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Education Update for January 26, 2015
In Transition News...
Legislative Education Committees – Members of the House and Senate Education Committees were announced last week. They are:
Lloyd Smucker (Lancaster), Majority Chair; Andrew Dinniman (Chester), Minority Chair
R: Mike Folmer (Lebanon), Pat Browne (Lehigh), John Eichelberger (Blair), Dominic Pileggi (Delaware), Robert Tomlinson (Bucks)
D: Daylin Leach (Montgomery), Rob Teplitz (Dauphin), Anthony Williams (Philadelphia)
Stan Saylor (York), Majority Chair; Jim Roebuck (Philadelphia), Minority Chair
R: Jim Christiana (Beaver), Rosemary Brown (Monroe), Hal English (Allegheny), Mark Gillen (Berks), Seth Grove (York), Kristin Hill (York), Harry Lewis (Chester), Bernie O’Neill (Bucks), Thomas Quigley (Montgomery), Kathy Rapp (Forest), Mike Reese (Westmoreland), Craig Staats (Bucks), Will Tallman (Cumberland), Mike Tobash (Schuylkill), Dan Truit (Chester)
D: Scott Conklin (Centre), Mike Carroll (Luzerne), Pat Harkins (Erie), Patty Kim (Dauphin), Mark Longietti (Mercer), Dan Miller (Allegheny), Gerald Mullery (Luzerne), Mike O’Brien (Philadelphia), Steve Santarsiero (Bucks), Kevin Schreiber (York)
Last Week’s Legislative Action – With a 7-4 party-line vote, with Republicans voting for and Democrats against, the Senate Finance Committee last week approved SB 4. The bill proposes to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to give the General Assembly the authority to define what constitutes an “institution of purely public charity” for the purpose of determining tax exempt status. The bill passed the General Assembly last session, but, since it is a Constitutional amendment, it must pass the General Assembly again this session and then be put on the ballot.
This Week’s Legislative Schedule –
Monday, Jan. 26: The Senate is scheduled to consider SB 4 this week. (See above.)
Wednesday, Jan. 28 [CHANGED]: The House Education Committee will hold a voting meeting on the following bills:
HB 139 – amends the Private Academic Schools Act to allow online schools to become licensed by the State Board of Private Academic Schools
HB 141 – amends the School Code to clarify that penalties for violation of the compulsory attendance requirements only apply if the violation was intentional and, for a violation, require that parents and guardians attend a parenting education program or perform community service or, as a last resort, be incarcerated for failure to pay court-imposed fines. The bill, introduced last year as HB 2356, was developed in response to a case in which a parent arrested for failure to pay fines died in jail. In testimony last year before the committee on HB 2356, PASA called for a comprehensive approach to the problem of truancy. “It is clear that truancy is a serious, widespread problem that can only be effectively addressed through collaboration among schools, the judiciary, law enforcement, county children and family services agencies, social and human service agencies and families,” PASA testifiers said. “The issue begs a comprehensive legislative and policy review that extends beyond the scope of authority of the education committee.” The House last session passed a resolution (HR 1032) directing the Joint State Government Commission to conduct such a review and report its findings by October 2015.
HB 158 – amends the School Code to provide the Secretary of Education with the authority to issue weather, safety and health-related emergency declarations on a school district, county or statewide basis under which a school entity may satisfy the 180 instructional days requirement by one or more of the following: approving, by a majority of the school board, a school year meeting the minimum hour requirements in lieu of 180 days; or approving, by a majority vote of the school board, scheduling additional instructional days on not more than one Saturday per month to complete 180 instructional days or to meet the minimum hour requirement
Thursday, Jan. 29: The Basic Education Funding Commission will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. in the Greenville Junior/Senior High School in the Greenville Area SD. The commission continues to gather information and testimony on school funding issues as they work toward developing a new basic education funding formula by June 2015. Click here to view past meetings on the commission website.
