The Senate voted 46-1 for legislation that would amend the Public School Code to establish a new funding formula for special education funding and an accountability system to ensure effective investment of resources.
Special education funding is currently distributed based on an estimate that the average daily enrollment of each district includes 16 percent of special education students.
Senate Bill 1115 would establish a Legislative Commission on Special Education Funding that would develop a formula for distributing any increases in special education funding over the level of funding for the 2010-11 school year. Any formula developed by the commission would include three cost categories for students receiving special education services (disabilities requiring the least intensive services would be placed in “category 1” and disabilities requiring the most intensive services would be placed in “category 3”) ; a student count for each school district, averaged for the three most recent school years, for each category of disability; a weighting factor for each category of disability; adjustments for market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rates, and geographic price differences; a distribution ratio; and a calculation of the special education funding that would be allocated to each school district under the formula developed by the commission.
The bill would also mandate that the commission receive input and gather information on charter and cyber school funding reimbursements related to special education students and to draft proposed regulations and legislation based on its findings.
The bill would also requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to set aside 1 percent of the total state special education appropriation in each year, which would be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary of Education for extraordinary special education program expenses.
The bill would also create a competitive grant program for school districts or charter schools that meet certain criteria with respect to providing instruction to special education students in a regular classroom, meeting state reading and math standards for special education students, and implementing programs or services that serve as a model of excellence for meeting high standards for inclusion and student achievement through quality special education.
Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the measure would require PDE to set aside 1 percent of the state special education appropriation above the level of funding for the 2010-11 school year and distribute the funds based upon the number of students in each school district who had category 3 disabilities in the prior school year.
The bill would also require PDE to determine the form and manner in which school districts submit a special education plan, as well as revisions, updates and amendments.
Lastly, the bill would require the commission to study whether the manner in which the state and regional administration of special education programs and services could be restructured to reduce the costs of administering such programs and services by at least 10 percent and to report its findings and recommended legislation, including options to redirect administrative cost savings to school districts, to the governor and the General Assembly.
The bill is in the House Education Committee.
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By a vote of 29-19, the Senate passed a bill that will substantially change the state’s Unemployment Compensation system to address the $3.9 billion Pennsylvania owes the federal government for loans made during the depths of the recession.
Along with changes implemented in Act 6 of 2011, Senate Bill 1310 ensures an estimated $500 million in cuts to benefits and eligibility while Pennsylvania’s taxable wage base, on which businesses pay unemployment taxes, remains among the nation’s lowest.
Many Democrats criticized the proposal for putting the brunt of the funding burden on the backs of workers. The House concurred in Senate amendments to the bill and it was signed into law as Act 60 of 2012.
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By a 47-1 vote, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1321, which would clarify what municipalities could pay unions while considered financially distressed under Act 47.
This bill is in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that said that Act 47 recovery plans did not apply to determining arbitration awards given under Act 111 for police and fire unions, despite the fact the financially distressed city would have no ability to pay the full award. The Supreme Court ruled that arbitration awards were outside the scope of Act 47 limitations.
The bill also contains specifications on how local governments under Act 47 can bargain with union workers, and when arbitration agreements can exceed limitations. That process would require an arbitration board to provide facts and evidence to deviate from the recovery plan.
Twenty-one communities are currently listed under Act 47.
The bill is now in the House.
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The Senate unanimously passed legislation that would continue the provisions of the Education Empowerment Act related to Commonwealth Partnership School Districts.
Senate Bill 1410 would remove the June 30 expiration date of a portion Public School Code of 1949 that applies to the Pittsburgh School District so it can continue its designation as a Commonwealth Partnership School District, which provides needed flexibility under the Public School Code.
By removing the expiration date, the school district, as a Commonwealth Partnership School District, would be able to continue to use various management tools, including the ability to dispose of real estate more efficiently, the ability to demote under-performing administrators without the necessity of a demotion hearing, and the ability to renegotiate contracts, other than collective bargaining contracts, for improving operations.
The bill is now in the House Education Committee.
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By a vote of 27-12, the Senate passed legislation that opened Allegheny County for competition among transportation agencies. Previous law gave the Port Authority of Allegheny County the exclusive right to provide public transit services in the region.
House Bill 10 allows private or public transportation companies to compete with, or cooperate with the Port Authority within its operating area. The bill was signed into law as Act 61 of 2012.
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The Senate voted unanimously to give the state Insurance Department more power to oversee, regulate and assess the “enterprise risk” within insurance holding companies.
Senate Bill 1464 enables the department to assess the enterprise risk within a holding company system and its impact upon the insurers within that group. The legislation is intended to enhance communication between regulators; facilitate supervision of multi-jurisdictional insurance groups; provide better access to collect information; and provide for better enforcement measures.
The bill was unanimously passed by the House and awaits the governor’s signature.
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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 155, which would add an additional exception to load securing requirements.
This bill would add an exception for the falling, blowing, or unintentional dropping of loose chopped fragments or strands of plant materials from vehicles that haul harvested forage crops from fields to storage facilities. This bill was introduced to assist the farming community.
Current law requires that a vehicle driven or moved upon any highway be constructed or loaded to prevent any of the load from dropping, sifting, or otherwise escaping.
The bill is now in the House.
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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1237, which reduced the deployment requirement for a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or Reserves to obtain a reduced cost hunting license.
Under the new law, a member of the National Guard or Reserves that has been deployed for 60 days within the last 24 months is eligible for a $1 hunting license. The prior deployment requirement was 180 days within 24 months.
The bill was signed into law as Act 64 of 2012.
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