Erie Public Schools and the Implementation of Financial Watch & Recovery System

Senate Education Committee

Friday, May 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Central Tech High School
3325 Cherry Street
Erie, PA 16508


12:00 PM        Opening Comments

12:05 PM        Pennsylvania Department of Education
Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education

12:45 PM        Erie City School District
Jay Badams, Superintendent
Brian Polito, Chief Financial Officer
Frank Petrungar, Jr., School Board President

1:30   PM        Panel of Community Business Leaders
Jim Ohrn, VP and Chief Financial Officer for Custom Engineering Co.
Charles Hagerty, Chief Development Officer for Hamot Health Foundation

1:45   PM        Panel of School Districts in Erie County
Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of General McLane School District
William Hall, Superintendent of Millcreek Township School District
Shane Murray, Superintendent of Iroquois School District 
    Shane Murray Fast Facts

2:15   PM        Adjournment

Written Testimony
The Pennsylvania Economy League Central PA, LLC
Performance Audit, The School District of the City of Erie



WHAT:          The PA Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee will hold its next public hearing to continue discussion and receive testimony related to the state’s reimbursement program for school districts for costs associated with construction and reconstruction and lease of public school buildings (commonly known as PlanCon). The Committee was established pursuant to Act 25 of 2016, to review and make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.

WHEN:          Thursday, May 4, 2017 at Noon 

WHO:             PlanCon Committee, co-chaired by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. This hearing will be held in the district of Chairman Browne and PlanCon committee member Representative Ryan Mackenzie.

Tentatively scheduled to testify include:

  • Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO)
  • Richard T. Sniscak, Superintendent of Schools, Parkland School District
  • Bob Bruchak, Business Administrator, Salisbury Township School District
  • Mike Kelly, AIA, KCBA Architects
  • Dennis Pierce, President, The Farfield Company
  • Arif Fazil, President, D’Huy Engineering 

WHERE:       East Penn School District

Administration Building

800 Pine Street

Emmaus, PA 18049]

Note: We invite the media to attend and cover this event.


Contacts:        Matt Moyer (Senator Browne) – 717-787-1349 (Office), 610-349-2879 (Cell)

Charles Lardner (Rep. Saylor) – 717-260-6443

Senate Panel Endorses Stefano Bill To Increase Transparency in School Hiring Decisions

The Senate Education Committee today overwhelmingly passed 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.

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

Stefano introduced the bill following an audit by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale last year of Connellsville School District which uncovered questionable practices and a lack of public input in the hiring of the current superintendent.  The school board assured state auditors that it was conducting a nationwide search to fill the position, but days later filled the position at a meeting which was not publicly advertised.  A last minute-addition was made to the agenda to hire the superintendent without public notice.

“This outrageous 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.”

Senate Bill 592 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT: Ben Wren (717) 787-7175

Senate approves Argall’s resolution requiring independent study of state-owned universities

HARRISBURG – The Senate of Pennsylvania approved a resolution sponsored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that requires an independent study of the future of the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to be completed by the end of the year.

Senate Resolution 34 requires the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the future and sustainability of the 14 state-owned universities across the state. The universities include Bloomsburg University, California University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney University, Clarion University, East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slippery Rock University and West Chester University.

“When I saw the enrollment trends of PASSHE and compared those to other areas of higher education funded by state tax dollars, I was gobsmacked,” Argall said. “This study will help us understand, from an unbiased perspective, why enrollment at certain universities is declining, what the urgent needs are and how we best move forward to ensure the students of Pennsylvania can receive a quality and affordable degree.”

Between Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, enrollment is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next four years. Community colleges and Thaddeus Stevens College are also expected to see significant growth over the next four years. Over the same period, PASSHE’s growth is not expected to reach 1 percent.

“We have a real concern for many of these schools and this independent review will help us understand why these trends are occurring and how the problem can be remedied,” Argall said.

The LBFC, a bipartisan research agency, has until December 31, 2017 to report back to the General Assembly on its findings.

Final Pieces of Budget Help Schools Hire Substitute Teachers, Promote School Partnerships

HARRISBURG (July 13, 2016) A comprehensive education bill passed the Senate today as one of the final pieces of the 2016-2017 budget, and included initiatives inspired by two Lancaster-area senators to alleviate the substitute teacher shortage and incentivize the sharing of superintendents and other administrative services.

