Below is the current Education Update. Click here for a list of other recent updates.
October 15, 2018
SB 1095 Close to Final Passage – The House last week passed SB 1095 and sent the bill to the Senate for concurrence in House amendments. The bill creates alternative pathways to high school graduation other than the Keystone Exams and requires the Department of Education to establish guidance related to those alternatives for schools, teachers and students. The bill now returns the Senate where the bill is scheduled on the Senate Rules Committee's agenda for today (Monday, October 15). The Senate will likely vote to concur in the amended bill later in the week and send the bill to the governor. Click here for a chart detailing what the bill does. PASA strongly supports SB 1095 and urges final passage of the bill, which provides a better balance between standardized test scores, classroom grades and hands-on learning.
In School Safety & Security News…
Free Web Forum on the School Safety & Security Survey – In accordance with Act 44’s requirement for a school safety and security survey of school entities, the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD)—the entity charged with implementing much of Act 44—is poised to send out the survey to school entities today, Monday, October 15.
To provide you and your school entity with an overview of the survey and the related Act 44 requirements, and to answer your basic questions, join PASBO, PASA and the PA Principals Association for a very brief free web forum on Tuesday, October 16 at 11:30 a.m. We’ll spend just 15-20 minutes reviewing the survey and your obligations under Act 44.
To join the free web forum, please register using the link below:.
WEB FORUM: School Safety and Security Survey: A Quick Review of the Survey and Timeline
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
In School Funding News…
Increasing Gaps in Funding Special Education – Special education costs are rising much faster in Pennsylvania than state aid — causing local taxpayers to foot most of the bill, while also stretching school budgets thin and increasing inequities between rich and poor districts, according to a new report by a duo of advocacy groups. The Education Law Center and PA Schools Work found that for every new dollar Harrisburg spent on special education between 2008 and 2016, school districts spent $20. During that time, districts saw their special education costs rise $1.54 billion while the state chipped in just $71 million. This latest report arrives five years after the state implemented a new special education funding formula that was supposed to make life easier for districts. But advocates say lawmakers haven’t sent enough money through the formula to make an impact. “If anything, the issues with special education funding — of inadequacy and inequity — have actually grown worse over time,” said Reynelle Brown Staley, a policy attorney at the Education Law Center. Read the rest of the story: “Skyrocketing Special Ed. Costs Falling Heavily on Pa. School Districts, Taxpayers” (from Keystone Crossroads, 10/9/18). Click here to read the complete report.
In Legislative News…
Legislative Schedule – We are down to three voting session days remaining in the 2017-18 legislative session, and last week the House was busy getting things in place for the final push to get bills across the finish line.
We're expecting a lot of attention this week focused on getting alternative graduation requirements (SB 1095) across the finish line in the Senate (just one final vote needed, which is expected to go smoothly) and possibly on a few other education-related bills that could wind up on the agenda for consideration.
The biggest unresolved issue is charter school reform, and we are waiting to see if the House will make any legitimate effort to run a dialed-back charter bill in the waning session days.
The bottom line is this: whatever bills do NOT see final action this bill in the General Assembly will need to be reintroduced in the next session, which begins in January.
Last Week’s Bill Action –
* Tax Collection Consolidation: SB 653; passed by the House, 137-45 and sent back to the Senate for concurrence on a House amendment. The bill would amend Act 511 of 1965, known as the Local Tax Enabling Act to further extend the consolidation of the collection of all of the other local non-real estate taxes imposed under the Act at the county regional level using the same mechanics created under Act 32 related to the collection of Earned Income Taxes.
* Executive Session: SB 1078; passed by the House (177-0) and sent to the governor. The bill amends the Open Meetings law to extend permissions extended to school districts in the School Code bill passed with the 2018-19 state budget. The bill would allow municipalities and other public entities to meet in executive session to discuss, plan or review matters and records necessary for emergency preparedness, protection of public safety and security if disclosure of these records and plans would jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness. This would include discussions relating to collaboration with local school districts on safety and security plans. PASA supports this bill.
