PSBA Bulletin September/October 2021 September/October 2021 - Page 33

Hill Talk

Rep . Mark Longietti

D – Mercer ( part )
Thoughts from policymakers on public education

Hill Talk

Minority Chair , House Education Committee
PSBA would like to congratulate you on your appointment as the minority chair of the House Education Committee . What are your key education-related legislative priorities in the 2021-22 session ? We need to improve and invest in the entire breadth of our education system so that our people may pursue the American Dream and our economy may thrive . It starts with high-quality early learning when the architecture of the brain is formed . We have made great strides in providing access for more young children , but still , the majority of children lack access , so we need to continue to invest . In K-12 , we need to invest in literacy in the early grades so children can read to learn ; career exploration in the middle grades so students can begin to pursue career paths ; and Advanced Placement and dual enrollment programs in higher grades to enhance rigor . Finally , we need a coordinated higher education system where institutions work together for seamless access between career and technical education , certificate programs , and associate , undergraduate and graduate degree completion .
What are your thoughts on the need for charter school reform legislation , and what would you like to see done on this issue ? Applying the Special Education Funding Formula to charter schools is a logical starting point . The formula uses the actual
percentage of the special education population in a sending school district when determining average costs , and it distinguishes between students needing a less intensive level of service versus those having more intensive needs , when calculating tuition rates . It is not rational to exempt charter schools from that formula . We also need to look at the actual cost of a cyber charter school education as well as budgetary fund balances for these institutions .
What are your thoughts on the need for state support for public school infrastructure ? I toured Furness High School in Philadelphia , where the top floor is shut down due to asbestos concerns and the remainder of the school is in great disrepair . The average age of our public school buildings is 70 years , and too many are not healthy environments for students and staff due to deferred maintenance and lead and asbestos issues . The American Rescue Plan funding we have received from Washington , DC , should be deployed to address these critical infrastructure needs .
It is important to develop a rapport with legislators and staff before making an ask or laying out priorities .
Public schools are constantly faced with a barrage of costly , unfunded mandates placed on them by the federal and state governments . What are your thoughts on how to help defend public schools from unfunded mandates and provide needed relief ? School board members need to work closely with PSBA to have a continuing dialogue with policymakers at the federal and state level and quantify the unfunded mandate costs of various proposals and policies , and what that means in terms of what cannot be provided to students due to these costs .
What are your thoughts on effective public school advocacy , and can you provide a useful advocacy tip to school directors across the state ?
It is important to develop a rapport with legislators and staff before making an ask or laying out priorities . Schedule an introductory meeting and get to know one another over time , and that will lead to more effective advocacy . B
September / October 2021 PSBA Bulletin 31