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June 14, 2019 

The General Assembly was in session this week and will return on Monday, June 17. Budget negotiations continue to be the focus of discussions, as well as a host of other issues.

House passes amended charter package

This week the House of Representatives amended and passed a package of four bills addressing various charter school issues. Two of the bills in the package contained significant concerns to PSBA. Through continued negotiations, the association was successful in obtaining some positive changes that move the bills in the right direction by addressing some concerns raised by the association. However, PSBA is still unable to take a position of support on these bills and believes there is additional work to be done to strengthen them and ensure that they will work for school districts. PSBA also emphasizes that the package fails to address needed funding reforms. The bills in the package are:
 
Charter expansion -- House Bill 357 (Rep. Topper, R-Bedford) revises the process used to apply to open a charter school, amend an existing written charter, and the admission and enrollment of students in a charter school. Key changes made to the bill at PSBA's request:
  • Require any updates/changes to the mandated standard application form used to establish a charter school be approved by the State Board of Education, not the General Assembly, through a process that includes public input.
  • Limit when a charter school can seek amendments to its charter. For a school with a five-year charter, amendments can be sought for years 2, 3 and 4. For a school with a three-year charter term, amendments can be sought for year 2.
  • Maintain the bill's ability for charter school entities to seek amendments from their authorizer but prohibit appeals to the state Charter Appeal Board (CAB) if the amendment is related to enrollment growth or grade expansion. This ensures that school districts still maintain primary oversight over these issues.
  • Affirm the authority of the charter agreement as the contract and governing document that sets forth the parameters for facility locations.
    • First, charter school entities that want to operate at more than one location would have to do so through the amendment process or renewal process. If the charter already authorizes the charter school entity to operate at more than one location within the authorizing district, they would have the ability to proceed.
    • Second, if a charter school entity wants to move its location and its charter doesn't set forth any restrictions, then the charter school entity could notify the authorizer and proceed.
  • Add insurance and bond requirements for charter schools for purposes of tort liability and security.
 Charter school purchase of buildings, expansion -- House Bill 356 (Rep. Dowling, R-Fayette) as introduced gives charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease school buildings "no longer in use" by a school district. The bill was amended to clarify that the school district building must be for sale or lease by the school district. House Bill 356 also allows a charter school to operate at more than one location so long as the charter school's written charter does not limit enrollment. It was amended to clarify that additional locations are allowed if this is expressly permitted by the terms of the charter.
 
Ethics requirements -- House Bill 355 (Rep. Reese, R-Westmoreland)
requires any charter school advertising clearly state that the costs are covered by taxpayer dollars. The bill also enhances charter school governance, ensure administrators and trustees avoid conflicts of interest, and finances are independently audited.
 
Dual enrollment -- House Bill 358 (Rep. Marshall, R-Beaver) allows charter schools to enter into agreements with postsecondary institutions to allow charter school students to attend and earn credits at the postsecondary institution.

 

Senate, House move school safety bills

This week the General Assembly acted on a number of bills addressing school safety and security. They include: 
  • Threat assessment teams -- The House and Senate Education Committees approved similar pieces of legislation that call for schools to establish threat assessment teams to identify potential targeted acts of violence. The proposals, which have bipartisan support from legislators, were drafted with extensive input from PSBA and the PA State Education Association (PSEA). Read the joint letter of support from PSBA, PASA and PSEA.  The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 729 (Sen. Costa, D- Allegheny) and the House Education Committee approved House Bill 1423 (Rep. Ortitay, R-Allegheny). The teams would be trained to identify, intervene and offer referrals for help to students who engage in behavior that appears to threaten targeted violence. The teams would also act in coordination with tips received through the Safe2Say Something program and other reports. The bills provide a reasonable timeframe for implementation and flexibility for schools to utilize existing teams or structures. Schools could use school safety grant funding to cover costs associated with implementation.  
  • School security personnel -- The Senate passed Senate Bill 621 (Sen. Regan, R- Cumberland) which amends the School Code to clarify that school entities may decide whether their school police and resource officers, including school security guards and independent contractors, may carry firearms while on school property. The bill also establishes specific training requirements for all personnel and background checks for independent contractors. Additionally, schools may contract with sheriffs and sheriff deputies to serve as school resource officers.  
  • Trauma-informed education - Approved by the Senate Education Committee this week and now on the Senate floor calendar is Senate Bill 200 (Sen. Hughes, D-Philadelphia), which establishes requirements for schools to recognize the signs and impact of trauma in students and to provide support. The bill requires training on trauma-informed approaches for school board members, school leaders, teachers and other school staff who have direct contact with children. Local school safety committees must develop a plan for trauma-informed approaches and coordination of services for students in need.


Senate passes PlanCon reform, push moves to the House

This week the Senate passed Senate Bill 700, legislation sought by PSBA that modernizes the state approval process for reimbursement for school construction and renovation projects (known as PlanCon). The bill now moves to the House for consideration, and your help is needed to push the bill forward. Look for more information from PSBA early next week.
 
The bill incorporates the recommendations of the State Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee by: 1) simplifying the administrative process; 2) recognizing high-performance building standards; 3) creating a program for smaller maintenance and modernization projects that include a special set-aside for school safety needs, and; 4) establishing a new reimbursement formula. The PA Department of Education must issue guidelines by March 31, 2020. PSBA had a seat on the Advisory Committee and was active in developing the recommendations that are included in Senate Bill 700. Read PSBA's letter of support.

