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Schuylkill County News

Local Reps in Harrisburg Differ on Controversial Student Tutor Bill

The 4 Representatives split on supporting HB100.

Schuylkill County’s delegation to the State Capitol have a difference in opinion on a controversial school tutoring bill about to be taken up on the Senate floor.

Earlier this month, the Senate Education Committee advanced HB100 to the floor on a split vote. Chairman Dave Argall (R-29) voted in favor of advancing it out of the Senate Education Committee.

In a previous vote, Reps. Dane Watro and Tim Twardzik voted in favor of HB100. But Schuylkill County’s other Representatives in Harrisburg, Reps. Jamie Barton and Joanne Stehr, opposed it.

Barton and Stehr were 2 of 60 Republicans in the House to vote against the Democrat-backed bill.

Pennsylvania HB100 – Controversial Student Tutoring Bill Advancing in the State Senate

Here’s a little bit about HB100 and what makes it rather controversial:

HB100 would amend the Public School Code in Pennsylvania and require districts to establish what’s called a cross-age tutoring program.

If it’s passed as it’s currently written, the Dept. of Education would impose a mandate on public schools in Pennsylvania to create this student tutoring program. It would use 11th and 12th grade students as tutors for younger students. The DoE would eventually establish rules on who could be a tutor and who can get tutored if this legislation is passed as is.

Per the rules of the legislation, the goal is not to replace the work of teachers and school staff, rather to supplement it. Student tutors would need to be trained on performing this job for younger students. And a teacher or paraprofessional in the school district would be required to coordinate and supervise tutoring.

How is this legislation controversial?

Well, for starters, it’s another mandate from the state Dept. of Education. The legislation doesn’t indicate anywhere that the state is footing the bill for any of the training or the cost of adding more work to staff at local school districts.

But more than that, it’s who, exactly, can be a tutor among the high school juniors and seniors.

The way the bill is written, it doesn’t give tutor jobs to the proverbial best and brightest. Instead, students who are “not meeting their academic benchmarks” would be eligible to volunteer for the tutoring jobs.

Yes, struggling students are the intended tutors. And those students can earn academic credit for their tutoring work.

The bill indicates that allowing older, struggling students to tutor younger students would help them improve their grades in high school.

Schuylkill County Delegation Explains Their Votes on HB100

Watro voted for the bill when it came before House members recently for that reason.

He said in a statement released to The Canary, “Tutoring programs like this are becoming extremely common across the Commonwealth. I believe this is a win-win situation for all involved.

“Tutoring is a cost-also a proven, cost-effective way to enhance academic performance for both tutored students and the students who serve as tutors,” Watro added.

Twardzik agrees with Watro to that end. In a statement to The Canary, he said, “I looked at the bill as a way to increase our students’ engagement in their education. Peer tutoring helps students understand the lessons and builds confidence for both the tutor and student. The opportunity to serve others makes for a better school experience.”

The other two local representatives in Harrisburg disagree with their GOP allies.

Barton is not in favor of the Dept. of Education placing another mandate on schools. In his statement to us, he said, “House Bill 100 is a mandate, and I don’t think we need the government requiring a mentoring program, particularly when a mentoring program is something any school district in the Commonwealth can create and implement without a government mandate.”

Stehr’s chief complaint is seemingly about who could become tutors. She told The Canary, via written statement, “I voted no because I want the most qualified students tutoring students, not an unqualified student put in that place because of a diversity clause.”

State Senate Considers Possible Amendments

Argall recently said some amendments to address the objections being raised by some of his colleagues and the Schuylkill County representation in the House would likely need to be addressed before it potentially gets signed into law.

Argall said he recalls, as a high school senior, tutoring a “struggling” high school freshman in German. He said it helped him with his German, too. Of course, this bill as it is would use struggling students at tutors, not the tutees.

“If we do this right,” Argall said, “it can be a step ahead, understanding the objections that need to be met.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. insider

    June 20, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    Unfunded mandates have put incredible burdens on local school boards…Stehr uses diversity as a dog whistle…IMHO

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