Resources: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

Fair School Funding

  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s May 13, 2015 letter to the Senate Education Committee considers the benefits and drawbacks of legislation that would create a new state-operated, state-wide “Achievement School District” in Pennsylvania.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s Feb. 18, 2015 testimony to the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia examines the legal precedents for considering the fiscal stability of a school district when reviewing charter school applications.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.

    “There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.

    Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”

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  • House Bill 2138 and Senate Bill 1316 are companion bills that represent an important first step toward fixing the state’s broken system for special education funding and accountability.

    Bills HB 2138 and SB 1316 present a formula for distributing new special education dollars based on the work of the General Assembly’s Special Education Funding Commission. The two bills use the cost data from the Commission to create three cost categories for students with disabilities and use accurate enrollment data to determine the number of students in each of those categories — finally aligning resources with the actual cost of serving children with disabilities.

     

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

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  • The Special Education Funding Commission held public hearings throughout the state in 2013, receiving testimony from dozens of witnesses. Students, parents, educators, and national experts uniformly emphasized the long-term impact of the state funding system on the ability of schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

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  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1085 by a 15-11 vote on November 19, 2013. Many major amendments were approved, but none addressed the underlying issues of improving charter school accountability and increasing access for all students that we raised in our initial analysis of SB 1085.

    There are several changes to the bill that raise new concerns for ELC.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center testified on Nov. 15, 2013 asking the Pennsylvania Department of Education to utilize its clear legal authority and deny all six cyber charter applications currently under review.

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  • Most of the law on school funding in Pennsylvania is found in the annual state budget, which is adopted by the General Assembly around June 30th of each year for the next fiscal year (which begins July 1).

     

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  • An ELC Fact Sheet published in November 2011 detailing the history of public school funding approaches in Pennsylvania.

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  • Charter school reform is needed in the Commonwealth and significant legislative effort has gone into two similar bills: HB 618 and SB 1085. The most recent bill to receive attention in the General Assembly is SB 1085.

    The Education Law Center supports some of the accountability provisions of SB 1085. However, through the lens of ELC’s charter reform principles and through the lens of the state constitutional mandate to maintain and support a thorough and efficient system of public education, ELC strongly opposes many other provisions of the bill.

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  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

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  • A 2013 Fact Sheet on Act 141, the School District Financial Recovery Law, that is intended to assist financially distressed school districts get back on a path toward financial stability. The law, passed July 12, 2012, allows the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Secretary of Education to declare up to nine school districts at a time in Financial Recovery Status. This would then allow the Secretary to appoint either a Chief Recovery Officer or a receiver to develop, implement, and administer a financial recovery plan.

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  • Pennsylvania is a national outlier when it comes to following basic budgeting principles — accuracy, fairness, and transparency — that most states use when it comes to public school funding, according to a 2013 report from the Education Law Center.

    The statewide, non-profit organization examined how each of the 50 states calculates and distributes education dollars. The report shows that Pennsylvania is in the minority when it comes to basic budgeting practices used by most states.

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  • ELC’s November 2012 testimony to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on eight cyber charter school applications.

    An excerpt: “The academic performance of the existing cyber charter schools raises serious questions about the ability of such programs to enable students to meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards and this performance should give the Department great pause before authorizing any additional cyber charters.”

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  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

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  • According to the research findings, students who have access to a quality school library program have an academic advantage over students who did not have such access. This 2012 report, produced by the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, shows these academic differences are not explained away by the socio-economic, racial/ethnic, or disability status of the students. In fact, the research shows that all students with access to a full-time, certified librarians have higher PSSA Reading and Writing scores than students without that access.

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  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

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  • Governor Corbett proposed state funding for public schools in 2012-13 that includes cuts for most school districts.  These cuts reflect the loss of $100 million in state funding for Accountability Block Grants, which support kindergarten programs and tutoring for struggling students, as well as 5 percent reductions in Pre-K Counts and Head Start.

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  • The 2007 report, commissioned by the General Assembly, provides data on the costs for all students in Pennsylvania public schools – no matter where they live – to receive a quality education, allowing them to meet state standards for academic achievement.

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  • Strong public schools are important for creating a successful future for both individuals and whole communities. Formula proposals or state budgets affecting education funding should be evaluated based on the following ten criteria. Any proposal or budget that fails to meet these criteria will not serve the interests of all students, especially disadvantaged students, and should not be adopted.

