Pension Reform – Senate Bill 1 (Sen. Corman, R-Centre) was amended in the House and in its current form creates a defined contribution plan for new state and public school employees. On June 29, 2015, the Public Employee Retirement Commission issued an actuarial note on the amended version of Senate Bill 1. It provides needed long-term savings to school districts, but does not address short-term relief. Work continues to find a plan that can garner enough votes to pass.
Charter Law Changes – Passed by the House in March and amended by the Senate Education Committee in June 2015, House Bill 530 (Rep. Reese, R-Westmoreland) makes changes to the Charter School Law. Key provisions: Creates a 20-members statewide funding advisory commission to explore funding issues and costs; creates a Two-year allowable deduction for school districts for cyber tuition; allows school districts to make deductions for food service costs for the preceding school year from their per-student expenditures when calculating their cyber charter school payments; creates direct flow of payments to charter school from PDE; establishes limits on unassigned fund balance reserves of charter schools similar to the limits placed on school districts; gives a charter school entity the right of first refusal to purchase or lease an existing public school building, a part of an existing public school building or space in a public school building for educational purposes only; and allows school districts and intermediate units to establish cyber charter schools pursuant to the Charter School Law. It does not preclude school districts and intermediate units from offering online instruction that is not recognized as a cyber charter school.
BEFC Recommendations for School Funding Formula – The Basic Education Funding Commission recommendation of a new school funding formula introduced under Senate Bill 910 (Sen. Smucker, R- Lancaster), which was reported out of the Senate Education Committee. The proposed new formula meets the needs of all school districts by using factors reflecting student and community differences such as poverty, local tax effort and capacity, and rural and small district conditions. It will help to close the gap between poor and affluent districts, and is an equitable, predictable and transparent plan. Companion legislation has been introduced under House Bill 1390 (Rep. Saylor, R-York).
Child Protection – Passed by the House and now on the Senate floor is House Bill 1276 (Rep. Watson, R-Bucks), which makes a number of clarifying changes to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) as it had been updated in 2014. This “clean-up” bill was amended to contain a number of technical and substantive changes, especially with respect to the requirements for volunteers. The Senate passed Senate Bill 862 (Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster), which amends the School Code to align the requirements and timeframes for school employees submission of state and federal criminal history record checks and child abuse history clearances with the recent amendments to the CPSL. Various amendments were added to the bill, including a change to allow the clearances to be valid for five years.
Economic Furlough – House Bill 805 (Rep. Bloom, R- Cumberland), allows school districts to furlough professional employees for economic reasons, and ends the practice of “last in, first out” by allowing districts to use performance evaluations to determine the order that employees are furloughed. House Bill 805 was passed by the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill also requires an equal percentage proportion of administrative staff to be furloughed, but allows for exemptions of any five administrative staff positions and also allows for waivers of the requirement if it is determined that the district’s operations are already sufficiently streamlined. In addition, the bill allows a superintendent to delay the awarding of tenure for one additional year (currently granted after three years) if the superintendent believes further evaluation is necessary prior to certifying the work as satisfactory.
Mandate Relief/Data Collection – House Bill 1112 (Rep. Brown, R-Monroe), requires the State Board of Education in conjunction with an advisory commission to identify unnecessary data collection/reporting mandates on public schools and issue a report of its findings and recommendations. Those identified data collection requirements that are not required by law or regulation would be terminated at the end of the school year following the issuance of the report. The advisory committee would include a school board member.
School Takeover -- Senate Bill 6 (Sen. Smucker, R-Lancaster) establishes a state process designed to take over academically struggling schools by removing them from the governance of the local school board and transferring them to a new state entity that must take various recovery steps that largely include conversion to, or creation of, privately-operated charter schools. Senate Bill 6 was modeled after a failing experiment in Tennessee. PSBA opposes the bill because, not only does it entirely remove the elected school board from operational decisions of a district school, but it requires the district to pay the bill for charter tuition costs for resident students that are transferred to new privately-operated charter schools converted or created by the ASD.
Assessment Appeals – Senate Bill 877 (Sen. Argall, R- Schuylkill) prohibits a taxing body from appealing the assessment of a property based on the sale of that property. The bill also defines criteria that may serve as the basis for an appeal and allows for a taxed person to appeal a reassessed value in certain circumstances. PSBA opposes Senate Bill 877 because it would greatly restrict the rights of school districts and municipalities to conduct appeals of under-assessed property.
Fiscal Note for Keystone Exams – Senate Bill 731 (Sen. Dinniman, D-Chester) requires the State Board of Education to submit to the chairmen of the House and Senate Education committees a detailed fiscal impact statement with every regulation pertaining to Keystone Exams, during the proposed and final-form stage of the regulatory review process. The fiscal note must include all direct and indirect costs required that will affect the state, school districts and communities.
The Property Tax Independence Acts - House Bill 76, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks), and the identical companion in the Senate, Senate Bill 46 sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), propose to eliminate property taxes and shift a significant burden of funding public schools onto various other state and local taxing mechanisms. The proposal is a variation of legislation under HB 1776 that was introduced in the previous 2011-12 legislative session of the General Assembly. The plan was introduced in the current 2013-14 session in both chambers on March 14, 2013. The bills are in the Finance Committee of their respective chamber.
Disclaimer: The documents posted to the PMSD Legislative Liaison webpage are for informational purposes only. Any opinions or viewpoints expressed in documents posted to this webpage are those of the authors, not the Pocono Mountain School District.