Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Andrew Dinniman

Should teachers carry guns to school? PA Senate Bill 383 could make it a reality

Our PA State Senator Andy Dinniman, Minority Chair of the state Senate’s education committee is set to vote on Senate Bill 383 this morning. As the issue of school safety stemming from school shootings continues, some lawmakers are looking at offensive measures to help protect students. Labeled as “providing for protection and defense of students”, Senate Bill 383 would allow school personnel to carry loaded weapons in public schools.

Anyone that has followed Community Matters over the years knows how I feel about guns and gun control so please know my position is biased against Senate Bill 383. The argument is that if teachers were allowed to carry guns in the classrooms that they have a better chance of protecting students and themselves. Opposing view, including my own, would suggest that students will be afraid knowing that their teachers are carrying concealed weapons and may actually be distracted by the idea.

School should be a safe place and is it not possible that providing a teacher with a gun will make students afraid of going to school? Is arming teachers the answer to school safety? According to PA State Senator Donald White (R-41), the sponsor of Senate Bill 383, he says it would provide another option to improve the safety and security of children, teachers and school staff.

Should anyone who is trained, licensed and meets all the requirements to carry a gun be allowed to carry one – including teachers in our public schools? I would need concrete evidence to convince me that arming our public school teachers is going to increase student safety. Rather than keeping our students safer, isn’t it possible that bringing loaded guns into the classrooms can actually increase the risk to our children?

Should Senate Bill 383 move forward and eventually become law, it would allow local school districts to establish policy allowing personnel who have a concealed-carry permit to bring guns to school.

I would be very curious what parents of school-age children think of this proposed legislation. Where will the TE School Board stand on Senate Bill 383 — with four seats on the school board on the November ballot, it may be important to know the candidate’s views on “guns in the classroom”.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, we saw an immediate reaction across the country regarding school safety. The Newtown, CT shooting of innocent children impacted school district’s safety policies. In TE, we saw the implementation of the District-wide school fencing project. Will “guns in the classroom” be similar — hire a “safety consultant” to make certain of the intended outcome?


To contact PA Senator Andy Dinniman regarding Bill 383, Office: One North Church, West Chester, PA Phone 610-692-2112, Mon – Fri: 8:30 AM – 5 PM.

Fantastic News!! PA State Senator Andy Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million Award to Paoli Transportation Project!

I just received the following press release from State Senator Andy Dinniman’s office — what wonderful, unbelievable news!!

Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million for Paoli Transportation Center Project

WEST CHESTER (November 25) – State Senator Andrew Dinniman today announced that $14.5 million in funding has been awarded toward the Paoli Transportation Project.

“This announcement represents my determination to take one the most significant steps forward in the 30-year history of the Paoli Regional Transportation Center,” said Dinniman. “Paoli and the Great Valley Corporate Center have long served as an economic engine for Chester County. The proposed transportation center and train station at Paoli will ensure that our regional infrastructure continues to provide incentives for entrepreneurs from local small-business owners to international corporations, to call Chester County home.”

Funding for the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center is a vital component of the proposal to relocate and expand the current station to a new site near the existing facility. Specifically, state funding will be directed toward roadway realignment and widening to accommodate the new and expanded regional transportation center. The proposed modern transportation hub in Paoli will improve access for buses, shuttles, and taxis; significantly increase commuter parking to meet both current demand and provide for future ridership; and improve vehicular traffic and reduce congestion for surrounding roadways.

“In light of recent transportation funding legislation in Harrisburg, I worked to ensure Chester County benefited directly from this funding package,” Dinniman continued. “Despite the efforts by some local officials in the House of Representatives to block this vital funding, I am pleased to announce that significant support will be directed for improvement projects such as the Paoli Regional Transportation Center.”

In addition to securing funding for the Paoli Transportation Center, Dinniman announced that more than $123 million in transportation funding will be directed to improvement projects throughout his current legislative district. These projects include $36 million for the repair and replacement of bridges, $17 million for regional roadway and pedestrian-use safety improvements, almost $69 million for roadway repaving, expansion improvement, and other traffic congestion mitigation project throughout Chester County.

“The key to the continuation and growth of our regional economy is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure,” said Dinniman, noting the 76,000 new jobs estimated to come to Chester County between now and 2040. “With this in mind, I will continue to fight for support of Chester County and will work to ensure that important projects, such as the Paoli Transportation Center, are fully funded and completed.”

Will the Proposed SB1 School Voucher Program Further Erode Failing-School Communities?

The Following op-ed article by Larry Feinberg appeared in Monday’s issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lawrence A. Feinberg is a school board member in Haverford Township, the chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition.

In the past, Larry has contributed comments to Community Matters. As we know (and as Larry reminds us), in its present state, the SB1 school voucher bill does not require accountability from private or parochial schools. Our understanding is that Sen. Andy Dinniman is addressing that aspect of the bill and suggests that accountability needs to be included as an amendment. As I have previously stated, I am unclear how student testing and accountability will be possible in a private school setting.

