Education Issues in Pennsylvania

Students

Issues before the Legislature:

This page highlights several of the most current topics in Harrisburg dealing with Education. It will update as bills are passed or passed by and other topics are taken up as the next potential change to our system of Education.

Charter Schools

Charter Schools have become an increasingly large part of our public school system in Pennsylvania. They are operated under contract or charter with the School District and can provide flexibility and focus that may be difficult to achieve with traditional public schools. That freedom has also been a source of concern as some Charters underperform the public counterparts they are trying to improve upon. This concern is particularly high for Cyber-Charter Schools who lack the brick and mortar buildings of a traditional school and operate entirely online. There are two major pieces of legislation pending before the legislature in this area:

  • Senate Bill 904 – Major overhaul of Charter and Cyber Charter law introduced by the Chairman of the Education Committee
  • House Bill 1657 – Charter reform bill introduced by the House Minority Chairman of the Education Committee

Links for more information:

Teacher Evaluations

Teacher Evaluations is a sometimes controversial proposal to tie public school teacher’s employment and advancement to the progress and success of their students. There are a variety of measures that can go into such an evaluation including student test scores, administrator observations, school wide performance and continuing training. The recently passed legislation is below:

  • Act 82 of 2012 – House Bill 1901 was the omnibus Education legislation for 2012 and contained significant teacher evaluation provisions

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Educational Improvement Tax Credit(EITC)

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit(EITC) is a program through the Department of Community and Economic Development that allows businesses to donate money to private schools and to receive tax breaks from the Commonwealth in exchange. The money donated goes to scholarships to help low income students attend those private and parochial schools that participate in the program. There is a limit to the overall amount of the program as well as individual limits for participating businesses. Legislation was recently enacted that expanded the program. Details can be found below:

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Financially Distressed Schools

A disturbing number of school districts in the Commonwealth are close to or unable to meet their financial obligations. These Financially Distressed Schools risk defaulting on their debts or worse, closing their doors. Legislation is being considered to create a framework under which the state can help by giving expertise and money to these districts. We should also consider the funding choices that have placed school districts in this bind such as the abandonment of the funding formula and an overall lack of money for public schools in the state budget. The current legislative proposal is below:

  • Senate Bill 1450 – Proposal by the Chair of the Education Committee for dealing with financially distressed schools.

Links for more information:

Vouchers/School Choice

Vouchers and School Choice are two politically charged terms for proposals to allow public school students to attend private or parochial schools. The most controversial aspect of these proposals is that most use state tax money to pay the private tuition, money that would have gone to the public school had the child stayed in public school. There have been several proposals of this type in Harrisburg recently and one is now law.

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Last updated: September 20, 2012 at 20:39 pm