PRINTER'S NO.  2070

  

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA

  

SENATE BILL

 

No.

1405

Session of

2010

  

  

INTRODUCED BY WILLIAMS, GREENLEAF, D. WHITE AND FOLMER, JUNE 15, 2010

  

  

REFERRED TO EDUCATION, JUNE 15, 2010  

  

  

  

AN ACT

  

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Amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), entitled "An

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act relating to the public school system, including certain

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provisions applicable as well to private and parochial

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schools; amending, revising, consolidating and changing the

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laws relating thereto," providing for the Opportunity

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Scholarship Act.

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The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

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hereby enacts as follows:

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Section 1.  The act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known

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as the Public School Code of 1949, is amended by adding an

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article to read:

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ARTICLE XXV-B

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OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP ACT

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Section 2501-B.  Scope of article.

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This article deals with education opportunities for low-

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income children residing in school districts with at least one

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chronically failing school.

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Section 2502-B.  Definitions.

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The following words and phrases when used in this article

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shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the

 


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context clearly indicates otherwise:

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"Chronically failing school."  A school that fits one of the

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following categories:

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(1)  Out of all the students a school administered a

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State assessment test to, more than 40% of students scored in

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the basic or below basic range in both reading and writing

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and mathematics subject areas in the two prior school years.

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The designation shall continue until the school's percentage

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of students in the basic or below basic range for both

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reading and writing and mathematics meets or exceeds the

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Statewide percentage.

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(2)  Out of all the students a school administered a

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State assessment test to, more than 65% of students scored in

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the basic or below basic range in either reading and writing

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and mathematics subject areas in the two prior school years.

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The designation shall continue until the school's percentage

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of students in the basic or below basic range for both

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reading and writing and mathematics meets or exceeds the

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Statewide percentage.

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"Department."  The Department of Education of the

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Commonwealth.

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"Eligible school."  A nonpublic school located in this

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Commonwealth and offering a program of instruction for

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kindergarten through 12th grade, or a combination of grades that

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meets the following criteria:

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(1)  Is open to all students who are eligible to

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participate in the Opportunity Scholarship Program on a

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space-available basis.

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(2)  Does not discriminate in its admission policies or

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practices for scholarship applicants enrolled in a public

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school on the date of the scholarship application on the

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basis of measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a

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handicapped person, proficiency in the English language or

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any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school

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district.

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(3)  Is in full compliance with all Federal, State and

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local laws.

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"Federal poverty level."  The official Federal poverty level

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based on family size, established and adjusted under section

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673(2) of Subtitle B of the Community Services Block Grant Act

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(Public Law 97-35, 95 Stat. 511).

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"Household income."  Income as defined for the purposes of

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determining eligibility for a free or reduced-price lunch under

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the National School Lunch Program in 42 U.S.C. 1758.

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"Household income ratio."  A percentage determined on a

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sliding scale with 100% being applicable to household incomes

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that are equal to or less than the Federal poverty level and 50%

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being applicable to household incomes that are equal to 2.5

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times the Federal poverty level.

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"Low-income child."  A child from a household with an income

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that does not exceed 2.5 times the Federal poverty level for the

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school year preceding the school year for which an Opportunity

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Scholarship is to be distributed.

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Section 2503-B.  Establishment.

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Beginning in the first school year following the effective

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date of this article, the department shall establish a

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scholarship program to provide Opportunity Scholarships to help

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low-income children who reside in a district with at least one

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school considered a chronically failing school. The scholarship

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shall pay tuition to an eligible school for the low-income child

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to attend the eligible school.

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Section 2504-B.  Amount of scholarship.

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(a)    General.--The amount of an Opportunity Scholarship shall

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equal the sum of 100% of the Commonwealth's annual per-pupil

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school aid funding amount plus 50% of the local municipality's

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annual per-pupil school aid funding amount, in each case, with

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respect to the school district in which the child resides. Such

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amount shall then be multiplied by the child's household income

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ratio.

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(b)  Reduction.--With respect to any low-income student who

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is enrolled in a nonpublic school on the effective date of this

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article, the amount of the scholarship in subsection (a) shall

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be reduced by 50%. Scholarships for low-income students enrolled

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in nonpublic schools on the effective date of this article shall

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be payable solely from the Educational Innovation Fund

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established in section 2507-B. The aggregate amount of

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scholarship funds payable from the Educational Innovation Fund

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for any one school year shall not exceed 50% of the fund's

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balance as of August 15th of the year in which such school year

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commences. In the event that there are insufficient funds in the

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Educational Innovation Fund in any year to pay 100% of the

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scholarship awards for low-income students who are enrolled in a

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nonpublic school on August 15 of the year that the scholarships

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are to be received, the scholarship amounts to those students

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will be paid pro rata to all eligible students who timely

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applied for a scholarship for such academic year.

