Education Funding and Transparency Focus of PA House Agenda This Week
1/16/2014
Educating Pennsylvania’s children has been one of the top priorities of the House Republican Caucus since gaining the majority last session, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today. In fact, the last three budgets clearly make education spending the top priority in Pennsylvania. Even with the loss of federal stimulus money, Pennsylvania, in the current budget, dedicates a record $10 billion in state funds to basic education.

As school districts continue to cope with the recession, the House passed legislation to help school districts save almost $150 million over two years. House Bill 618, which passed the House of Representatives in September by a bipartisan vote of 133-62, awaits consideration in the Senate.  

House Bill 618 amends the state Public School Code to extensively revise and add charter school provisions. The bill contains major reforms dealing with funding, ethics, accountability, governance and academic quality of cyber charter and charter schools.

“House Bill 618 brings fair and responsible changes to charter and cyber-charter school funding and strengthens provisions regulating these schools, while preserving parental options for our Commonwealth’s students,” Turzai said. “In general, Pennsylvania’s charter schools and cyber charter schools work well and benefit many Pennsylvania families, particularly those students in low-performing school districts.”

House Bill 618 is supported by:

•    PA Association of School Business Officials
•    PA Association of School Administrators
•    PA School Boards Association
•    PA Association of Rural and Small Schools

Further evidence of education being a House and state government priority can be seen through the legislation passed this week and headed to the Senate.

Basic Education Funding Formula Commission: Looking at the problem and finding the solution
Banking on the success of the Special Education Funding Commission, which issued its final report in December with recommendations for a new statewide funding formula, the House passed legislation to examine the way Pennsylvania funds K-12 education. House Bill 1738 (Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks County), would establish a commission to study and make recommendations for a new and fair formula for distributing state funding to basic education.

Working with school districts and charter operators, the commission will develop a funding formula based on the school district’s market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support and other factors.

The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 187-9.

Increasing transparency and accountability in Pennsylvania public schools
Legislation to establish a searchable database detailing the revenues and expenditures of school districts passed the House Monday with a bipartisan vote of 119-81.

House Bill 1411 (Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County) would require the Department of Education (PDE) to create a database for school districts to be known as SchoolWATCH. The SchoolWATCH database will provide taxpayers with thorough information concerning the amount of funding received by school districts from federal, state, local and private sources, payments to outside entities, and employee compensation. Records that are not subject to disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law will not be included on the website.  School districts failing to report information to PDE as required under the bill will be subject to withholding of state appropriations.

Under SchoolWATCH, implementation of the website and reporting requirements for school districts would be phased in over time to prevent additional cost and administrative burden to school districts. The bill also uses existing public school reports where possible to avoid duplicative reporting.

Modeled after the successful PennWATCH Act, which established a searchable database providing detailed information concerning the budgets and expenditures of state agencies, SchoolWATCH now heads to the Senate for consideration.


Letting the Sunshine In: Public posting of collective bargaining agreements before they get voted
House Bill 1741 (Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder/Union counties) passed by a vote of 102-98, and would require school boards to provide 48 hours notice prior to voting upon any proposed collective bargaining agreement.

To help ensure that taxpayers are informed of how their hard-earned tax dollars will be used, House Bill 1741 requires school boards to provide public notice before voting upon any proposed collective bargaining agreement. The taxpaying public has a right to know what is in these proposals, as employee salaries and benefits represent the about 80 percent of education spending for Pennsylvania school districts.  

By requiring school districts to provide public notice of the terms and costs of proposed collective bargaining agreements, taxpayers will be provided with some needed transparency.

Below is a full list of bills passed by the House of Representatives during the week of Jan. 13:

•    HB 1230 (Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester): Amends the Real Estate Tax Law regarding the maintenance of certain properties held by the county tax claims bureau. Vote: 195-0. HB 1230 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1411 (Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver): Establishes a searchable, public Internet website detailing the revenues and expenditures of school districts. Vote: 119-81. HB 1411 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1654 (Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia): Adds Krabbe, Fabry, Pompe, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher and Hurler Syndrome to the list of genetic diseases that hospitals must screen newborns for in Pennsylvania. Vote: 195-0. HB 1654 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1655 (Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford/Tioga): Establishes the “Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Advisory Council.” Vote: 197-0. HB 1655 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1738 (Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks): Establishes a commission to review and make recommendations concerning basic education funding. Vote: 187-9. HB 1738 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1741 (Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder/Union): Requires school boards to provide at least 48 hours’ notice prior to voting upon any proposed collective bargaining agreement or upon any proposed employment contract for a professional educator who is not a member of an employee organization. Vote: 102-98. HB 1741 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1753 (Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre): Highway naming: Sergeant Adam Hartswick Interchange. Vote: 197-0. HB 1753 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1794 (Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Columbia/Montour/Northumberland): Highway naming: Veterans Highway. Vote: 197-0. HB 1794 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1796 (Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery): Prohibits municipal ordinances from penalizing a resident or landlord for needing police or emergency assistance at their property. Vote: 197-0. HB 1796 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1816 (Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Berks/Schuylkill): Allows educators an opportunity to receive credit toward their continuing professional education development requirements by attending school board-approved site visits to manufacturing locations for orientation and industry demonstrations. Vote: 200-0. HB 1816 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    HB 1878 (Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Armstrong/Westmoreland): Establishes the PA Workforce Investment Strategy – “PA WinS.” Vote: 200-0. HB 1878 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
•    SB 29 (Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland/York): Requires health care providers to immediately report to the county agency newborns identified as being affected by an illegal substance and requires the county agency, upon receiving the report, to do a safety or risk assessment to determine whether the child is in need of protective services. Vote: 197-0. SB 29 now goes to the governor’s desk.
•    SB 689 (Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre/Juniata/Mifflin/Perry/Union): Enacts the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. Vote: 200-0. SB 689 now goes to the governor’s desk.

Representative Mike Turzai
Majority Leader
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Stephen Miskin
smiskin@pahousegop.com
RepTurzai.com / facebook.com/RepTurzai
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