House Bill 1606, which passed by a vote of 47 to 3 earlier this afternoon, included the provisions of Sen. Lloyd Smucker’s (R-Lancaster) Senate Bill 1312, to allow prospective teachers now studying in Pennsylvania’s college and universities to substitute teach for a limited number of days.  The measure is designed to help the many schools who have struggled to find substitute teachers, sometimes opting for outsourcing, and often losing valuable instructional time by leaving classrooms uncovered.

Also included in today’s comprehensive School Code bill are the provisions of Senate Bill 1332, a bill introduced by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) to provide grants for administrative partnerships, such as the one pioneered by two Lancaster-area school districts.

“This bill will help school districts and taxpayers by encouraging shared services, easing teacher shortages and giving prospective teachers valuable experience in the classroom,” Smucker said.

The legislation approved today also expands the popular Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, awarding businesses tax credits for supporting scholarships to children, and increasing the amount from $100 million to $125 million. The bill also sets aside the first $10 million in tax credits for pre-kindergarten organizations and requires the state to give notice of application approvals to businesses within 30 days.

While Sen. Smucker voted for House Bill 1606 and its school improvements, he expressed reservations about accompanying legislation to raise revenues for the $31.6 billion budget.  He opposed the revenue-raising provisions in House Bill 1198, expressing concerns about the impact of the higher cigarette tax on the agricultural-rich Lancaster area and the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The one provision he applauded in the conference report to House Bill 1198 makes necessary changes to the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) program, which he had worked to include for the City of Lancaster.

“It is good to see the uncertainty of last year’s budget impasse avoided, a spirit of bipartisanship prevail, and the enactment of a spending blueprint that funds core services and prioritizes education,” Smucker said.  “Limiting the size and cost of government continues to be a high priority for me.”

CONTACT:     Diane McNaughton, (717) 787-6535


Smucker Bill to Ease the Substitute Teacher Shortage Passes the Senate


HARRISBURG (June 30, 2016) A bill authored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) to increase the pool of substitute teachers across the state passed the Senate today.

“Many school districts are struggling with a growing shortage of substitute educators,” Smucker said.  “This bill will help to fill that vacuum and also offer an added benefit:  it will give college students who want to be teachers the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the classroom.”

Smucker said the innovative idea was inspired by Lancaster-area educators and other testifiers at a joint Senate and House Education Committee hearing, held last October.

The hearing highlighted a growing scarcity of substitute teachers in the Commonwealth, and more broadly, a growing shortage of teachers nationwide, said Smucker, who is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“Some school districts have been reporting ‘fill’ rates of only 70 percent on any given day, and some areas have opted to outsource their substitutes or have been left with no choice but to request frequent emergency permits for day-to-day substitutes,” Smucker said.   “This interrupts the learning process and cuts into precious instructional time.”

“The pool of future teachers now studying in our colleges and universities are a valuable resource that can be part of the solution,” Smucker said.  “These are advanced students who care about children and the quality of education.   Allowing aspiring teachers to serve as substitute teachers will give them valuable experience and early exposure to the classroom environment, while also providing a readily available, cost-effective and high-quality pool of teachers for school districts.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 1312 allows college students who have completed 60 credit hours and who are enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a four-year college in Pennsylvania to substitute for a limited number of days in any school district in the Commonwealth.

“This is an important initiative to help alleviate the substitute teacher crisis,” Smucker said.     “When a teacher is absent and no one is there to lead the classroom and carry out the lesson plans, learning suffers. We want to maximize instructional time by offering college students who are dedicated to education.”

The bill must now receive the support of the House before it becomes law.

“The teachers of tomorrow can help ease the substitute teacher crisis today,” Smucker said.

CONTACT:     Diane McNaughton, (717) 787-6535

Governor Signs Vogel’s Cost-saving Legislation for Schools into Law

Governor Wolf today (June 23) signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Elder Vogel that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs.

Senate Bill 1077, which was signed into law as Act 56 of 2016, eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, the new law gives schools the option to provide notice of the policy through student handbooks as well as on the school’s website.

“I want to thank my colleagues for moving this cost-saving measure through the legislative process and the Governor for signing it into law. There simply is no need to require schools to send out a separate mailing each year for this one specific policy,” Senator Vogel said. “Eliminating that burdensome requirement when the information is readily available through other sources will save taxpayer dollars.”

Senator Vogel comments on the new law.

Vogel’s Cost-saving Legislation for Schools Sent to Governor

Legislation introduced by Senator Elder Vogel that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday (June 14) and is headed to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 1077, which was approved by a 193-2 vote in the House of Representatives, eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.

