Testimony to Special Education Funding Commission: Formula Can Be Improved

ELC policy director Reynelle Brown Staley testified to the Pennsylvania legislature’s Special Education Funding Commission on Oct. 8, as the commission wrapped up a series of hearings to review the state’s funding formula for special education.

Staley noted that it bears emphasizing that decisions about how to distribute funds cannot truly be divorced from the issue of how much funding is available. “When resources are scarce, decisions about how those resources are distributed can either sustain or debilitate a community,” she said.

ELC’s recommendations for making the funding formula more equitable included introducing some of the measures of district need that are used in the formula for basic education; adding weights to account for the unrecognized costs of special education services for particular marginalized populations such as English learners; and dedicating a bigger chunk of any funding increases to support the poorest, most inadequately funded school districts.

 

ELC Opposes Bill to Loosen Restrictions on Arming School Personnel

In a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf in June 2019, the Education Law Center urges him to veto Senate Bill 621, arguing that it represents a dangerous loosening of the existing restrictions on who can be armed in schools. Current Pennsylvania law already allows for school police officers and school resource officers to be armed in schools. The bill would give authority to security guards to be armed, including outside, third-party security firms.

ELC maintains that if this bill becomes law, it will exacerbate the current risks of having armed personnel in schools. We cannot afford to have any confusion about roles or accountability with armed personnel. “Armed school police officer” is not a role that should be contracted to outside private firms. The best school safety strategies involve investing in building strong school communities and strong supports for students.

Read our letter here.

ELC Opposes PA House Bill 800, Funding Private School Vouchers

In an April 26, 2019, letter to Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr., Democratic chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, ELC urges the defeat of a proposal to massively expand the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC). The bill won approval by the House Education Committee on April 29. House Republicans who have fought increases in public education funding did not hesitate to approve the bill despite a $100 million price tag in the first year and an automatic 10% escalator clause in each subsequent year.

Tax credits under EITC pay for student scholarships to attend private schools, including religious schools, without any restrictions on discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or socioeconomic status. Read more about why ELC opposes the bill.

 

ELC Testimony Opposes Mandate to Use Metal Detectors in All Philadelphia High Schools

In written testimony, the Education Law Center-PA joined with district students, parents, youth leaders such as the Philadelphia Student Union, and teachers, to urge members of the Philadelphia Board of Education to oppose a policy change that would mandate the use of metal detectors in all district high schools. The school board scheduled a vote on the policy change on March 28, 2019.

ELC explains that proposed amendments to the school district’s Policy 805 will perpetuate an alarming national trend of “hardening schools” — attempting to protect students through the implementation of policies and practices which are not only ineffective but create a more negative school climate.

Read our testimony here.

Testimony: Meeting Needs of English Learners and Limited English Proficient Families in Philadelphia

For a meeting of the Student Achievement and Support Committee of the Philadelphia school board, ELC provided an overview of the rights of English learners and limited-English-proficient parents, followed by a discussion of our understanding of the particular needs and concerns of ELs and LEP families in schools across the District.

ELC’s recommendations focus on three key areas: 1) prompt enrollment and access to language assistance for families; 2) quality ESL instruction; and  3) equal access and opportunities (for example, to special education services or to selective high schools).

Read our testimony.

Open Letter to Elanco School Board on Importance of Supporting Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students

The Eastern Lancaster County (Elanco) School District in early 2019 took the positive step of permitting transgender students to use the facilities with which they identify. The Education Law Center wrote an open letter of support explaining that the district has legal obligations to affirm transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) students. The letter also explained that welcoming, inclusive school climates enable TGNC students to thrive in their educational environments, whereas hostile and negative school climates are associated with severe educational and health consequences. Read our open letter.

Lancaster Online’s editorial board wrote an editorial in support of Elanco’s affirming practices. Unfortunately, soon after, the Elanco school board backed away from the district’s positive position.

ELC Testimony to State Board of Education on Immunizations

Submitted to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education in March, 2016, this testimony from ELC Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney responds to proposed revisions to Chapter 11 of the Public School Code. She suggests an amendment to §11.20 that would allow the immediate enrollment of children experiencing homelessness and children currently in foster care, with immunization records to be provided following that enrollment.

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 School Funding Law and Policy Review

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).

 

ELC Enrollment Complaint Process

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed an enrollment complaint process to investigate whether a school district has illegally determined that a student is not a resident of the school district or is not otherwise entitled to attend school in the district. This process applies to all public schools, including charter schools and cyber charter schools.

ELC Spanish Language Guide to Inclusive Early Childhood Learning in Pennsylvania

La guía es un recurso rápido y fácil a los programas integrales de aprendizaje para la primera infancia en Pennsylvania para padres de niños con retrasos de desarollo o discapacidades. Describe ocho programas diferentes de aprendizaje temprano, incluso Early Head Start y Head Start, Infant and Toddler y Preschool Early Intervention, y Pre-K Counts, y proporciona información para padres sobre desarrollo infantil y cómo indentificar programas de aprendizaje temprano con calidad.

ELC Guide to Inclusive Early Childhood Learning in Pennsylvania

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.

ELC School Enrollment Guide

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.

ELC Report on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

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.

ELC Report on Improving Alternative Education in Pennsylvania

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.

 

ELC Fairness in School Discipline Guide

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.