Senator DiSanto Announces Education Savings Account Legislation to Provide Opportunity for at-risk Students

 

Senator DiSanto explains why his legislation creating Education Savings Accounts is needed to help children in low-performing schools receive a quality education.

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Harrisburg—Senator John DiSanto joined parents, students, school officials and community leaders at the Joshua Learning Center today to announce his Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation, Senate Bill 2, for students attending public schools performing in the bottom 15 percent statewide.

ESAs are state-funded, flexible spending accounts that parents can use to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as private school tuition, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, testing and industry certifications. Eligible expenses for children with disabilities would also include occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies.

Parents will receive the statewide average funding per pupil, between $5,000 and $6,000, and students with special needs will be eligible for additional support based on their disability. Unused funds roll over from one year to the next. Unspent ESA dollars can even be used to pay for college.

“Too many Pennsylvania children are consigned to chronically underperforming schools that fail to prepare students for college or careers. Families without the means or good fortune face significantly limited educational opportunities,” said Senator DiSanto. “Waitlists for charter schools and tax credit scholarships are in the tens of thousands. ESAs significantly expand opportunities for students seeking a better education.”

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse offered his support: “ESAs are among the tools many parents are using throughout the nation to take their children out of failing schools and put them into learning environments with track records of success.”

“ESAs are a great addition to Pennsylvania’s existing tax credit programs,” added Otto Banks, executive director of the REACH Foundation. “ESAs can be used to eradicate poverty, build strong communities, and stabilize local economies by providing all children access to a high-quality education in safe, secure, and mentally-stimulating environments.”

“One of the most sacred duties a parent performs in raising their children is giving them an education that shapes their hearts and minds. Yet, too many families in our Commonwealth lack access to high quality schools that are effective partners in this important work and cannot afford alternatives,” said Aaron Anderson, Head of School at Logos Academy in York. “Educational Savings Accounts are a way of recognizing that parents are the best arbiters of what is best for their children.”

Earlier this year, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint public hearing on ESAs and received testimony from parents and education experts. Senator DiSanto said committee members were interested in the concept and expects the Senate to consider this legislation in the fall session.

 

 

Chuck Erdman, Chief of Staff
Office of Senator John DiSanto (PA-15)
Box 203015
352 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3015
717-787-6801

Rafferty, Dinniman Bill Requiring Civics Education Passes Senate Committee

HARRISBURG (June 30, 2017) – Legislation to ensure that Pennsylvania high school students receive strong civics and American history education unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee this week.

Senate Bill 723, jointly sponsored by state Senators John Rafferty (R-44) and Andy Dinniman, calls for high school students to take a test identical to the civics portion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ naturalization test given to those seeking to become American citizens.

The test will be included in the civics curriculum and instruction to survey a student’s knowledge of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of the government of the United States.

“It appears to me that complaints about our government are at an all-time high, and yet understanding of our government is at an all-time low.” Rafferty, said, “This year marks the 230 anniversary of the Constitution, and we can think of no better time to ensure that students have at least a basic knowledge and understanding of civics and government in order to prepare and encourage them to be responsibly engaged citizens. It is fundamental for a republic that the citizenry be informed and involved. A knowledge of civics is essential for a democracy to survive. Both Andy and I believe in the importance of this bill.”

“As we approach the 241st birthday of our nation, it is important to ensure that our young people know how our form of government came about and how it works,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “These are basic principles regarding our rights, freedoms, and history that every American should know – which is why we’re making the test identical to the one given to naturalized citizens.” 

Senate Bill 723 also calls for the results of the test to be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education annually to help inform and guide the overall state approach to social studies curriculum.
The bill now goes to the Senate floor for full consideration.

If passed, it is set to take effect beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.

 

CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-1398

Senate Approves Senator White’s School Safety Bill (VIDEO)

 

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The Senate today (June 28) approved Senate Bill 383, legislation introduced by Senator Don White that would give school boards the option of allowing licensed and trained staff to carry firearms on school property.

SB 383, which was approved by a 28-22 bipartisan vote, would allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if school districts establish proper guidelines and they are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and handling of firearms in a program approved by the State Police.