“Student handbooks outlining rules and procedures are already posted on each school’s publically accessible website. Parents have to acknowledge they have read and understand the rules and procedures by an electronic signature,” Senator Vogel said. “There is no need to require a separate, physical mailing each year for this one specific policy. This will save taxpayer dollars.”


CONTACT:               Anthony Tammaro   


Scavello: Constitutional Amendment Targets Residential School Property Taxes via Homestead Exclusion

Harrisburg — Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) said Senate passage of a proposed Constitutional amendment marks a key step in eliminating residential school property taxes through homestead exclusion authority.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Constitution allows local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 50 percent of the median assessed value of homestead property within the taxing district. House Bill 147 would increase the allowable exclusion to 100 percent. If adopted, it would allow for the elimination of residential school property taxes via the homestead exclusion.

“Passage of House Bill 147 takes the state constitution’s existing property tax relief provision and builds on it to allow for the complete elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion. This legislation is an added tool to allow school property tax elimination to be directed at residential properties and protect individuals in danger of losing their homes,” said Scavello.

“I will continue to fight and remain committed to the overall goal of full property tax elimination with passage of Senate Bill 76. However, after two unsuccessful votes, in the case that Senate Bill 76 does not continue to gain increased support we need to have other alternatives that provide relief to owner occupied residential properties”, Scavello said.

House Bill 147 was approved by the House of Representatives last year. As a Constitutional amendment, it must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters to be enacted.

“We can all agree that any tax that would take a person’s home after working their entire life to pay for it is wrong and immoral. No individual should have to choose between paying for prescription medications, taking care of their health and paying for property taxes,” said Scavello. “People should be able to own their property and enactment of this constitutional amendment will protect and safeguard that constitutional right.”

You can follow Senator Scavello on Twitter and Facebook.

CONTACT: Christine Zubeck (717) 787-6123




Sen. Smucker Applauds New School Funding Formula as Foundation for Fairness

HARRISBURG (June 3, 2016) – Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) celebrated today’s bill-signing for a new school funding formula as a “victory for fairness and the future funding of our schools.”

“This is the fulfillment of one of my main legislative priorities and one that advances a bipartisan approach to the challenges of dividing education dollars among 500 school districts each year,” Smucker said.

“Developing a fair funding formula was my number-one legislative priority when I became Chairman of the Senate Education Committee last year, and it is incredibly gratifying to witness the enactment of a unanimously-approved solution that is desperately needed and that will be of great benefit to taxpayers, educators and schoolchildren for years to come.”

Smucker, in particular, saluted the leadership of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, and Rep. Mike Vereb, who led the Basic Education Funding Commission, (BEFC) a bipartisan, bicameral commission charged with developing the data-driven funding formula.  The BEFC, on which Sen. Smucker served, held 15 hearings across the state to draw upon the best and brightest minds and identify the main cost-drivers of educational expenses.

Smucker introduced Senate Bill 910, which codified the recommendations, last June. The language of Senate Bill 910 was ultimately included in House Bill 1552, signed by Gov. Tom Wolf today.

“This new formula, at its heart, is about taking the mystery and chance out of school funding, and matching dollars to needs. It sets objective, common-sense calculations for slicing up the education pie, based upon common-sense principles, such as sending more money to districts with more children, and sending added dollars for children with more complex needs.”

“This formula was 30 years in the making and takes into account the unique needs of every school district and every student to provide a methodology upon which every school district and taxpayer can rely,” Smucker said.

Pennsylvania had been one of only three states without an objective formula for dividing dollars.

“This bill sets a fair base for funding going forward, instead of locking in historical inequities,” Smucker added.

Studies reveal that Pennsylvania has historically had the greatest funding disparities among school districts compared to all 50 states, with some districts spending thousands of dollars more per child than others.

“Today’s enactment will go a long way in healing long-standing inequities in the way we fund our schools,” Smucker said.

“The state has given money out based on population figures from 30 years ago, even though some districts have gained population while others have lost,” Smucker said.

“The disparities in per-pupil spending underscore the reason why we need an objective, data-driven formula, based on the quantifiable factors that drive the cost of education,” he added.

“We saw from the beginning the plight of school districts across Lancaster and the Commonwealth, and recognized the need for a system based on evidence and equity,” Smucker said. “This is a major mission accomplished.”

CONTACT:  Diane McNaughton
(717) 787-6535