HARRISBURG (June 29, 2015) – Schools with the lowest academic performance will be given additional tools to help turn themselves around, under a bill sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) and passed by the Senate by a vote of 27 to 22 early today.
Noting that 90,000 students remain in chronically under-performing schools, which receive $1.3 billion in state funding annually despite their dismal results, Smucker said the state cannot pour millions of additional dollars into these schools without changing the underlying paradigm.
“If we want to have the best schools in the nation, we need to look at those schools that aren’t making the grade, to ensure that these students receive the opportunities they deserve. We cannot afford to let another year, another month, pass, while children are being denied a world-class education.”
Known as The Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act, Senate Bill 6 allow districts to plan and adopt turnaround models for school improvement or contract with outside educational providers to deliver services.
Schools that continue to remain in the lowest-performing tier for years could be transferred to a new statewide entity called the Achievement School District (ASD). The ASD will be led by an executive director who reports to a board comprised of appointees named by the Governor and leaders in the House and Senate. The ASD could manage the school directly or contract with other educational organizations to help close the achievement gap.
The bill also makes it easier to close low-performing charter schools, allowing the ASD to close the lowest-performing charters without a lengthy appeal process. The ASD would also be empowered to convert a building to a charter school or authorize new schools to serve families living in neighborhoods with schools in the bottom one percent.
Smucker cited national research on rescuing struggling schools and said, in all of these transformed schools, “the common ingredient is that they all demanded quality schools for every child.”
Five states, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Louisiana, have already created similar entities, and several more are considering legislation this session.
“Taxpayers are demanding accountability for the dollars spent in our schools, and parents and children trapped in consistently troubled schools are demanding relief,” Smucker stated. “Ultimately, it is hoped that this measure will be a catalyst for improvement in every school in Pennsylvania.”
CONTACT: Diane McNaughton
Phone: (717) 787-6535