Matthew Splain, superintendent of the Otto-Eldred School District, testified in Commonwealth court on Tuesday in the Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit, which began Nov. 12.
The William Penn School District et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education et al., Includes six school districts as applicants: William Penn SD; SD of the Panther Valley; Lancaster School District; SD of Greater Johnstown; SD of the Wilkes-Barre area and SD of the Shenandoah Valley. There are also four parents and two statewide associations listed in the case; Parents Jamella and Bryant Miller, parents of KM; Sheila Armstrong, mother of SA; Tracey Hughes, parent of PMH of the Petition Districts and School District of Philadelphia and statewide associations of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.
Splain is Chairman of the Board of Directors of PARSS. The association’s members are 178 small rural districts located across Pennsylvania, the majority of which are in The Era’s coverage area, which serve approximately 300,000 students between them.
Information from the Public Interest Law Center indicates that the petitioners “seek a long-term solution to decades of inadequate and inequitable school funding in Pennsylvania.” The state constitution places the responsibility for ensuring a comprehensive and effective public education system on the General Assembly, and school districts and parents claim that the state is failing to meet this legal obligation. In addition, the petitioners claim that the state maintains a funding system that discriminates against students in neighborhoods with low land value and income, violating the equal protection provisions of the Constitution by depriving students in these communities of the educational resources they have. need to be successful.
Splain’s time at the helm began shortly before 11 a.m. He has testified all day and will return to the stand today to conclude his testimony.
Over the course of the afternoon, Splain was asked about statements he made earlier today.
One area of questioning was the challenges of staffing a small school district. Splain discussed that the district is working to align the ELA program with current state standards. The need to address this issue is a result of the loss of the District Director for Curriculum and Assessment, who left in the fall of 2021. The opening of the position resolved a staffing situation. In progress.
“We have always had administrators at the building level. We tried to use the skills and expertise of the staff on site, so we asked the special education supervisor to play the role of the elementary building manager, ”Splain explained. “For anyone familiar with special education, that and being a principal is more than a full-time job. We had someone who was doing more than a full time job for a few years.
Splain explained that the district adjusted staff when the director of programs and assessment left to have a director of special education and student services and hire an elementary school principal. This leaves the tasks of curriculum and assessment to building managers.
The questions focused on the summer programs offered by the school district and the approximate number of students taking advantage of these opportunities, as well as the ELA and math averages for state assessments and whether the proficient percentages / advanced district are above the state average.
It was also mentioned that it can be misleading to look at the percentage data for OE, as the smaller district size means that each student represents a larger portion of the percentage.
Testimonies also focused on the availability of career and technical programs, both within the district and through the local mid-unit. When asked if small rural districts can rely on an intermediary unit for services the district cannot provide, Splain said, “This was how the UI was originally designed. , but its functioning now depends on the individual intermediate unit. They are more limited in what they can provide because of the access to the resources they have.
Splain also noted that the trip to the UI is a deterrent for some students who might otherwise benefit from the services. Meanwhile, the plausibility of operating a center for the district itself is low.
“We can run a program, but an entire center would not be feasible,” he said.