“Time is a critical element when a violent incident occurs in a school. Many schools in rural areas rely on State Police coverage, which means response times can vary. Senate Bill 383 gives trained school personnel the opportunity to serve as first responders,” said Senator White. “If it becomes law, I will sleep better at night knowing our school districts have more tools at their disposal to fight the unspeakable evil that causes a few in our society to seek to harm our children.” 

The bill was amended on Tuesday to require individuals to pass a psychological examination before they would be entrusted with possessing a firearm in school. The amendment also improved transparency by requiring school boards to notify the local hospital and students’ families when they give personnel permission to access firearms in school. It also requires school boards to file a comprehensive firearm safety plan with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the school.

“Taken together, these changes make this a stronger bill and I thank all of my colleagues for their input and support as this process has moved forward,” said Senator White.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“Since I first introduced this proposal, there has been much discussion about what the measure does and how it relates to current Pennsylvania law,” Senator White said. “To be clear, this bill is not about the Second Amendment.  It’s about permitting the 500 school districts of this Commonwealth to have greater choices when it comes to protecting our most precious resource – our children.”

Senator White said the measure was proposed to him by Mark Zilinskas, a mathematics teacher with the Indiana Area School District, following a stabbing in the nearby Franklin Regional School District in April 2014.

Contact:          Joe Pittman     jpittman@pasen.gov

Alternative Solutions to our Existing School Property Tax System

Senate Majority Policy

PUBLIC FORUM 

Alternative Solutions to our Existing School Property Tax System 

June 22, 2017 | 6:30 p.m. 

Pocono Mountain East High School Auditorium
231 Pocono Mountain School Road
Swiftwater, PA 18370

 

 

6:30 p.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Senator David G. Argall, Chairman, Senate Majority Policy Committee
Senator Mario Scavello
Senator Mike Folmer                        

6:35 p.m.

Summary of School Tax Reform Proposals in General Assembly

Jon Hopcraft, Executive Director, Senate Majority Policy Committee

6:40 p.m.

Presentation on Senate Bill 76

Ron Boltz, PA Coalition of Taxpayer Associations 

7:25 p.m.

Roundtable Discussion on Alternative Solutions to School Property Tax System

All attending Senators and Representatives
David Baldinger, PA Coalition of Taxpayer Associations
Ron Boltz, PA Coalition of Taxpayer Associations
Rita Dallago, Executive Director, PA Residential Owners Association
Alex Halper, Director, Government Affairs, PA Chamber of Business & Industry
Jack Muehlhan, Broker, Jack Muehlhan Real Estate

Member & Past President of Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors
Jim Rodkey, PA Coalition of Taxpayer Associations
Darrin Youker, State Legislative Affairs Director, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau

8:15 p.m.

Public Comment/Questions

9:00 p.m.

Adjourn

 

Senate Approves Stefano Bill to Increase School Hiring Transparency

 

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Harrisburg — Legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) to increase transparency in the process of hiring of school officials and ensure that taxpayers have access to employment contract information was approved by the Senate today.

Senate Bill 592 would require school boards to publicly disclose employment information before hiring a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent or principal.

“The cost of education continues to go up, putting pressure on taxpayers who have to foot the bill,” said Stefano. “It is unacceptable that these major expenditures and hiring decisions could be made in the dark.”

Under Stefano’s legislation, when a school board extends an offer of employment to a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent, associate superintendent, or any principal, it must first post the terms of employment on the school district’s public website at least two weeks prior to it being approved.

The posting must provide the details of the final offer, including salary and the length of the employment contract.

“These are key positions with huge salaries, and citizens deserve the opportunity to examine the contracts and provide feedback to elected school board members,” Stefano said. “Passage of Senate Bill 592 will shine the light on these actions, which can only lead to better hires and more responsible spending.”

