Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Vincent Hughes’

Brewster, Hughes React to New State Report on Charter Schools

Harrisburg – May 24, 2017 – State Sens. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) and Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) reacted to today’s release of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report, which examined the financial impact of charter schools in Pennsylvania.

Brewster and Hughes have been long-time advocates of changing the state’s charter school law.  Both senators have introduced legislation that includes a wide range of charter reforms.

“The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study gives the General Assembly an excellent analysis of how charter schools operate vis-à-vis local school districts and where improvements can be made,” Brewster said.  “The report includes a long list of recommendations that, if adopted, will aid public schools and provide charters with a reasonable path forward.”

Hughes, who serves as Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that the charter law needs to be examined and reworked with reasonable and responsible changes that improve accountability and better serve students and taxpayers.

“Our charter law needs to be changed significantly with reforms that make sense,” Hughes said.  “Charter schools play a role in our education system and have a place, but they cannot be positioned in such a way that they financially put our traditional public schools in a bind.

“The report from the LBFC reinforces the idea that the current system needs to be reformed.”

Brewster, who is vice chair of the committee, has offered a comprehensive charter reform measure (Senate Bill 670), which would realign and redefine how local school districts, charter schools, students and taxpayers interact.  Hughes’ legislation, Senate Bill 198, would provide local school boards with the tools to better oversee charter schools in their school districts.

The LBFC report included several recommendations, including the following:

  • Allowing fiscal considerations to be considered by school districts, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Charter Appeal Board and the courts for new and expanded public charter applications;
  • Permitting school districts to negotiate charter per pupil payment rates and methods;
  • Eliminating mandates for transportation that are inconsistent with services offered for district-operated schools;
  • Requiring parents who place students in charters to first register with school district and then notify the district of changes in status;
  • Modifying the PDE funding intercept process to allow school districts to verify that it is responsible for payment prior to funding being intercepted by the department;
  • Eliminating public school districts’ responsibility for charter school compliance with compulsory attendance requirements;
  • Requiring greater transparency and fiscal accountability addressing such items as shell ownership, leasing, state payments, and conflict of interest policies; allowing audits of funds transferred to associated entities and for-profits; prohibiting the guaranteeing of loans where there is no direct school involvement; and requiring charter to timely submit financial records for the district to review; and
  • Requiring all “brick and mortar” charter school students from multiple districts to obtain regional charters.

Several of the accountability and transparency provisions noted in the report are already pieces of Brewster’s and Hughes’ bills.

Brewster said there are significant political and financial issues to deal with when the legislature is moving forward with charter reform but he said he thinks common ground can be found and a better charter law produced.

“The law needs to be changed to include financial reforms, accountability measures and alterations to how the charter school appeal board operates,” Brewster said.  “The recommendations made by the LBFC, combined with provisions in my legislation, Senator Hughes’ bill and others would go a long way toward improving how charters interact with local school districts.”

“There are many ideas to incorporate and plenty of work to do to achieve a better charter law,” Hughes said.  “Our local school districts and charter schools both need to be treated fairly.  We can strike that balance.”

Brewster said that he wanted to thank the members of the LBFC and its staff for its excellent work in preparing the report and the recommendations.

Editor’s Note: A copy of the LBFC report is available online: http://lbfc.legis.state.pa.us/Resources/Documents/Reports/584.pdf   

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Hughes: ‘Turn Anger into Action’ at Upcoming Community Forum

 
PHILADELPHIA, February 22, 2017 — State Sen. Vincent Hughes invites the public to participate in an upcoming community forum that will focus on public engagement on legislative issues in Harrisburg and Washington, DC.

The community forum will take place on Wednesday, March 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Science Center Theater at Montgomery County Community College, located at 340 Dekalb Pike in Blue Bell.

“People are engaged in democracy and want to take the next step and get more involved. It’s important for folks to know that their voice can and should be heard, and this forum is an opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns, and meet individuals and groups who are actively involved in the community,” said Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “Let’s turn our interest into engagement, our passion into policy, and our anger into action by coming together to for a lively discussion on the matters that affect all of us.”

