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School Code Amendments Include Teacher Evaluations, Taxpayer Protections
In addition to passing a fiscally responsible state budget at the end of June, the General Assembly also approved a number of noteworthy amendments to the state’s School Code. This package of amendments is designed to help ensure every student can receive a quality education and protect taxpayers against unnecessary increases in costs.
One of the most important changes would be the creation of a new system for evaluating teachers. The new system, which would begin next year, would evaluate teachers based on both classroom observations and student performance. The teacher evaluation system will help identify our best and brightest educators while ensuring teachers who require additional assistance can receive the help they need. This measure drew broad bipartisan support and earned positive reviews from the Pennsylvania State Education Association and a number of education advocacy organizations.
Another important amendment to the School Code would place strict limitations on school district superintendent contracts. Recent contract buyouts of superintendents in Philadelphia, Allentown, Gettysburg and other districts cost their local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. New amendments to the School Code will require greater public access to information on school district superintendent contracts and prevent local taxpayers from getting stuck with the bill for similar buyouts and other generous perks.
Other amendments to the School Code would require the Department of Education to develop Keystone Exams by the 2020-21 school year to ensure high school graduates have a basic level of proficiency in important subject areas; place a moratorium on new school construction projects until a review is conducted to prevent taxpayers from incurring unnecessary costs; and help financially distressed school districts get back on track.
Legislators also increased available tax credits for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and created a new tax credit program to encourage businesses to fund scholarships for students attending underperforming schools. The Education Opportunity Scholarship Program would be available to children who live within the attendance boundaries of the lowest-achieving 15 percent of public schools and meet family income requirements.
New Procurement Program Available for Small Businesses
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, employing nearly half of all workers in the private sector. The Department of General Services recently announced a new program that will help more Pennsylvania small businesses compete for state contracts.
The Small Business Procurement Initiative enables companies to bid on state contracts that are reserved specifically for small businesses. The program ensures small businesses are given opportunities to bid on state projects as prime contractors and are not forced to bid against larger firms for all state contracts. The program is only open to small businesses that employ 100 or fewer employees and do not exceed gross sales requirements. Participating businesses must self-certify with the state online at www.pasupplierportal.state.pa.us to confirm their eligibility for the program.
The Department also recently expanded its Small Diverse Business Program – which currently assists small businesses owned by women or minorities – to include veteran-owned small businesses. The program will offer support and resources to help veterans compete for state contracts.
More information on programs and services available to assist small businesses is available online at www.smallbusiness.pa.gov.
For more information on issues of importance to Lancaster and Chester County residents, please visit my website at senatorbrubaker.com.