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Brewster Plans to Introduce Package of Education Reform Legislation
On November 26, 2013
Harrisburg, Nov. 26, 2013 –State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) announced today that he will introduce a package of legislation that he said will address education accountability issues involving charter schools, cyber charter schools, teacher certification and the need for high-quality prekindergarten.
“The state has to implement reforms, especially when it comes to charter schools, cyber charter schools and teachers working at charter schools,” said Brewster. “I will introduce four bills that will help address the accountability of charter and cyber charter schools, and to ensure that the legislature moves toward a better comprehensive education system in Pennsylvania.”
Brewster said his legislation would require all teachers at charter schools to be certified. Currently, a charter must have 75 percent of its teachers certified. Because charter schools hire their own teachers and design their own curricula, Brewster said it’s important that the teachers are just as qualified as teachers in public school districts.
“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, last year 23 states required all charter school teachers to be certified, and 14 states – including Pennsylvania – required a certain percentage to be certified,” said Brewster. “Charter school teachers should be held to the same standards as traditional teachers, and mandatory certification would help ensure that.”
In addition to requiring teacher certification, Brewster’s legislation would implement a moratorium on state approval of new charter schools. Brewster said until changes are made in accountability at the local level, Pennsylvania should focus on the charters that are already established and not be involved in approving charters that have been denied by the local school board.
“There is no one-size-fits-all education policy, and when managed responsibly, charter schools offer parents a public school alternative that still delivers the high-quality of education students deserve,” said Brewster. “The charter school reforms in this package would help us achieve the most important goal: properly educating Pennsylvania’s children.”
Other legislation in the package would establish the Prepare All Kids program that would utilize federal money to provide grants to establish or enhance voluntary, high-quality full-day pre-kindergarten programs.
Under the measure, grants would be awarded on a per-student basis and priority given to the approved providers who are serving children from low-income families or children with special needs. The federal legislation that would create the program is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
“My Prepare All Kids legislation would create a vehicle to accept dollars if congress moves on the federal legislation,” Brewster said. “I think Senator Casey’s legislation is an excellent example of how we can tailor investments to help our children achieve greater success in school.”
Brewster said that there is a performance gap based on socioeconomic status. He said that language in the federal legislation notes that studies have reported that the average cognitive scores for pre-school children in the highest socioeconomic group is 60 percent above scores in the lowest socioeconomic group.
The final bill in the package would be effective if a school district closed and its remaining students were sent on a tuition basis to nearby schools. The legislation would create a pool of teachers and education support personnel who would be offered employment in one of the accepting districts when a vacancy exists and qualified personnel from the pool is available.
“This reform package would move Pennsylvania’s school districts and charters in the right direction by putting a child’s education above all else,” Brewster said.
Brewster said he expected to formally present the legislation to the full Senate when it returns to voting session on December 3.