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¡Felicitaciones! to state Senator Chris Gebhard, newly sworn in for his first full 4-year term, and to state Representative John Schlegel, elected from the newly redrawn House District 101. Our new district map puts our two school districts — Lebanon and Cornwall-Lebanon — together for the first time in at least 30 years. This gives our representatives and our wider community new focus to help support our county’s schools.
For example, Lebanon has so far not signed the Pa. School Boards Association resolution on charter school funding, but Cornwall-Lebanon has. Lebanon School Board has indicated that it plans to take up the resolution next month. So, we hope the schools will speak with one voice about tax dollars that we pay intending to fund our county schools but then are siphoned off by charter schools. In 2015 alone the PSBA analyzed that, due to an unfair funding formula, $100 million of our tax money went to charter schools for special education services that they never provided.
¡Lebanon y Cornwall-Lebanon debemos recobrar nuestra parte de ese dinero! Although we are proud of both of our fine school districts, we still think that our county’s schools could use that money better than the charter schools for our own students.
That brings us to the General Assembly’s broken procedural rules. PSBA’s bill to fix the charter school funding formula was introduced in March 2021 with 61 Democratic and 14 Republican co-sponsors. But the Education Committee Chair, acting alone, would not even give the bill a fair hearing, much less a vote.
Why? Because the House procedural rules currently give chairs almost absolute control over committee procedures. This makes those chairs into targets for political donors like the Pennsylvania billionaire who last year poured over $10 million into his non-public-school-choice PAC.
So, now Sen. Gebhard and Rep. Schlegel have an opportunity to reform those procedural rules. For example, some state legislatures have rules providing that bills with strong bi-partisan support, like the PSBA’s bill, are “automatically calendared” for a committee vote, not dependent on a chair.
The Senate Rules Committee has a package of reforms waiting for a vote. The new “unity” House Speaker Mark Rozzi (I-126 Berks) and leaders are still negotiating their House rules. Once rules are fixed, school funding problems can be fixed, too.
¡Nuestros niños merecen nuestro apoyo! ¡Nuestras escuelas merecen nuestro apoyo! ¡Nuestro Estado también!
Duncan MacLean is a retired physician residing in South Lebanon. Nélida Barrueta is a retired homemaker residing in Lebanon, whose son graduated from Lebanon High School. Both are volunteers for Fair Districts PA.
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Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of Fair Districts PA, SCLC or the School Districts.