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  • There are many voices and various ideas, but crucial leadership and commitment are sorely lacking on the key issues facing the future of the 3,300 public schools that serve 1.8 million children in the Commonwealth. And the ideas for reform getting the most attention often ignore the basic changes needed to truly improve teaching and learning at the classroom level, especially for struggling students and schools.

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  • The items included in the 2011-12 school code bill do not address the needs of disadvantaged students and their families. For example, some of the items relate to teacher quality but do not ensure either a more equitable distribution of excellent teachers or parent involvement in this issue.

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  • ELC presents key facts analysis about Pennsylvania’s final Education Budget for the 2011-12 school year. This budget adopted by the General Assembly on June 30, 2011 cut state funding for PreK-12 education by $961 million.

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  • Pennsylvania Department of Education data on the 2011-12 state education budget.

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  • Using Pennsylvania Department of Education data, ELC examined the distribution of the 2011-12 state education budget cuts for Southeastern Pennsylvania school districts.

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  • Investing in public eduation initiatives, from quality pre-kindergarten programs to lowering class size in elementary schools, pays big dividends for the state’s economic and social welfare, according to a report from Penn State University Professor Dana Mitra.

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  • The 2009 report, Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Education Goals for Students with Disabilities, identifies and evaluates Special Education solutions based on Pennsylvania’s 2007 Education Cost Study and examines why it is critically important for the state to implement a funding system for students with disabilities.

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  • Pennsylvania’s education cost study was commissioned and funded by the General Assembly in June 2006. It was supervised and released by the State Board of Education and performed by a national consulting firm – Augenblick, Palaich and Associates of Denver, Colorado.

    The study was designed to understand what it costs for all students in Pennsylvania public schools – no matter where they live – to receive a quality education allowing them to meet state standards for academic achievement.

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  • Starting in January 2007, the Education Law Center and Critical Exposure worked with high school students throughout Pennsylvania to photograph and document what they thought was important for the public to know about their education.

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Pennsylvania

Equal Access

  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.

    “There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.

    Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center’s Maura McInerney delivered testimony on Oct. 6, 2014 to the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee highlighting research on the importance of school stability.

    “Research shows that one of the most significant barriers to school success is school mobility. It is estimated that school age children in foster care commonly experience nearly three living arrangement changes during their first foster care stay. These children frequently change schools – on average three times in two years, with over a third of young adults in foster care reporting having five or more school changes,” said McInerney. “Children who change schools lose critical academic progress with every school move, which can be devastating to a child’s education,” she said.

    Download the complete testimony.

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  • This Pennsylvania Department of Education report offers 13 recommendations to build upon existing efforts and advance change within the state education system to meet the educational needs of Pennsylvania’s children experiencing homelessness.

    The findings and recommendations contained in this report were presented to the Governor, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the Senate and the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the House of Representatives.

     

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  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

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  • A 2014 ELC Fact Sheet providing legal guidance and resource links for questions about opting out of PSSA and Keystone Exams.

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  • This collection of “tools” is intended to help parents and providers ensure school success for children and youth (ages 3-21) in Pennsylvania who are experiencing homelessness. The toolkit provides information about important laws and explains legal rights and how to use them.

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  • This guide provides clearly explained legal rules for special education and early intervention programs in Pennsylvania for children from ages three to 21. 

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

    (more…)

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center’s  guide to the rights of English language learners in Pennsylvania’s public schools outlines basic rights for ELL students and their families. It also provides resource links for additional information.

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  • Youth who are experiencing homelessness have special rights under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act. This fact sheet provides information and resources for homeless youth regarding their education rights under that federal law.

     

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  • This step-by-step fact sheet can help older youth enroll themselves in school quickly. It also provides contact information and the necessary forms for school enrollment.

     

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  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1085 by a 15-11 vote on November 19, 2013. Many major amendments were approved, but none addressed the underlying issues of improving charter school accountability and increasing access for all students that we raised in our initial analysis of SB 1085.

    There are several changes to the bill that raise new concerns for ELC.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center testified on Nov. 15, 2013 asking the Pennsylvania Department of Education to utilize its clear legal authority and deny all six cyber charter applications currently under review.

    Download PDF

  • Charter school reform is needed in the Commonwealth and significant legislative effort has gone into two similar bills: HB 618 and SB 1085. The most recent bill to receive attention in the General Assembly is SB 1085.

    The Education Law Center supports some of the accountability provisions of SB 1085. However, through the lens of ELC’s charter reform principles and through the lens of the state constitutional mandate to maintain and support a thorough and efficient system of public education, ELC strongly opposes many other provisions of the bill.

