Aument, Christiana, Grove Applaud House Passage of Comprehensive Education Reform Bill
9/22/2014
HARRISBURG – Three state lawmakers today commended their colleagues in the House of Representatives for approving a comprehensive education reform bill that aims to increase transparency in Pennsylvania school districts and enhance student academic outcomes, while also reforming the antiquated Planning and Construction Workbook process, also known as PlanCon, among other improvements.

State Reps. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Seth Grove (R-York) noted Senate Bill 1281 was amended in the House Education Committee last week to include a variety of key reforms they authored, which would have a positive impact on Pennsylvania taxpayers, parents and students.

“Sometimes, when bills linger in the other chamber, it may be more expedient to insert them into bills fast-tracked in the legislative process,” Grove said. “This helps ensure that many of the good policy ideas of the House make it to the governor for his signature.”

Included in the bill is language found in House Bill 1411, authored by Christiana, which would create the SchoolWATCH website, making 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 available to the public online.

“Our schools are spending billions of taxpayer dollars each year, and the citizens who are paying the bills certainly deserve to know where their money is being spent,” said Christiana. “Giving the public access to this information is a commonsense transparency booster that will support better decision making.”

In addition, Aument successfully advocated for an amendment to the SchoolWATCH portion of Senate Bill 1281, which would authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to develop a financial efficiency rating using SchoolWATCH data, linking spending with student academic outcomes.

“Last year, Pennsylvania taxpayers invested more than $26 billion in K-12 public education,” Aument said. “Meanwhile, we still have more than 20 percent of students scoring at or below basic levels in math and reading. Tying our school budgets to student performance outcomes will help us to better understand if the investments we are making result in a positive academic outcome for our future leaders.”

Also included in the bill is language found in House Bill 2124, authored by Grove, which would reform the process by which schools are reimbursed for construction costs. The measure would reform PlanCon into the Accountability and Reducing Costs in Construction Process (ARC Con), streamlining the process and saving schools time and money. ARC Con also attempts to save costs by focusing on the rehabilitation of old buildings rather than new construction.

“The current PlanCon process involves 11 steps,” Grove said. “It is so antiquated that one of the steps involves submitting forms on microfilm, which was state-of-the-art technology in the 1920s. It is time to bring this process into the 21st century.”

Senate Bill 1281 also allows telephone hotlines and Internet notification systems, developed by the Office of Safe Schools, to be used to report dangerous situations involving schools and provides additional options for schools to make up snow days in order to meet the 180-day instructional requirement.

The amended bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

Representative Ryan Aument
41st Legislative District
Representative Jim Christiana
15th Legislative District
Representative Seth Grove
196th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Abbey Haslam
717.260.6222
ahaslam@pahousegop.com  
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