Lead and Its Impact on Learning

The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan has shined a light on a persistent, yet often invisible, problem in Pennsylvania. While many think of lead as an issue of the past, it is not. For many of Pennsylvania’s children, lead exposure continues to be a silent epidemic that plagues their communities and undermines their ability to learn. This brief, “Lead and Its Impact on Learning: What Schools, Parents & Policymakers Need to Know and Do,” written by Maura McInerney, Esq. and Alissa S. Werzen, M.D., was published February 11, 2016.

Comments to U.S. Department of Education on ESSA Implmentation

In January 2016, ELC submitted comments in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for recommendations prior to publishing proposed regulations to implement programs under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ELC Analysis of Senate School Code Bill

December 11, 2015: Pennsylvania’s public school funding crisis cannot be resolved by legislating new costs that will eventually exceed new revenues. Unfortunately, the School Code bill recently passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and under consideration in the House of Representatives would do just that. Revenues provided under a bipartisan budget deal would be swallowed up by the new costs associated with rapid charter school expansion. Statewide, charter schools would be permitted to open new buildings, add new grades, and expand their enrollment with almost no limitations. In Philadelphia, where the district is already under state control and over a third of students already attend charter schools, the legislation would place numerous schools under a different state operator, this time the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and convert many of them into charter schools – all still without ensuring those schools have adequate funding.

Public Comments on OCDEL Draft Policy Guidance to Reduce Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood Programs in Pa.

In October 2015, the Education Law Center submitted comments to the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) on their draft of a proposed policy announcement: “Reduction of Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood Programs in Pennsylvania (15-#1)” [.doc]. The draft announcement was based, in part, on the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education policy guidance on the issue, released in December 2014: Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Settings.

ELC’s comments, available below, were informed by our expertise advocating for the rights of the most vulnerable children birth through age twenty one and our extensive experience listening to the hundreds of children and families we have served each year for the past four decades. These public comments are part of ELC’s larger body of work focused on reducing exclusionary discipline that is disproportionately used on vulnerable populations and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline that pushes at-risk youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

ELC Testimony on Truancy to the PA Senate Education Committee

Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney provided testimony to the Pennsylvania Senate’s Education Committee at their June 9th hearing on truancy. She discussed how punitive responses to truancy can be ineffectual and counterproductive and the importance of school-level interventions to improve attendance.

ELC Testimony to the National Council on Disability

ELC Attorney Leigh Loman provided this testimony to the National Council on Disability (NCD) on May 4-5 at their national meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. NCD is an independent federal agency responsible for advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities.

ELC Comments on ESEA Reauthorization

On Feb. 2, 2015, the Education Law Center submitted comments on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 Discussion Draft.

The reauthorization of the ESEA offers an opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to build upon the lessons learned since the last reauthorization. The Education Law Center urges Congress to reauthorize the ESEA in 2015 and address a number of priorities, including: Maintain a strong federal role in promoting equity and accountability; encourage states to fund schools equitably; protect Title I dollars for the poorest schools and districts; and act to end school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Read ELC’s full comments.

ELC Testimony on Charter School Applications and Legislative Intent

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.”

ELC Testimony to Children and Youth Committee on School Stability

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.

ELC Summary: PolicyLab Report on System-Involved Youth in Philadelphia

The study, conducted by the PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (PolicyLab), was commissioned through a collaboration among the Mayor’s Office of Education, School District of Philadelphia (SDP), School Reform Commission, Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) and Philadelphia Youth Network.

The study examines the educational outcomes of students in the 3rd, 7th, 9th, and 12th grades attending public schools in Philadelphia during the 2011-12 school year, a cohort of over 68,000 students. Findings revealed that students with a history of child welfare or juvenile justice involvement had substantially lower PSSA scores and promotion rates; higher rates of special education eligibility and absenteeism; accumulated fewer credits and disproportionately attended district-run comprehensive neighborhood schools and alternative schools compared to their never-involved peers.

ELC Policy Recommendations for System-Involved Students in Philadelphia

ELC’s policy recommendations based on the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) PolicyLab’s June 2014 report on Philadelphia school children involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice system.

These are recommendations for effective systemic reform, including legislative change, as well as improved practices to support the educational success of these children and youth.


Homeless Children’s Education Task Force Report – 2014

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.


ELC Analysis: Special Education Funding Reform Legislation

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.