Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legislation Aimed at Reducing Mandates for School Districts

Republicans and Democrats have put 18 new bills before the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, and Republican chair Jeff Piccola says they’ll be debated and voted on in the coming weeks. “We will allow the committee to sort through these various cost-drivers and suggestions for savings designed to provide more flexibility at the local level,” he said at a Tuesday Capitol press conference. “And we will allow the Democratic legislative process to work.”

One bill would eliminate requirements for districts on the state border to bus students to private schools in other states. Another suspends continuing education and professional development programs for two years. “I hate to paint with a broad brush – but many of my opponents paint with a broad brush – but so much so-called professional development is coming in at the beginning of the school year or the in-service days and listening to speakers or watching a movie,” said Piccola.

Democratic chair Andy Dinniman has questions about professional development programs, too.

"I’ve, like Senator Piccola, have visited a number of schools, both public and charter schools, where the professional development is part of the day. Certain teacher periods when the teachers come together – it might only be for 15 minutes – and they discuss the students that they jointly have, and figure out approaches."

Other measures give schools more flexibility in hiring nurses and superintendents, and change seniority rights for teachers.

Governor Corbett wants to cut more than a billion dollars in state education spending. Critics of his budget say that will lead to district-level property tax hikes, but Piccola argues these bills are one way to negate that impact.

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