* School Bus Cameras: SB 1098; amended and approved by the House Transportation Committee; to be considered by the House. As amended, the bill would amend the Vehicle Code to allow for the installation of automated side stop signal arm enforcement systems (that include cameras) on school buses to capture information on vehicles that fail to stop. Information recorded by the systems will be sent to the police and citations will be issues. (The House likely will further amend this bill before a final floor vote. Either way, the Senate will need to concur on any amended version of the bill.)
*Certificate Grade Spans: HB 1386; House concurred in Senate amendment, 194-0; sent to the governor. The bill would establish in statute the grade spans for which types of instructional certifications that a teacher preparation program may offer and the Department of Education may issue. The bill would change the grade spans of teacher instructional certifications that are currently established under PDE Regulations (i.e. preK-12 special education certificate with no additional content area required).
* State Audits: HB 2457; approved by the House State Government Committee. The bill provides for the professional qualifications of employees engaged in audits conducted by the Department of the Auditor General.
Bills That Could See Final Action This Week –
* Sunscreen Use: HB 1228; pending final action in the Senate. The bill would require school entities to allow "the outdoor use by a student of sun-protective clothing" and the "possession, application or use by a student of a non-aerosol topical sunscreen product without a physician's note" under certain circumstances. The bill would also direct the Department of Education to develop guidance for school entities.
* Student Services: HB 2052; pending final action in the Senate. The bill would require school districts to offer families the option of communicating that a parent or guardian is a member of one of the armed forces, and, if a school district is notified that a child’s parent or guardian has been activated or deployed, the district would be required to provide the student with access to school guidance counselors and existing federal or state military support services. The Departments of Education and Military & Veterans Affairs would be require to coordinate and provide guidance to districts and parents. PASA supports this bill and has asked for clarification on a district’s responsibilities to coordinate with state and federal military support services.
* C/T Programs and Renewals: HB 2157; pending final action in the Senate. The bill would direct the Department of Education to establish a permanent classification of instructional programs for career and technical education programs and the application and renewal process by school entities under the CIP coding.
* Career Information & Recruitment: HB 2158; pending final action in the Senate but would need House concurrence on Senate amendment. As amended, the bill requires school entities conducting career fairs or other informational sessions on occupations to “make an effort” to provide information on a wide-range of careers by soliciting information from organizations such as the local chamber of business, area CTCs, institutions of higher education, local trade organizations, nonprofits or charitable organizations and the U.S. armed services. School entities must post on their websites a plan for providing career information and the organizations contacted. PDE, in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Industry, must develop informational materials for use by schools. PASA believes this legislation is unnecessary and will be cumbersome for districts to manage.
* Articulation Agreements: HB 2159; pending final action in the Senate. The bill would require all public schools — including school districts, intermediate units, area vocational-technical schools, charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools — as well as the Rural Regional College, state-related institutions, and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology to submit their articulation agreements to PDE to be included in the database of online articulation agreements. PASA supports this effort to provide information to parents and students as to where credits will be accepted when completing articulation courses.
* C/T Advisory Committees: HB 2205; pending final action in the Senate. The bill would create occupational advisory committees to serve Career and Technical Education programs in improving educational program alignment to modern workforce needs.
In National News…
A Growing Digital Divide – The digital divide is proving one of the most pervasive and stubborn challenges in U.S. education, and its effects can follow students from kindergarten through college. A new study confirms that, despite efforts to close the space, the gap between students who have access to devices and the internet and those who lack it compounds equity problems within U.S. schools. New research from ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning shows that underserved students with access to only one electronic device in their home may find it difficult to complete schoolwork. The homework gap, as it is frequently called, is particularly tough on low-income and rural students. Even when families have one device at home, that device is often a smartphone, which isn’t conducive to completing homework or doing research. Read the rest of the story: “Study Highlights Plight of Students with Only One Device at Home” (from eSchoolNews, 10/5/18).
On the Calendar…
Oct. 17-19 PASA/PSBA School Leadership Conference (Hershey)
Oct. 25 PA Summit for Assistant Superintendents (PASA office)
Oct. 29 Southeast Women’s Caucus Regional Dinner (King of Prussia)
Nov. 8 Women’s Caucus Board meeting
Nov. 8-9 School Safety & Security Exchange (Hershey)
(pdf for printing)