Last week brought great news for Pennsylvania families with the passage of student-centered budget legislation. The budget and related School Code bill expands educational opportunities for students, empowers Pennsylvania families, facilitates growth of high-performing charter organizations and provides access to an equitable education. A recent Tribune-Review editorial described the legislation as “some of the most sweeping changes in Pennsylvania’s Public School Code in recent years that will boost opportunities for school choice and retain the best teachers during staff furloughs.”
More students will have access to educational opportunities through a $10 million increase to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, now totaling $135 million. Families looking to escape failing public schools via the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program, as well as families wishing to enroll in or remain in nonpublic schools, have the opportunity to select the learning environment that best fits their child’s needs through the tax credit scholarship program.
The School Code bill also updates the Commonwealth’s charter school law to permit two or more high-performing charter schools to consolidate into a multiple charter school organization that can be managed by a single board of trustees and administrator. This will reduce administrative burdens and allow schools to focus more resources on serving students, rather than on bureaucracy.
The overall budget package also distributes $450 million through the student-focused funding formula enacted by the General Assembly last year, furthering the state’s goal to provide equitable funding based on student need. Additionally, the state budget increased the basic education subsidy for the Commonwealth by $100 million, bringing the total allocation to $5.9 billion. Student-centered funding formulas where all students receive base funding – with additional amounts depending on student eligibility – and spending follows the child is crucial to supporting forward-looking solutions.
Provisions of the Protecting Excellent Teachers legislation were also rolled into the omnibus school code bill. Districts can now prioritize teacher quality – rather than seniority – in the case of furloughs, protecting excellent teachers and ensuring that the best of the best remain in the classroom to educate students.
This package gives more Pennsylvania families opportunities to find the best educational setting for their children and takes another step toward equitable student-centered funding across the state.
We look forward to the continued progress towards education reform Pennsylvania will build upon in the coming years.
About the author
Ashley is the Northeast Regional Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). In this role, she works with leaders and policymakers from thirteen states to promote student-centered policies in the areas of accountability, educational options and innovation. Before joining ExcelinEd, Ashley led StudentsFirst in PA, a statewide education advocacy group focused on teacher effectiveness and accountability policies. Prior to her leadership at StudentsFirst, Ashley served as Director of Government Relations for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where she led legislative negotiations on education issues with the General Assembly. Preceding that appointment, she was a Policy Analyst for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on the Education Committee. Ashley earned her Bachelor’s degree in Politics/American History from Juniata College and her Master of Education in School Counseling from Millersville University. She resides near the capital of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Ashley’s portfolio of states includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.