Better school district collaboration on the table in PA after Rep Topper bill approved by committee

25 June 2024- Acknowledging the need to modernize and improve the educational system in Pennsylvania, legislation by Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton) that would encourage districts to explore sharing services and possible mergers was unanimously approved by the House Education Committee today.

“There are numerous steps we, as policymakers, should take to provide the educational opportunities students need and deserve,” Topper, the Republican chairman of the House Education Committee, said. “I believe enabling districts to look at options, such as sharing resources to create a more efficient system, is one the steps we can take to unlock new educational possibilities for students.”

House Bill 2386 would expand the scope of grants available for administrative partnerships, ensuring they encompass instructional programming partnerships and consolidation feasibility studies.

The bill came about after Topper toured schools in the area and heard concerns from administrators, school board members, students and educators. As a member of the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), Topper dove deeper during hearings into how districts share resources now and sought ways it can be expanded. The minority BEFC report, as well as the majority report, noted better collaboration, and possible mergers, among districts could improve the education system overall.

“This legislation will be a tremendous benefit for schools, especially smaller, rural districts, with the upfront costs associated with sharing services and to incentivize a regional approach for the delivery of educational services,” Topper said. “By working together, schools can reduce costs, eliminate redundancies and deliver services to students more effectively.”

Importantly, the program would provide funding for districts to investigate the feasibility of consolidation or mergers. Consolidation studies can identify potential benefits and challenges, empowering districts to make informed decisions that best serve their communities and students.

House Bill 2386 now goes to the full House for consideration.