee to hold a public hearing on HB 1083. The bill modifies the Public School Code to clarify that the same rights and privileges that attach to a high school diploma awarded by an LEA attach to a high school diploma awarded by the supervisor of a home education program. The bill also removes superintendents from the home school evaluation process and requires the reliance on the certification of the evaluator that the home education program is in compliance with the School Code requirements.
On the House Floor Calendar – There are no education-related bills on the House Calendar this week. However, the following bills remain on the House floor for consideration:
SB 193 (amends the Public School Code to create a new section to provide a timeline for CPR certification by school nurses. The bill requires school nurses to be CPR-certified by a Department of Health certifying agency by July 1, 2014 and creates a timeline for recertification.)
HB 796 (amends the Prevailing Wage Act to increase the threshold for prevailing wage applicability from $25,000 to $75,000.)
HB 1734 (amends the Public School Code to repeal the requirement that went into effect with Act 82 of 2012 to require the reporting of financial information from athletic booster clubs. The bill also sunsets the entire athletic opportunity disclosure requirement after three years.)
HB 980 (amends the Public School Code to impose a moratorium on the authorization of new cyber charter schools until June 30, 2016 and apply the unassigned fund balance limitations that apply to school districts to charter and cyber charter schools.)
On the Senate Floor Calendar – The following bills remain on the Senate floor for consideration:
SB 1085 (amends the Public School Code to revise the charter school law. The bill provides for a university authorizer, splits the pension double dip between the state and school districts, and makes other changes to current law to provide additional transparency and accountability.)
HB 1424 (amends the Public School Code to require school entities provide age appropriate instruction beginning in the 2015-16 school year on the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations as part of the social studies, language arts and other applicable areas of study.)
HB 198 (amends the Public School Code to establish a 3-year Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program in at least 3 school districts that have between 3,000 and 15,000 students and offer full day kindergarten. PDE, through the pilot program, will evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based early reading assistance programs, with the goal of reducing future special education costs.)
SB 1000 (amends the Public School Code to establish a regional rural community college program in a multicounty area that is currently underserved by community college opportunities.)
SR 250 (resolution that requires the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the impact of merging all school district health plans into a single plan.)
In State News…
Looking at Standardized Tests, Student Learning and the Keystone Exams – The Patriot-News (Harrisburg) last week published a series of articles by reporter Nick Malawskey examining results of the Keystone Exam in science, the impact of the economy on standardized tests and the high student achievement results in one high school outside Pittsburgh. Click here to access the series of reports, published on March 3.
In National News…
Proposed Federal Budget – It's no coincidence that President Barack Obama chose to announce his budget for fiscal year 2015 at a local elementary school Tuesday, according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The budget proposal requests a roughly 2 percent – or $1.3 billion – increase in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education, including significant asks for new and existing programs to combat inequities in American education, expand early childhood education and strengthen support for teachers. "America’s public schools strive to offer a path to the middle class for children from hardworking families in every community, particularly those living in poverty," Duncan said in a call with reporters Tuesday. "Yet too many students still lack access to the education and support that make the journey to the middle class possible." Read the rest of the story: “Obama's 2015 Budget: More Early Education Funds, New Race to the Top” (from US News & World Report, 3/4/14). Click here to read AASA’s analysis and response to the plan.
Guidance on Protecting Student Data – Seeking to help schools protect students' privacy without inhibiting the use of digital technologies in the classroom, the U.S. Department of Education released new guidance last week on the proper use, storage, and security of the massive amounts of data being generated by new, online educational resources. "This can't be a choice between privacy and progress," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a gathering of privacy advocates and ed-tech leaders who gathered for a "summit" on the hot-button issue. (as reported in Education Week, 3/4/14)
Change in the SAT – For students taking the SAT college entrance exam in spring 2016 and later, it won’t be like their older siblings’ exam. The redesigned test will switch from 2400 back to 1600 points, calculator use will be limited, math questions will focus on key topics, penalties for wrong answers will be removed, and reading answers will require evidence to support them. Read the rest of the story: “College Board Revamps SAT College Entrance Exam for Spring 2016” (from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/5/14).
Op-Ed: Education Reform and Test Scores – Michael McGill, superintendent of the Scarsdale, N.Y. school district, writes in Education Week, “I’ve come to think that a school superintendent’s main mission today is to protect teachers and kids from the ideological madness around us. If I can keep education reform from ‘helping’ them, I’ll have achieved something. Read the rest of his commentary: “When Education Is But a Test Score” (3/5/14).
Getting E-Rate Funding to Schools – Schools are under increasing strain to provide fast, reliable Internet access for teachers and students, and federal officials insist that help is coming. But will it arrive quickly enough? Those familiar with the E-rate program predict that proposed changes to its funding—expected to pump an extra $2 billion into high-speed broadband over the next two years—are likely to produce significant benefits for the nation's schools over time, thanks in part to a new focus on supporting the use of new technologies. Yet they also say it will take time for the bulk of the new money to reach districts—probably not until calendar year 2015—where it can help cover the costs of new Wi-Fi connections and other needs. Read the rest of the story: “New E-Rate Funding Will Take Time to Reach Schools” (from Education Week, 2/26/14).
Resources for School Administrators…
Free On-Site Programs on Technology Integration – Apple next month is hosting several on-site, free educational programs that demonstrate how one-to-one programs engage all students. Learn how the technology infrastructure supports innovation in teaching and learning. Hear from members of the school community and visit classrooms to discover the possibilities that mobile learning provides. Dates/locations and registration information is as follows:
Blairsville-Saltsburg School District - Thursday, April 3rd 10:15AM - 2:30PM. Click here to register.
Ridley School District - Tuesday, April 8th 8:45AM - 1:15PM. Click here to register.
Elizabeth Forward School District - Wednesday, April 9th 8:00AM - 12:00PM. Click here to register.
Pequea Valley School District - Thursday, April 24th 9:00AM - 2:30PM. Click here to register.
On the Calendar…
March 31 – Women’s Caucus Board meeting, Course Development Team meeting (PASA office)
April 10 – Resolutions Committee meeting (PASA office)
April 10-11 – Board of Governors meetings (PASA office)
April 18 – PASA office closed
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