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Dinniman: State Government "At War with Public Schools"

The Democratic senator came to Spring-Ford's school board meeting.

Dinniman: State Government "At War with Public Schools"

Senator Andrew Dinniman (D-PA 19) didn't mince words while speaking to the Spring-Ford Area School District board and its audience at Monday night's meeting.

In speaking about charter schools and the issues they cause for public schools, Dinniman said, "What you have is a governor and a legislature at war with public schools."

Dinniman said there is strong support for charter schools in the state government. He co-sponsored Senate Bill 1115, which lays out guidelines for charter schools. 

Several board members have been outspoken on the subject of charter schools because the district is required to pay the charter school for each student that attends. 

Essentially, the taxpayers are paying for students that don't use the distrcit's public schools - they attend charter or cyber-charter schools.

"Charter schools will cost us two million dollars in 2013-2014," said board president Thomas DiBello. 

DiBello also pointed out that the money to pay the charter schools comes from the district taxpayers.

Despite passing the State Senate, SB1115 died in the House and will have to be introduced again in January.

Dinniman, who is the minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said that the bill was the best bipartisan compromise that the committee members could create. 

The bill had several changes from previous versions. The committee removed language that would allow a statewide board to authorize charter schools. It also contained provisions for more transparency under Right-to-Know and Sunshine Act laws, monitoring academic quality and handling fund surpluses.

Statewide authorization, as it is called, would have taken away a local school district's ability to have any say in the formation of a charter school in its district. 

Requiring charter schools to submit to Sunshine Act provisions allows for more monitoring of their finances as well as their academic process.

Board member Edward Dressler asked why the bill had been attached to a bill concerning special education. 

Dinniman said that combining bills is a common occurrence and that it speeds up the process. 

The special education part of the bill will be separated from the charter school portion when the bill is reintroduced, Dinniman said. 

"I was at the PSBA (Pennsylvania School Board Association) [meeting] last week, and many people would have supported the special education part of the bill," Dressler said. 

Board member Bernard Pettit asked Sen. Dinniman directly if he voted for the bill. 

"I voted for the bill because I thought it was the best compromise we could get," Dinniman answered. 

If reelected in November, Dinniman promised to keep working on school issues. 

"I will work with you to save public education in this state," Dinniman said. 

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