Rep. Saylor bill would require school board training

Greg Gross
  • Saylor's bill would require new members to take 8 hours worth of training

Newly elected and appointed school board members may have to undergo state-mandated training in order to serve.

Stan Saylor

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, that would require the training would also force re-elected school board members to complete continuing-education courses.

"I think it's important for anyone who takes office to know the laws," he said. "I think it's important to be educated."

But some members of York County school boards, which oversee multi-million dollar budgets, said members already voluntary take training courses and that the mandatory training isn't needed.

"Unlike him, we don't get a big salary," York City schools board president Margie Orr said. "This is a volunteer job. How dare he?"

The Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) was initially opposed to Saylor's bill but jumped on board when it was amended to allow only the PSBA to offer the training.

York City School Board member Margie Orr. Bill Kalina photo

What it does: The measure, House Bill 1906, would require all newly elected or appointed school board members to undergo eight hours of training within a year of taking office.

The training program would cover areas such as academic programs, personnel, fiscal management, district operations and ethics, according to Saylor's bill.

All re-elected and re-appointed school board members would have to take a four-hour course that would detail changes to laws concerning education and updates to the Sunshine Law, which outlines open meeting requirements, Saylor said.

The online or in-person training would be free to the elected officials, who don't receive pay for serving on the boards. The rules would also apply to charter school trustees.

No consequences: Saylor's bill came about after he fielded complaints about school districts and boards over the years.

"Most of the complaints come from school districts and how they're run," Saylor said, noting state legislators undergo three to four days worth of training after they are elected, followed by two hours of training each year they are in office.

There are, however, no consequences included in the bill for school board members who don't complete training, Saylor said.

"It doesn't seem to have any teeth," said Rod Drawbaugh, president of the West York Area school board. "What's the purpose of having the law?"

The training requirements would be put in place in 2018 if the bill becomes law. It's not known when House will vote on the bill.

"I don't know if it'll pass," Saylor said.

Opposed: Orr and Drawbaugh noted most board members already receive hours worth of training from the PSBA.

Orr, a two-term member of the city school board, said she and other members completed two rounds of  training recently, once at the start of the year and again in March.

"I'm well versed in school law," she said.

Steve Robinson, a PSBA spokesman, said newly elected school board members have the option to take a daylong course that covers budget, legal and superintendent/school board relations.

Since 2014, when new members were last elected, 628 people, or two-thirds of all new members, took the course. The association also offers 50 online courses, monthly webinars, 32 customized workshops and other educational opportunities.

"We strongly encourage new members to take the training," Drawbaugh said. "Here again, it's just another mandate the state is putting on us."

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