In State News…
Across the State…
Not-So-Undercover Boss – It can be a little nerve-wracking. One day your boss calls you up and says he wants to follow you around for the day. It'll be fun, he says. That's exactly what Eric Eshbach, superintendent for Northern York County School District, has spent the past few months doing. Once a month, he calls on an unsuspecting faculty member and breaks the news: They've been selected as the next candidate in his "Not so Undercover Boss" program. "I try to tell teachers it isn't an observation," he said. "They can even put me to work — whatever they want me to do. I just want the chance to learn about their work." Read the rest of the story: “Northern's Superintendent a 'Not So Undercover Boss'” (from The York Daily Record, 1/21/15).
In National News…
Federal Outlook for Annual Testing – In the same week that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held its first hearing on the issue of rewriting No Child Left Behind, two separate groups of lawmakers introduced bills that would also work to dial down aspects of the law’s divisive legacy. In recent weeks, lawmakers have renewed calls to rewrite the controversial school accountability law, which emphasizes standardized testing and doles out penalties for poor scores. While No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, expired in 2007, efforts to overhaul it have failed on several occasions and the law is still in effect today. The Obama administration has offered waivers allowing states to evade some of the law’s more stringent aspects, although states are still required to annually test students in reading and math in grades three through eight, as well as one time while students are in high school. But as legislators continue to hammer out what a rewrite of NCLB might look like, two groups of politicians introduced bills this week that would change the role that law previously established for school standardized testing. Read the rest of the story: “Politicians Introduce Bills That Would Work To Reduce The Role Of School Standardized Testing” (from The Huffington Post, 1/21/15).
Medicaid and Schools – A recent federal policy reversal, long-sought by states and health care advocates, could enable schools to take a lead role in managing chronic childhood diseases and result in the hiring of many more school nurses. The change, announced quietly and unexpectedly last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), will allow public schools to receive Medicaid money for health services they provide to eligible students for the first time since 1997. Once several financing and bureaucratic hurdles are cleared, advocates believe the new policy will improve the coordination of care provided to children with conditions such as asthma, diabetes and mental illness. It will be especially important, they say, for low-income kids who are less likely to have comprehensive medical coverage. But a number of states adopted their own policies to work with the free care policy, and those rules will have to be overturned. Read the rest of the story: “With Federal Policy Change, More Money for School-Based Health Services” (from pewtrusts.org, 1/22/15).
Poverty in the Nation’s Schools - For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation. The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers. Read the rest of the story: “Majority of U.S. Public School Students Are in Poverty” (from The Washington Post, 1/16/15).
Racism and Public Schools – Writing in The Nation, George Joseph points out the racial divide in support for public schools. “Like most majority black school districts in America, the school districts of Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia regularly suffer school closures, high teacher attrition, understaffed schools and increasingly crowded classrooms,” he writes. “But while these deprivations are often written off as the inevitable result of urban white flight and depreciating tax bases, the reality is not so simple. In the neoliberal era, urban school districts' financial woes have been aggravated by state takeovers, gratuitous budget cuts and wasteful privatization efforts. As black student activists nationwide have made clear in these recent demonstrations, public school austerity, like police brutality, is another form of racist state violence. Public school austerity, driven in part by the much-celebrated school reform movement, assaults these students' central community institutions, crams them into over-policed schools, and reduces their education to preparation for the low wage workforce rather than democratic self-determination.” Read the rest of the story: “Black Lives Matter – At School, Too” (from The Nation, 1/19/15).
Across the Nation…
Virginia: Eliminating School Building Grades – Nearly two years ago, former Florida governor Jeb Bush visited Virginia to tout the benefits of an A-F state accountability system for public schools. Later in 2013, with the support of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, the state did pass such a bill. But at the start of 2015, Bush has stepped away from the K-12 advocacy group he founded, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in order to explore a White House bid; McDonnell is headed to prison next month; and Virginia is moving closer to repealing the 2013 law approving A-F accountability, which the state never actually put into place. Read the rest of the story: “Bill to End A-F Accountability Before It Begins Advances in Virginia” (from educationweek.org, 1/21/15).
On the Calendar…
Jan. 27 – Twitter Chat on School Funding
Jan. 28 – PLUS Caucus of PASA meeting (PASA office)
Jan. 29 – Joint Boards’ Dinner (Harrisburg)
Jan. 30 – Board of Governors’ meeting (PASA office)
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