Educational reform hearing looks at better online learning, help for needy families

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s no secret this year has been challenging for education. State senators talked about how to make things better for Pennsylvania kids for generations to come on Monday. They covered everything from better online learning to getting more help to the neediest families.

This was a public hearing, the first of three looking at bettering education in Pennsylvania, especially using lessons learned over the past year.

The pandemic has brought up the question of how to create equal access to online learning for all school districts.

“I always use the example that a school system in Lancaster County such as Manheim Central School District, which has a phenomenal ag science program could develop an online course in ag science and make that available to another school system from across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Ryan Aument, (R-Lancaster).

“We have members of our team that are exploring some of those models now,” said Matt Stem, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Broadband access was another big topic. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, they’re working on identifying areas with the greatest need.

“Working with PBS to datacast actual digital resources to students whose homes don’t have access to high-speed internet,” Stem said.

Educational leaders expressed their concerns for more funding to help provide additional scholarships and grants for needy families. There’s also legislation on the table that aims to make charter schools more accountable for how they use taxpayer money.

“And a moratorium on new cyber charter schools, limit student enrollment in low performing charter schools until outcomes improve,” Stem said.

But many parents touted the success of charter schools.

“Allows us to do school at our own pace and to dive into lessons more deeply than just what’s on the screen,” said Cumberland County parent Nicole Lillich.

The next two hearings are on April 19 and April 23. The Senate Education Committee will work on legislation, addressing the concerns expressed at all three public hearings.

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