PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December - Page 29

Hill Talk

Rep . Rosemary Brown

R - Monroe ( part )
What are your thoughts on how to help defend public schools from costly , unfunded mandates and provide needed relief ? During my tenure in
Harrisburg , there has been a continuous effort to help reduce cost drivers for our schools while focusing on providing a quality education . I am happy to have been actively involved in this effort as well as in passing needed pension and other reforms . However , legislators cannot do this alone . Districts and school board members must be teammates in this effort and part of the process . How ? By making a concerted effort to review the mandates placed on them and reporting back to federal and state legislators those mandates they believe are unproductive or unnecessary to providing a quality education . By creating and updating a list of outdated mandates and helping provide the justification for removing them , districts and school board members can help move along the process of mandate relief . That is why meeting with your legislators with this updated , detailed information – as well as with suggestions and follow up – is extremely important . We should never do anything just because “ this is always how it ’ s been done .”
Thank you for working with PSBA on recent legislation you authored which would change the manner in which special education tuition payments are calculated for charter schools . Why is it important to address this issue ? While
cyber and public charter schools are an important option for families and students across the state , it is also important that the dollars used to fund these options are distributed correctly and fairly , as they are public ( tax ) dollars . While I continue to support choice for families and students , I believe the funding that follows the student to one of these options needs to be provided with accountability and fairness .
The 189th District that I represent has a long history of excessive school property taxes , and incorrect or unfair funding formulas ( created long before I was a representative ) played a significant role in making those taxes what they are today . That is why I am keenly aware of the need for fairness in education funding decisions , and why I am proud of the great strides we have made in fixing the basic education funding formula ( though there is more to be done .)
Regarding special education funding for charter schools , the impetus for recent efforts was one of improving consistency and fairness . We cannot send excessive money out of local school districts under a formula that is not used for special education and is different than the special education formula the state adjusted several years ago .
Thoughts from policymakers on public education
What are your thoughts on the need for state support for public school infrastructure ? I believe the state
has a role in ensuring that our school infrastructure is safe and provides for the learning experience while still being cognizant of the significant budgetary constraints that exist in today ’ s world . In addition , due to the COVID pandemic , there are new concerns that we must

Hill Talk

address through planning and proactive measures . I believe – as do the thousands of taxpayers I represent – that school districts must strike a careful balance to neither overbuild nor be excessive in what they do build . This can be accomplished if board members always look for ways to save , create quality and best meet the needs of our world – just as they would if they were building their own homes . Quality , effectiveness , forecasting out maintenance costs and other factors can all be reasonably accomplished . The state should play a role in this , but it should never be expected to do it without strong local involvement as well .
What does effective public school advocacy look like ? Ensuring that your
legislator knows the details of your district and the obstacles you have is a critical piece to success because without this information , they cannot be a strong and effective advocate for your needs . Public school advocacy should never be political , but it should always be productive . Acknowledging political difficulties that may exist in a situation ( from public support levels to the difficulty of securing scarce financial resources ) can be part of any discussion , but solutions should be the focus of every conversation .
I feel strongly that education must be a priority , as we should create opportunities and knowledge that helps people be the best they can be for their professional and personal success . Advocating for public policy comes with helping educate your legislators on specifics consistently , educating yourself on the state legislative process and creating a plan together . While local control is extremely important for schools , creating that relationship – especially with your state partners – is a necessary measure . My advice is to never work in a silo or be out to pass the buck . Always respectfully acknowledge the pitfalls on all levels and work as partners to come up with solutions . Make an effort to make quarterly working calls or meetings with your legislators .
November / December 2021 PSBA Bulletin 27