PA Senate approves guns in classrooms, HB 97 on tap

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By a vote of 28 to 22, the PA Senate approved SB 383, a bill that allows teachers and other school employees to carry concealed, loaded firearms in public schools.

Click HERE to see how your senator voted. 

Each school board will decide if it will allow teachers and employees to carry weapons in its district’s schools. Each board’s firearm access policy, including the names of those who will be armed, must be on file with law enforcement agencies that serve the school district. However, this plan would NOT be subject to PA’s Right to Know law. School boards would be prohibited from sharing with parents and community members which teachers and school employees in buildings are armed.

Employees who wish to carry weapons into classrooms will need to have some firearms training, possess a concealed carry license, and pass a psychological exam. There is no limit on the number of employees in a school who could be armed and the bill contains no guidelines about the safe storage of weapons in schools.

The PA House is not expected to take up the bill until after lawmakers return to Harrisburg from their summer vacation and Governor Wolf has said that he opposes it.

When they voted for SB 383, lawmakers demonstrated the value they place on our children and the education they receive.

SB 383 sponsor Senator Donald White, R-Indiana, said this legislation was “all about our kids” and keeping them safe. He said that his school districts couldn’t afford to pay for security guards, which he apparently believes are critically necessary to ensure student safety. (We disagree with the premise that schools should employ armed guards, but that is a subject for a different email).

White and other lawmakers didn’t propose increasing state funding so that schools could hire additional trained professionals in schools. Instead, 28 senators voted for SB 383, which doesn’t cost the state a dime and turns educators into unpaid armed guards in our schools.

If legislators are actually want to pass legislation that is “all about our kids”, they should fully fund our schools and provide school districts the resources they need to make critical investments that will support students and improve school safety in the long term.  This includes ensuring that schools have enough money to hire trained professionals to support students, including counselors who can diagnose and work with students who experience mental health issues.

Not missing a beat, the Senate Ed Committee voted HB 97, the bad charter school expansion bill, out of committee yesterday (June 29th). HB 97 was amended to ELIMINATE the $27 million in savings school districts would have received because of cuts in tuition rates to cyber charter schools.

The majority of Republicans who control the committee voted AGAINST commonsense amendments that would have required charter schools to employ more certified teachers and to use the same system to evaluate teachers as district schools.

They also voted against an amendment that would have subjected private companies that manage public charter schools to audits. These lawmakers clearly want to ensure that private companies that manage charter schools will be able siphon taxpayer dollars into their pockets (and mansions, airplanes, and shareholder profits, etc.) without the oversight of the pesky taxpayers who pay 100% of charter school tuition bills in PA.

HB 97 is scheduled for a vote in the full Senate on Thursday, June 29th.  If it passes out of the full Senate with amendments, it would need to go back to the House for a concurrence vote.

No word yet on how much state funding PA’s public schools will receive next year or any discussions of how to ensure that PA’s students will receive a quality education. Legislative leaders are clearly too busy using our kids’ schools to push agendas that have nothing to do with education.