In his opinion article, Larry speaks of the failing-school community . . .

“S.B. 1 would dismantle neighborhood schools by siphoning off motivated students and parents, leaving behind a truly concentrated population of failing students, including those who are less motivated, “hard to educate,” disabled, troubled, and able to speak little English. S.B. 1 offers absolutely nothing to help those students or improve their schools.”

Larry makes an important, and often over-looked point, that may be inherent in the proposed school voucher program. . . the erosion or the ‘dismantling’ of a failing-school community when families and students opt out of the local public school. Isn’t there a real possibility that a school voucher program could cause further deterioration in a failing-school community, even beyond the walls of the local public school?

PA’s Unaccountable School Voucher Bill
By Lawrence A. Feinberg
In support of Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 1, which would provide taxpayer-funded vouchers to private schools, voucher evangelists have been citing a report by the Foundation for Educational Choice, “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools.” However, a review of the report by the National Education Policy Center finds no credible evidence that vouchers have improved student achievement.

Located at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the National Education Policy Center aims to provide high-quality information on education policy. Its review found that the “Win-Win” report, “based on a review of 17 studies, selectively reads the evidence in some of those studies, the majority of which were produced by voucher advocacy organizations.

“Moreover, the report can’t decide whether or not to acknowledge the impact of factors other than vouchers on public schools. It attempts to show that public school gains were caused by the presence of vouchers alone, but then argues that the lack of overall gains for districts with vouchers should be ignored because too many other factors are at play.” The review goes on to note that “existing research provides little reliable information about the competitive effects of vouchers, and this report does little to help answer the question.”

Voucher proponents tout the supposed benefits of competition, but the playing field is not even close to level. The state’s public schools operate under the bureaucratic weight of the Pennsylvania School Code’s thousand pages (also created by the legislature) and another thousand pages of No Child Left Behind requirements. They face a virtual army of special-education attorneys with another thousand pages of laws. They are subject to right-to-know and sunshine laws. And they must bear the costs of complying with all of them.

Religious and other private schools are relatively unaffected by any of this red tape, rendering the notion of fair competition ludicrous.

Public schools are required to accept and expected to educate every student who shows up, regardless of economic status, English proficiency, disabilities, or behavioral problems. It’s the law.

Here’s where “choice” really comes in: Private schools can choose to accept or reject any prospective student, and they can choose which students they retain or expel.

S.B. 1 demands accountability, but only from traditional public schools. While voucher proponents hold the accountability banner high, accusing high-poverty public schools of failing, there is no accountability whatsoever imposed under this bill’s voucher scheme. It would allow private schools to receive tax dollars without being accountable for students’ academic performance, requiring no standardized tests and making no scores available to the public.

Nor does the bill impose any accountability for how private schools spend tax dollars. There would be no transparency, public budgets, or right to know.

Meanwhile, S.B. 1 would dismantle neighborhood schools by siphoning off motivated students and parents, leaving behind a truly concentrated population of failing students, including those who are less motivated, “hard to educate,” disabled, troubled, and able to speak little English. S.B. 1 offers absolutely nothing to help those students or improve their schools.

Ultimately, S.B. 1 and its so-called opportunity scholarships would provide our state legislators with an opportunity to wash their hands of their responsibility to provide a thorough and efficient system of public education for all.

Great Valley Association Pleased Rt. 29 Slip Ramp Project Moves Forward, However . . . Stormwater & Sound Wall Issues Unresolved

In a letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper (see letter below), Great Valley Association president Al Charpentier and Turnpike Sub-committee Chair Lou Erdelan expressed their gratitude for local officials assistance with the turnpike’s Rt. 29 slip ramp project. But as Al and Lou explain, open issues remain with the stormwater and sound walls in the planned turnpike expansion plans. Thanks Al and Lou for your update.

Speaking of the turnpike . . . As a member of the Design Roundtable for the Total Reconstruction and Widening Project of Milepost 320-326, I was just notified by the Turnpike Commission this week of a meeting to be held on August 31. Senator Andy Dinniman will attend the meeting and provide a recap of his discussion with the PA Turnpike Commission and will hope to resolve outstanding issues surrounding the turnpike expansion project. Representatives from the Turnpike Commission will update the Design Roundtable members on progress since our last meeting, which was held in March.

To the Editor:

You may have read the recent announcement that the PA Turnpike Commission (PTC) approved the long-delayed Route 29 slip-ramp project, now scheduled to get under way in March 2011 and be completed by late 2012. A widening of the roadway from four to six lanes is also in the planning stages.

