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Pickett Applauds House Movement of Education Enhancement Bill
9/22/2014
HARRISBURG – In an effort to increase school district accountability while giving administrators flexibility with weather-related closures and ensuring they receive proper state reimbursement for construction projects, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) voted today in favor of an education improvement bill.

“Education is one of the largest issues we deal with in terms of state policymaking, and the legislation that comes before us just doesn’t involve what’s going on inside the classroom,” Pickett said. “There are so many facets to education, and we are doing what we can in Harrisburg to ensure that school districts have the tools they need to provide a quality education. The education bill we passed this week is designed to enhance the overall education experience for students.”

Coming before the House on final passage this week was Senate Bill 1281, which was significantly amended to include a number of House-initiated measures designed to increase school district accountability through the SchoolWATCH publicly accessible database on revenue and spending; allow districts to receive more prompt reimbursement for construction projects by reforming the archaic PlanCON process; and give school administrators more options to fulfil the 180-day requirement as the result of a weather emergency.

The SchoolWATCH website would include the annual financial statements of school districts, charter schools, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools and area vocational-technical schools, along with the final adopted budgets of public school entities. In total, Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts spend about $28 billion each year. The creation of this website is intended not to place any additional costs on local districts. Under the legislation, the implementation would be phased in.

If a weather emergency occurs, the state Department of Education may make an emergency declaration, during which a school may satisfy the 180 instructional days per school year requirement through alternative means without a loss of subsidy payments or reimbursements. This could be through longer school days or one Saturday a month to reach the minimum number of instructional hours, and stipulations would apply.

“School funding has been a major topic of conversation throughout the state. While it’s important to ensure every available dollar reaches our students, it’s just as imperative to make sure every dollar is spent to its maximum benefit, and that’s what SchoolWATCH will do,” Pickett noted. “We also need to make sure that schools that were promised reimbursement for eligible construction projects receive those funds in a timely manner through a reasonable process. By bringing the process more up to date, we can deliver those funds more quickly and without a lot of excess red tape.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for agreement.

Representative Tina Pickett
110th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
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RepPickett.com / Facebook.com/RepPickett
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