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Section 2505-B.  Department's powers and duties.

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(a)    Duties.--The department shall: 

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(1)  Administer the Opportunity Scholarship application

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process.

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(2)  Review and verify the income and residence of a

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scholarship applicant.

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(3)  Compile an inventory of openings in eligible schools

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available for potential scholarship recipients.

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(4)  Monitor the enrollment of scholarship students in

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eligible schools and allocate scholarship funds to those

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schools.

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(5)  Prepare a report to be submitted to the Governor by

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December 1 of each year that includes at least the following

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information for the prior school year:

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(i)  The amount of scholarship funds awarded under

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the scholarship program.

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(ii)  The administrative costs of the scholarship

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program.

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(iii)  The amount of scholarship funds dispersed on

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behalf of scholarship recipients to eligible schools that

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are public schools and a listing of those eligible

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schools.

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(iv)  The amount of scholarship funds dispersed on

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behalf of recipients to eligible schools that are

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nonpublic schools and a listing of those eligible

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schools.

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(6)  Ensure that a child enrolled in an eligible school

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who received a scholarship under this article in the prior

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school year receives a scholarship in each school year of

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enrollment under the scholarship program, provided that the

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child remains eligible. If a child does not qualify as a low-

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income child, that child may continue to receive a partial

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scholarship until completing the eighth grade, provided that

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the child continues to meet all other eligibility

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requirements. The scholarship shall be reduced and the family

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shall contribute an amount to be set by the department based

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on the family's income.

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(b)  Report.--The department shall make the annual report

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available to the parents or guardians of scholarship recipients

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and to members of the public.

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(c)  Schools.--The department shall require that an eligible

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school which admits a child receiving an Opportunity

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Scholarship:

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(1)  In the event that more children apply for admission

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under the scholarship program than there are openings at an

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eligible school, determine through a lottery which children

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are selected for admission, except that preference for

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enrollment may be given to siblings of students who are

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enrolled in the eligible school. The lottery shall be

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conducted by each individual school.

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(2)  Not discriminate on any illegal basis. Nothing shall

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prohibit an eligible school from limiting admission to a

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particular grade level or to areas of concentration of the

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eligible school, such as mathematics, science or the arts.

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Section 2506-B.  Reduction in amount.

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Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary:

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(1)  For each Opportunity Scholarship recipient who was

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enrolled in a public school of the district at the time that

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the student first received a scholarship under this article,

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the amount of Commonwealth school aid paid by the department

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to the State school district shall be reduced by an amount

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equal to the district's total aid received per student.

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(2)  For each scholarship recipient who was enrolled in a

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public school of the district at the time that the student

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first received a scholarship under this article, the amount

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of local school aid paid to the district shall be reduced by

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50% and the amount of such reduction shall be paid to the

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Commonwealth and used to fund scholarship programs and

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grants.

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Section 2507-B.  Educational Innovation Fund and Educational

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Innovation Program.

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(a)    Establishment.--There is established in the department a

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fund entitled the Educational Innovation Fund. The fund shall be

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credited with the amount of any per-pupil Commonwealth or local

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school aid reduction made pursuant to section 2506-B that is in

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excess of the applicable scholarship awarded to a recipient who

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was enrolled in a public school of the district at the time that

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the student first received a scholarship. All interest or other

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income or earnings derived from the investment or reinvestment

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of moneys in the fund shall be credited to the fund.

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(b)    Program.--The department shall establish an Educational

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Innovation Program. This program shall award competitive grants

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to chronically failing schools to finance the adoption of

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innovative educational practices with the objective of improving

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student performance. The department shall have the exclusive

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authority to determine all aspects of the competitive grants.

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The grants shall be funded by moneys on deposit in the

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Educational Innovation Fund. The department shall develop an

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application process to select the chronically failing schools

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which will receive an innovation grant. The application shall be

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prepared and submitted by the superintendent of the district in

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which the chronically failing school is located. The application

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shall include at least the following information:

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(1)  A description of the innovative programs or

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practices which would be implemented in the chronically

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failing schools.

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(2)  A budget proposal for the use of any grant award.

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(3)  A list of program objectives and a description of

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how the district will assess the program's implementation and

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outcomes.

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(4)  A superintendent may submit a grant application that

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does not include all chronically failing schools in the

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district.

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Section 2.  This act shall take effect immediately.

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