    Download PDF

  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

    Download PDF

  • A 2013 training developed by the Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center in order to assist local education agencies in their appointment of surrogate parents.

    Download PDF

  • May 2013 policy guidelines from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning aimed at improving access to early learning opportunities for homeless children under the age of six.

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  • ELC’s November 2012 testimony to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on eight cyber charter school applications.

    An excerpt: “The academic performance of the existing cyber charter schools raises serious questions about the ability of such programs to enable students to meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards and this performance should give the Department great pause before authorizing any additional cyber charters.”

    Download PDF

  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

    Download PDF

  • According to the research findings, students who have access to a quality school library program have an academic advantage over students who did not have such access. This 2012 report, produced by the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, shows these academic differences are not explained away by the socio-economic, racial/ethnic, or disability status of the students. In fact, the research shows that all students with access to a full-time, certified librarians have higher PSSA Reading and Writing scores than students without that access.

    Download PDF

  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

    Download PDF

  • The Education Law Center is pleased to announce the publication of the second edition of A Family Guide to Inclusive Early Childhood Learning in Pennsylvania. This project has been supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

    This guide is designed to be a quick and easy resource to inclusive early childhood learning programs in Pennsylvania for parents of children with developmental delays or disabilities.

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  • Children who are homeless have special rights which are guaranteed by a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act. They can usually stay in the same school if they move, they can start school without records, and more.

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  • A child is living with someone other than their parent, has a right to attend public school where he or she lives if certain conditions are met.

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  • ELC’s step-by-step public school enrollment guide.

    Note: A child can be enrolled by a parent, foster parent, guardian, caseworker or anyone having charge or care of the child.

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  • In 2009, Stoneleigh Foundation Junior Fellow Arley Styer joined with the Education Law Center to explore the educational experiences of children placed in Pennsylvania group homes and residential treatment facilities. These children, many of whom tend to suffer from behavior disorders, often encounter educational barriers such as lack of needed special education services or too few hours of schooling while in placement.

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  • A 2010 training for childcare professionals and school district personnel on how to improve education outcomes for students experiencing homelessness.

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  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

    Download PDF

  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

    Download PDF

  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

    Download PDF

  • A cyber charter school is a public charter school that provides most of its instruction to its students through the Internet or by some other electronic means. Students who are enrolled in a cyber charter school do most of their schoolwork at home over the computer — they do not go to classes in a school building.

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  • In Pennsylvania, children between the ages of eight and seventeen must attend school. Educating a child at home is one way to comply with compulsory school attendance laws. This fact sheet provides information on homeschooling guidelines in Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania

School to Prison Pipeline

  • Act 26 is a Pennsylvania law which requires the expulsion for at least one year of any student who possesses a weapon on school property, at a school function, or going to and from school.  Many students have faced expulsion as a result of this law. Review the complete fact sheet for more information.

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  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

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  • The following information guide for parents and guardians provides important information if the School District of Philadelphia wants to transfer a child to an “alternative education program” (such as Camelot or Phase 4) because of a disciplinary incident.

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  • This 2010 ELC research brief provides a detailed examination of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (PBS), a research-based, highly effective, approach to creating, teaching, and reinforcing students’ social, emotional, and academic learning skills that improves and sustains academic achievement and mental and emotional wellbeing of all students.

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  • Una hoja informativa que proporciona información a los padres y tutores sobre las normas y procedimientos para la expulsión de los estudiantes de las escuelas del distrito escolar y las escuelas charter.

    Aunque que las escuelas públicas tienen amplia libertad para crear reglas, deben seguir sus propias reglas. Por lo tanto, una escuela sólo puede expulsar a un estudiante por una violación de una regla de la escuela, si la escuela la ha adoptado oficialmente y distribuido la regla. Las reglas escolares deben estar inscritos en el Código de Conducta del Estudiante y debe ser publicado y distribuido a todos los estudiantes y padres de familia.

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  • A fact sheet providing information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student expulsions from school district and charter schools.

    While public schools have wide latitude to create rules, they must follow their own rules. Thus, a school can only expel a student for a violation of a school rule if the school has officially adopted and distributed the rule. School rules should be listed in a published Code of Student Conduct that should be given to all students and parents.

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  • In the nine years since Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), startling growth has occurred in what is often described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” – the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

    Download PDF

  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

    Download PDF

  • This July 2009 Basic Education Circular (BEC) provides guidance regarding placement of students in Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) Programs. It also provides guidance on AEDY program requirements to ensure that students in these programs are provided appropriate academic and behavioral support services.

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  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

    Download PDF