For more information or to register for the event, contact Omar Sabir in Hughes’ office at 215-879-7777 or osabir@pasenate.com. More information is also available at senatorhughes.com, on Twitter @SenatorHughes and @SenHughesOffice and on the senator’s Facebook page.

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Lawmakers Announce $357,000 for Philadelphia School District from Rideshare Revenues

State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) highlights the benefits of a new law regulating ridesharing companies during a Feb. 16 news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters. Revenues collected from the ridesharing companies will benefit Philadelphia public school students. With him are (left to right) State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia), state Rep. Maria Donatucci (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) and Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite.

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 16, 2017 — State Sen. Vincent Hughes today joined fellow lawmakers and officials from the School District of Philadelphia to announce that the school district has received its first installment of state funding — more than $357,000 — as a result of a new state law regulating rideshare companies in the City of Philadelphia and across the commonwealth.

“Today’s announcement is a result of a comprehensive effort to regulate rideshare companies statewide and ensure that they pay their fair share for conducting business in a major city,” said Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “In just a short time, revenue has been generated that will directly benefit our schools. This funding is expected to continue to grow as rideshare companies become a more popular transportation choice for consumers, and that’s good news for our school children.”

Two measures were enacted last year to secure this new source of funding for the school district.

Act 164 of 2016, which was signed into law last November, extends the regulation of Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to include the City of Philadelphia. Under the law, the ridesharing companies are required to pay 1.4 percent of their gross receipts of all fares charged to customers for prearranged rides originating in the city. The revenue collected would be distributed 66.67 percent to the Philadelphia School District and 33.33 percent to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Additional revenues were collected with the passage of Act 85 of 2016, in which the state temporarily authorized the legal operation of rideshare companies in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention, collecting 1 percent of gross receipts.

The $357,593.31 represents the revenues collected during the temporary authorization, but it is estimated that the School District of Philadelphia will receive $2 million in revenues from the assessment this year.

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Senate Democrats Call for PERC to Create Fair, Open, Transparent Process to Consider Pension Legislation

Harrisburg – May 13, 2015 – A leading group of Senate Democrats today wrote to the Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC) to express grave concerns about the process surrounding Senate Bill 1, a massive overhaul of the pension system for public employees.

PERC itself raised red flags about the expedited legislative schedule, which rendered them unable to fully examine the proposal.

Milliman, the actuarial firm hired by the commission to review Senate Bill 1, included the following note in their analysis:

“Due to time constraints dictated by the Commission for providing this actuarial note, we are providing this letter without a complete review of all facets of the legislation nor all actuarial cost projection information used by the system actuaries in their analyses.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) joined with Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), and Democratic Finance Chairman John Blake (D-Lackawanna) to call on PERC to use the authority granted to it to provide recommendations to the General Assembly to improve transparency and provide a timeline when considering legislation related to public pensions.

“Senate Republicans have abandoned the principals of an open and transparent government to ram through an illegal bill that could radically diminish retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of state and school district workers,” said Sen. Costa. “We need to identify a better process than considering a 410-page bill with only 72 hours notice.”

The timeline for Senate Bill 1 has been extremely rushed, lawmaker said.

There was a hastily called Finance Committee meeting on Monday, May 11, where the bill passed along party lines. Senate Bill 1 was then considered by both PERC and the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

“It now appears that this bill—which legal observers believe is unconstitutional and illegal—may be voted on final passage today,” said Sen. Hughes. “It’s simply unconscionable to consider something of this magnitude on such a fast timeline.  When you have Milliman acknowledging problems with the process, that should be enough to stop the wheels of destruction from moving forward.”

PERC was created to ensure that lawmakers can make informed decisions about pension legislation. That is why Senate Democrats have called on the commission to make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to guarantee that future legislation is considered in a more transparent manner.

“We have an obligation to the public to fully consider all legislation, especially something as complicated as pension reform,” said Sen. Blake. “I hope that PERC will respond to our request and create a process worthy of the importance and consequences of any legislation affecting our public pension systems.”

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View Letter to PERC →

View Letter to Senate Republicans →

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