The Great Valley Association created a Pennsylvania Turnpike sub-committee of private citizens in March 2005 to represent the residents of Tredyffrin living in addresses affected by the turnpike roadway in terms of stormwater control and noise abatement. Along with other residential groups, we partnered with township and local elected officials including State Rep. Paul Drucker, State Sen. Andy Dinniman and Tredyffrin Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro, who have been instrumental in moving both the slip-ramp and turnpike-expansion projects forward. While viewing these projects as separate, they have worked cooperatively with the PTC and other state officials on both, to protect local residents’ property and quality of life.

We thank our elected officials and the Turnpike Commission for resolving the slip-ramp issue. Remaining to be resolved are the stormwater issues and the sound-barrier issues for the widening in Tredyffrin and the same level of cooperation should make that resolution possible. While substantial progress has been made, these issues are still not fully resolved and GVA will continue to strive for a resolution that works for Tredyffrin residents.

Our local state representative, Paul Drucker, is confident “this project will not only ease congestion on local roads and reduce travel time for thousands of commuters, but [it] will create jobs.” Senator Dinniman views the turnpike’s decision to move forward with the slip ramp as “crucial to the continued vitality of our region.” Supervisor DiBuonaventuro says, “I view the Aug. 5 announcement [on the slip ramp] as having nothing to do with the sound-wall element of the 6-mile widening project… The progress made with respect to the widening project has been very positive over the last year [but] there are still both stormwater refinements and sound-wall issues to finalize.”

The GVA will continue to work on behalf of the residents along with our elected officials and turnpike management to provide effective sound walls and stormwater control as planning for the widening project unfolds.

More information will be forthcoming between now and the end of the year. Thank you.

Albert Charpentier, President, Great Valley Association
Lou Erdelan, Chairman, Turnpike Sub-Committee

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Releases Press Release to Design Roundtable Members

As a member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Design Roundtable, I received the following official press release concerning approval to construct the Turnpike’s Rt. 29 slip ramp. I know I posted Paul Drucker’s press release yesterday, however there is additional information contained in the PTC release that I found of interest, including the timeline for construction.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Approves Construction of Route 29 All-Electronic Interchange

Construction of the E-ZPass-only facility to start in March 2011 with opening expected in late 2012.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced today that it is moving ahead with the construction of an all-electronic interchange linking Route 29 with I-76 in Chester County. Located midway between the Downingtown exit (#312) and the Valley Forge exit (#326), the new facility will provide convenient access to and from such business parks as the Great Valley Corporate Center, the Commons at Great Valley, Atwater and business districts in Malvern and Paoli.

“The decision to move ahead to construction is a significant step that will enhance safety and convenience for thousands of Turnpike customers in the region traveling to and from work each day,” said Turnpike Chief Executive Officer Joe Brimmeier. “In addition, the interchange will cut travel times for thousands of other regional commuters and help relieve overcrowding on local roads.”

Each day about 45,000 to 50,000 vehicles travel the 14-mile stretch of Turnpike between Downingtown and Valley Forge.

The announcement was made at an event held this morning hosted by Senator Andrew Dinniman (D-19). He was joined by Pennsylvania Turnpike officials and other business and elected officials.

“The Route 29 interchange is crucial to the continued economic vitality of our region,” Senator Dinniman said. “We are pleased that the Turnpike Commission has agreed to advance the project to construction and appreciate their commitment to move expeditiously to achieve the 2012 completion date.”

State Representative Duane Milne (R-167) also stated his support for the project. “I am delighted that a positive resolution has been reached and that this vital infrastructure enhancement will be completed in the near future. This transportation upgrade will prove a positive step for the quality of life in our area.”

State Representative Paul Drucker (D-157) added, “I am pleased the Route 29 interchange project is finally moving forward. It will ease congestion on local roads, reduce travel time for thousands of commuters and create jobs.”

Brimmeier said the interchange will reduce backups at the Valley Forge Interchange (#326), at the I-76/Route 202 interchange and on Route 202 itself, and will contribute to an overall decrease in traffic on Route 29 in the vicinity of Swedesford Road and Matthews Road, and on Route 401 and Phoenixville Pike, west of Route 29.

Turnpike officials expect construction of the E-ZPass-only interchange will start in March 2011 with a late fall 2012 opening. The estimated $60 million project calls for bridges to be built over the Turnpike, over Yellow Springs Road, over Atwater Drive as well as construction of a culvert and several retaining walls. The construction area will cover one-half mile along the Turnpike in three separate Chester County municipalities: Charlestown Township, East Whiteland Township and Tredyffrin Township.

In March 2009, the Turnpike shelved plans to build the interchange while it worked to resolve design issues with the widening and reconstruction of the adjoining six-mile Turnpike section to the east of Route 29, between Mileposts 320 and 326. Over the past 16 months, the Commission has worked closely with township officials, residents, interest groups and elected officials to address concerns they raised about the widening project – most notably storm-water management and noise walls.

“We believe sufficient progress has been made to enable us to proceed with the design of the Milepost 320 to 326 reconstruction and widening project and the construction of the Route 29 interchange,” said Brimmeier.

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