Between state, federal and local dollars, we spend $26 billion a year in education in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, only four in five ninth-graders actually go on to graduate high school. Clearly we must reform our education system to ensure that our investments are paying dividends in preparing students for the future.
For Senator Dinniman, education has been a lifelong passion.
“I’ve always felt that the learning experience – being in the classroom, sharing in an academic conversation and seeing those sparks of interest take hold – is an invigorating one,” said Dinniman, a former West Chester University professor. “And that our schools are not mere public institutions, but sacred pillars of democracy. They represent one of the purest and most fundamental values of our nation – the ability to improve and enlighten oneself in a place where knowledge is readily available.”
As a former school board member and current minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, Dinniman also knows that education makes up one of the largest appropriations in the state budget. It’s absolutely imperative that we ensure that our tax dollars are spent on quality education for all of our students. After all, education is the driving force behind developing fields and new job opportunities. In these uncertain economic times it is crucial that we continue to support effective educational initiatives and programs.
In the Senate, Dinniman has led various initiatives to ensure quality education programs and reduce the cost of education.
Dinniman is a strong supporter of Keystone STARS, a state program that promotes quality early learning environments through research-based performance standards that address staff qualifications and professional development, educational programs, partnerships with family and community, and leadership and management.
In fact, Dinniman is leading the charge to protect early childhood education. He has introduced Senate Bill 829 to ensure that all children have access to early education programs regardless of where they live. Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the nation that delays the requirement for children to attend school until the age of eight. While school districts in Pennsylvania have at least half day kindergarten, it is possible, under current law, for financially distressed school districts to cut kindergarten through second grade programs (for children age five to seven). This legislation will lower the age at which a child must enter school from eight to five to ensure the every child has the necessary foundation to succeed in life.
Dinniman is also working to relieve school districts of costly, outdated and unnecessary mandates that take resources away from classroom learning. He has introduced Senate Bill 731, legislation that calls for the inclusion comprehensive financial reporting by the State Board of Education during the regulation process. The vast majority of unfunded mandates on school districts do not come from legislative action and bills passed by the General Assembly, but from the State Board of Education through the regulation process. Currently, they are implemented without real figures, but only vague statements of cost that do not provide the information necessary for legislative leaders to make judgement. This bill would require that detailed financial break downs of estimated costs for new education regulations be provided at key times in the regulatory review process.
Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources, but our greatest resources are the students and young people who will lead us into the future. We simply cannot continue to throw money into an educational system that leaves so many behind. Rather, we must continue to explore and promote the best education methods and learning practices and incorporate them here in the Commonwealth.