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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 20, 2015 03:32 PM
From: Senator Andrew E. Dinniman
To: All Senate members
Subject: Omnibus School Code
In the near future I will be introducing legislation on behalf of the Governor that is included in the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.

Pennsylvania’s future depends on providing every child with a world-class education and the skills to succeed in the global economy of the twenty-first century. In order to rebuild the middle class and re-establish Pennsylvania as an economic leader, the quality of education for all of the Commonwealth’s children can no longer be dictated by the ZIP code where they live.

Pennsylvania has seen what happens when the State fails to fulfill this fundamental responsibility. According to surveys conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, 93 percent of Pennsylvania school districts reported staff reductions in the last five years—totaling 23,000 education jobs lost through 2012 alone—and nearly three-quarters of school districts cut academic programs. As a result of State budget cuts, 91 percent of school districts have raised taxes. Meanwhile, student achievement levels have fallen.

The 2015-16 Budget sets Pennsylvania on a path to fully meet the State’s responsibility for education funding while requiring schools to demonstrate that students are developing the skill set needed for success in the workforce and that State funds are used appropriately.

Specifically, this legislation includes:
  • New accountability provisions to ensure the public’s return on investment and maximize the impact of new funding to increase student achievement. School districts that receive significant Basic Education Funding increases will be required to invest in their choice of evidence-based programs, in addition to restoring other cuts to programs and personnel that school districts were forced to make as a result of prior budget cuts. These school districts will also be required to demonstrate the impact of these investments on quantifiable student performance goals.
  • A rational funding formula for cyber charter schools that addresses regular education tuition rates and special education tuition rates. The new regular education tuition of $5,950 is based on the highest-cost of several high-performing, comparable Intermediate Unit online education programs—and then further enhanced by 10 percent to reflect administrative and overhead costs that cyber charter schools could reasonably incur. This rate would be annually adjusted to reflect inflation. The special education tuition applies the formula recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission to cyber charter schools.
  • Additional charter school financial reforms. The 2015-16 Budget makes the pension “double dip” prohibition a permanent part of education law and requires an annual reconciliation whereby charter and cyber charter schools will refund money to their sending school districts if the charter school’s audited expenditures are less than its tuition revenue.

New education investments in the General Appropriations bill include:
  • $400 million increase in the Basic Education Subsidy. This increase—the largest in Pennsylvania history—will fully restore the Accountability Block Grant and Educational Assistance Program funds that were previously cut. In addition, as part of the Basic Education Subsidy, school districts will receive a reimbursement for approximately 10 percent of their mandatory charter school tuition payments. Additional resources will be provided to help close the funding gap based on Basic Education Subsidy cuts instituted since the 2010-11 school year.
  • $100 million increase in the Special Education Subsidy. This increase will continue Pennsylvania’s transition to the formula enacted in 2014, reflecting the work of the bipartisan legislative Special Education Funding Commission. This legislation incorporates that formula as a permanent component of the State’s education law, known as the Public School Code. It also provides increased funding to Intermediate Units on behalf of the special education services they provide.

I hope that you will join me by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB120