Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Legislation Would Chip Away Local Control of Schools

Andrea Sears, Public News Service
Bills in the General Assembly would put some schools under state control. Credit: Ad Meskens/Wikimedia Commons
Bills in the General Assembly would put some schools under state control. Credit: Ad Meskens/Wikimedia Commons

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Education advocates say some legislators are trying to use the state budget impasse to push through bills that would diminish the control of local districts over their schools.

Senate Bill 6 even would put some schools under state control. Supporters of the bill say it would restore accountability to under-performing schools, but Susan Gobreski, director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, said accountability isn't the problem.

"The districts that would meet the current definition have a very high poverty rate, higher than average tax rate and experienced extraordinary funding cuts over the past few years," she said, "very little of which has been restored."

SB 6 and a bill in the House, HB 530, also would change the state's system for creating and governing charter schools.

Some provisions under consideration would allow the conversion of schools to charters without local input or remove caps on the number of students that could be enrolled. According to Gobreski, other provisions would make charters much less accountable to local districts.

"The creation of charter networks that would go under state control instead of local control," she said, "and there's some language that would suggest that charters could actually make unilateral changes to their own charters."

After five months without a budget, school districts are borrowing money to keep their doors open. Gobreski said she believes voters need to know what is on the table.

"We're playing a strong role in keeping an eye on what's happening in Harrisburg," she said, "and letting people know that this is in play, and that some legislators are looking at this opportunity to slip in this legislation."

More information is online at educationvoterspa.org. The text of Senate Bill 6 is here and HB 530 is here.

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