July 2019
ELC's Efforts in Harrisburg: A Roundup
Late June in Harrisburg every year brings a flurry of activity to adopt a new budget and make changes to the state’s school code and fiscal code. This year was a busy one:

PA Schools Get Modest Funding Increases: A $50 million boost in state special education funding to school distric ts was an ELC priority and a bright spot in the recent 2019-20 bud get agreement reached between Gov. Wolf and the state legislature — an agreement that unfortunately again leaves Pennsylvania school children far from having adequately and equitably funded schools. Legislative leaders reduced the governor’s funding request. The $160 million boost for basic education funding through the state’s need-based funding formula, a 2.6% increase, is welcome but not a gamechanger for Pennsylvania’s neediest school districts and underserved students.

“We need to see sustained increases over multiple years to close the gaps and get us where we need to be,” ELC executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr told the Capital-Star . Read ELC’s statement on the budget.
Senate Bill 621 Would Arm More School Personnel: SB 621 , approved by the Pennsylvania legislature and sent to the governor last week, dangerously expands the category of armed school personnel. We have been working closely with CeaseFire PA, urging Gov. Wolf to veto it before the July 7 deadline for him to act. Please contact  the governor to ask him to veto SB 621 because you oppose having more guns in schools, arming school staff, and placing students of color and students with disabilities at increased risk of fatal harm.

School Code Changes Are a Mixed Bag: At the end of June, the legislature approved two other key pieces of legislation amending the state’s Public School Code: HB 1615 and SB 144 . These are omnibus bills that include a range of policy shifts, only some of which ELC supports.
The school code bills contain a few pieces of legislation that ELC has long supported:
  • Fostering Independence waiver legislation that ELC has promoted, along with Juvenile Law Center. We are thrilled that youth in foster care will be eligible for tuition and fee waivers starting in fall 2020 if they pursue higher education in Pennsylvania.
  • Changing the compulsory school age from 8 to 6 to support early education and from 17 to 18 to boost attendance and graduation rates. Prior to this change, Pennsylvania was one of only two states that required attendance beginning at age 8, rather than age 6 or 7.  
  • Embedding culturally responsive and trauma-informed training into professional development. This will help ensure that Pennsylvania teachers, school administrators, staff, and school board members learn about best practices in addressing trauma and its impact on students and schools.

The bills also contain a number of provisions that will make it harder to ensure access to a quality public education in Pennsylvania, including:
  1.         A $30 million increase in tax-credit vouchers for private school scholarships that will divert needed funding away from the state’s general fund — dollars that could have supported public schools and other critical programs;
  2.         Authorization of a special education funding commission that excludes addressing how the current system may incentivize charter schools to underserve students with disabilities needing higher cost educational services;
  3.        Extension of inequitable “hold-harmless” provisions to new categories of funding (career and technical education funding and the Ready to Learn Block grant), depriving growing districts of needed funds;
  4.         Creation of a new "threat assessment" program that puts the onus on students and school staff to recognize “threatening or at-risk behavior,” rather than supporting counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals in performing these functions; and
  5.        Commitment of more money for school security personnel and equipment for the School Safety and Security Fund and a shifting of these funds away from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. ELC is concerned that much of this funding is used by districts to add security personnel and hardware rather than needed student supports.
ELC Awarded $100,000 Grant by Impact100
Deborah Gordon Klehr presenting to Impact100 with an ELC client.
ELC is the proud recipient of a 2019 Impact100 Philadelphia $100,000 Core Mission grant! Impact100 is a philanthropic organization that engages women in collectively funding high-impact grants to nonprofits in the Philadelphia region. ELC is grateful to have been selected as a grantee. This generous grant will directly support our mission of ensuring that all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education. We are very appreciative of Impact100 for this recognition of our work.
ELC Issues New Report on School Success for Pregnant and Parenting Students
ELC has just issued a new report highlighting the barriers to educational success facing pregnant and parenting students in Philadelphia. The report, “Clearing the Path: Creating School Success For Pregnant and Parenting Students & Their Children” is the result of ELC’s two-year study of this topic and identifies key recommendations to improve educational outcomes and support students. Drawing from models in other states and local jurisdictions, our recommendations include: developing an academic plan for parenting students, providing targeted support during leave, including homebound instruction, and providing specific interventions and academic accommodations to support students when they return to school, including access to on-site childcare and breastfeeding accommodations in schools.
Significant Changes to Pittsburgh Public Policies, Advancing Equity and Inclusion
As ELC continues to work with parents, students, and advocates to advance education justice, our work has resulted in meaningful changes to Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Code of Student Conduct — including a list of factors that school administrators must consider prior to referring a student to law enforcement. This change and others in the code mean that next year students in Pittsburgh will attend schools with policies that promote in-school interventions and are more inclusive of students with disabilities, English learners, and non-binary students. We look forward to the year ahead as we work with partners to ensure that these changes result in real, transformational changes in students’ lives.
Supporting SB 662: Fostering Graduation Success for Highly Mobile Students
ELC joined Juvenile Law Center and youth from Youth Fostering Change and Juveniles for Justice in Harrisburg to advocate for Senate Bill 662 on June 11. The bill, currently in the Senate Education Committee, helps youth experiencing education disruptions — due to homelessness, foster care, or juvenile justice system involvement — achieve school success through graduation planning, credit transfer requirements, and targeted educational supports. In Harrisburg, youth advocates explained the unique educational barriers they faced and the potential benefits of passing SB 662 to Sen. Art Haywood as well as to legislative staff of Republican senators on the Education Committee.

A group of youth advocates also visited the office of Rep. Curtis Sonney, the chair of the House Education Committee, to build support for the now-approved Fostering Independence Through Education Act, which waives tuition at public institutions of higher education for students with foster care experience (see “School Code Changes,” above).
Thank you, TJ!
At the end of June, ELC bid farewell to our Haverford House fellow, TJ von Oehsen. During his yearlong fellowship focused on school funding research and policy, TJ was instrumental in several key policy efforts, including the publication of reports on special education funding and charter school equity. We wish TJ well as he begins an AmeriCorps placement with the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition. We will miss him here!
Seeking Postgrad Legal Fellowship Applications
Are you graduating from law school in spring of 2020 or currently working as a law clerk? ELC seeks to sponsor applicants for postgraduate legal fellowships to start in fall of 2020. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, and preference will be given to applications received by July 19, 2019. Scope and responsibilities of the fellowship will vary depending on the project and sponsor/funder priorities. Please visit our website to explore potential topics under consideration and apply today!
We're Hiring!
ELC is currently searching for experienced attorneys for full-time openings, as well as 2L and 3L applicants for externships and practicums. Please  visit our website  for more information on open positions.
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A copy of the official registration and financial information of the Education Law Center may be obtained from the Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-880-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.