Contact: Ben Wren bwren@pasen.gov (717) 787-7175

Graduation Requirements as Tools for Evaluation and Accountability

Senate Education Committee

Graduation Requirements as Tools for Evaluation and Accountability

Monday, June 5, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

 

9:00   AM

Opening Comments 

9:05   AM

National Council on Teacher Quality
Elizabeth Ross, Managing Director of State Policy

9:35 AM

Superintendents
Dr. Mike Leichliter, Superintendent of Penn Manor SD

9:55 AM

Teachers
Rich Askey, Treasurer for Pennsylvania State Education Association and former Elementary Music Teacher at Harrisburg City SD

10:15 AM

Adjournment

 

 

Keystone Exams and the Use of Graduation Requirements

Senate Education Committee

Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Business and Public Management Center at West Chester University
50 Sharpless Street
West Chester, PA 19382

 

12:30 PM        Opening Comments

12:35 PM        College Board – Combined Testimony
John Fallon, Executive Director of System Partnerships and Field Support
Stephen Zori, Executive Director of K-12 Education
Michael O’Sullivan, Senior Director for Government Relations

1:15   PM        Panel of Parents
Dawn Sweeney, Parent from Owen J. Roberts School District
Tonya Bah, Special Education Parent Advocate
Quibila Divine, Advocate at Parent Power 

1:35   PM        Panel of Students
Dr. Ashely Wilson-Pless
Monica Reyes Pizano
Rosa Quintana

1:55   PM        Panel of Administrators
Dr. Jim Scanlon, Superintendent at West Chester Area SD
Dr. Alan Fegley, Superintendent at Phoenixville Area SD
Mary Curley, Communications Director at Chester County IU
Kirk Williard, Executive Director at Technical College High School

2:20   PM        Adjournment

Written Testimony:
The SAT Suite of Assessments

 

Stefano Bill To Increase School Hiring Transparency Approved by Senate Appropriations Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee today passed and sent to the full Senate legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) that would provide for greater transparency in the process of hiring of school officials and ensure that taxpayers have access to employment contract information. The vote was 25-1 in favor of the legislation.

Senate Bill 592 would require school boards to publicly disclose employment information before hiring a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent or principal.

“The failure to notify or inform the public cannot and should not be tolerated,” Stefano said.  “Taxpayers should have information on employment contracts and decisions – they shouldn’t be railroaded through and approved in secrecy.”

Under Stefano’s legislation, when a school board extends an offer of employment to a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent, associate superintendent, or any principal, it must first post the terms of employment on the school district’s public website at least two weeks prior to it being approved.

The posting must provide the details of the final offer, including salary and the length of the employment contract.

“This legislation will give taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees and provide their feedback, concerns or support to their elected officials,” Stefano said “In a time of tight budgets, and taxpayer concern over rising property taxes, it’s imperative that the hiring process be as open as possible.”

CONTACT: Ben Wren (717) 787-7175

Empowering Parents and Supporting Students to Succeed through Education Savings Accounts

Joint Hearing

Senate Education Committee
AND
House Education Committee

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 9:00 am

NOB Hearing Room #1

 

Empowering Parents and Supporting Students to Succeed through Education Savings Accounts

9:00 AM        Opening Comments

9:05 AM        National Conference of State Legislatures

                        Josh Cunningham, Education Program Manager
                        Additional Testimony

9:35 AM        Foundation for Excellence in Education

                        McKenzie Snow, Policy Director for Education Choice

10:05 AM      Panel of Parents

                        Rosie Mann (Special Needs Students)
                        Additional Testimony, Cost Comparison

                        Robert and Shannon Lawson (Low-Performing Schools)

10:35 AM      Adjournment

Additional Testimony, Philip Puleo, CSAGH Superintendent

Additional Testimony, Jerry Oleksiak, President, PSEA

Current practices and issues in pupil transportation

Senate Education Subcommittee on Support Services & Transportation

Monday, May 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm

NOB Hearing Room #1

 

1:00 PM          Opening Comments

1:05 PM          Pennsylvania Department of Education
Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education

1:25 PM           Pennsylvania School Bus Association
Fred Bennett, Fishing Creek Transportation – Combined Testimony
Richard Wolfington, Wolfington Body Company – Combined Testimony             

1:45 PM          Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO)
Dr. Wayne McCullough, Director of Leadership and Development – Combined Testimony
Jennifer Grove, Transportation Director at Warwick School District – Combined Testimony

2:05 PM          Pennsylvania School Boards Association
Jo Anne Yarnall, Transportation Manager at West Chester Area SD   

2:25 PM          Adjournment