 

 


 Latest News
Governor's desk
Approved by the Senate Education Committee
Approved by the Senate Finance Committee
Approved by the Senate Communications and Technology Committee
Approved by the House Education Committee
Approved by the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee
Other News
  Governor's desk  
  CPR curriculum for schools  
  This week Gov. Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 115 (Sen. Killion, R-Delaware), now Act 7 of 2019, which requires the Department of Education (PDE) to develop a model curriculum and guidelines for instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation instruction (CPR) for students in grades 9-12. The new law is effective beginning in the upcoming 2019-20 school year.
 
The curriculum must include information to teach a "hands-only" technique for CPR training as well as information on the use of an automated external defibrillator. The instruction may be integrated into existing health courses. A school may use the model curriculum or develop its own. A teacher, instructor or community volunteer may provide the instruction and would not have to be a certified CPR trainer. However, the instruction must include the participation of an educator with a Pennsylvania certification, including certification in physical education, health education or a school nurse.

 

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  EITC expansion bill  
  Gov. Wolf is expected to veto legislation sent to him this week by the General Assembly that would expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, setting the stage for continued negotiations of the issue as part of the state budget discussions. House Bill 800 (Rep. Turzai, R-Allegheny) increases the amount of tax credits available under the EITC program by $100 million, for a total of $210 million. The bill also establishes an automatic escalator, increasing the EITC scholarship cap by 10% whenever 90% of the tax credits were claimed in the prior year. In addition, House Bill 800 increases the maximum annual household income by $10,000, for a total of $95,000, before add-ons per child.
 

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  Approved by the Senate Education Committee  
  Tax credits for CTE programs  
  House Bill 522 (Rep. Tobash, R-Schuylkill), which would create a tax credit program for businesses that contribute to career and technical education programs and enrollment expansion programs. Similar to the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC), the tax credit program under House Bill 522 allows local businesses to invest in local career and technical institutes by up to $15 million for curriculum and equipment, and encourages enrollment in career and technical education. The bill was amended to remove language requiring information regarding a student after graduation. PSBA has been strongly supportive of House Bill 522 as it moves through the General Assembly.  Read PSBA's letter of support.
 

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  Employer access to students and school services  
  House Bill 297 (Rep. Mako, R-Northampton) would amend the School Code to require public school entities to provide employers with direct access to school services and students and at least one opportunity to speak directly to students. PSBA is grateful that amendments were added to address our concerns by requiring employer representatives who are granted access to schools to comply with child abuse clearances and criminal background check requirements and provide at least 30 days' notice when requesting access. The amendment also requires the departments of Education and Labor and Industry to develop guidelines for compliance.
 

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  Personal finance course  
  Senate Bill 723 (Sen. Laughlin, R-Erie) requires public schools to allow students in grades 9-12 to apply up to one credit earned for successfully completing a course in personal finance to satisfy a graduation credit requirement in social studies, family and consumer science, business education or math. The school will determine how the credit earned will be applied. The bill was amended to state that a student is not permitted to apply more than one credit to satisfy a math credit requirement for graduation. The requirement would begin with students graduating at the end of the 2020-21 school year. The bill is nearly identical to House Bill 49 (Rep. Brown, R-Monroe), which was approved by the House Education Committee in April.
 

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  Approved by the Senate Finance Committee  
  Act 1 technical cleanup  
  House Bill 330 (Rep. Emrick, R- Northampton) amends the Taxpayer Relief Act (Act 1 of Special Session of 2006) to make clarifications and correct references to portions of the Local Tax Enabling Act that had been amended since the passage of Act 1.
 

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  Act 5 PSERS/SERS technical cleanup  
  Senate Bill 724 (Sen. Corman, R- Centre) amends the Public School Employees' Retirement Code and the State Employees' Retirement Code to make technical corrections to certain sections added or amended by Act 5 of 2017. The bill also adds provisions for nonparticipating employer withdrawal liability under the Public School Employees' Retirement Code. Click here for more information.
 

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  Approved by the Senate Communications and Technology Committee  
  Study of broadband services  
  Senate Resolution 47 (Sen. Phillips-Hill, R-York) directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to conduct a study on the delivery of high-speed broadband services in unserved areas and underserved areas of the state and to report its findings and recommendations to the Senate.
 

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  Approved by the House Education Committee  
  Dental screenings  
  House Bill 994 (Rep. Fee, R-Lancaster) allows school districts to use public health dental hygienists to satisfy the requirements under the School Code relating to dental screenings and dental hygiene. Currently, only dentists are allowed to perform the screenings. PSBA supports this bill.
 

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  Keystone Telepresence Education Grant Program  
  Senate Bill 144 (Sen. Martin, R-Lancaster) establishes the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant, which will give the state's 29 intermediate units access to a maximum of $300,000 in funds to purchase telepresence equipment to support homebound students facing serious medical conditions.
 

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  Approved by the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee  
  Older adult mentor volunteer program  
  House Bill 298 (Rep. Solomon, D-Philadelphia)  allows school entities to establish a program for qualified older adult volunteers to work directly with students before, during or after school hours, in school buildings and facilities and on school grounds. The Department of Education (PDE) would develop guidelines for the program and maintain a central registry of older adult volunteers to facilitate matching volunteers with students.
 

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  Senior tax reduction incentive  
  House Bill 1076 (Rep. Hennessey, R- Chester) creates the Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange (STRIVE) program which authorizes school districts to establish a program that allows older residents to volunteer in the district in exchange for a property tax credit. The types of services that a volunteer provides through the program must enhance the academic initiatives of the district. Districts that establish a program must adopt guidelines regarding the program, including a requirement for volunteers to undergo a background check. Read PSBA's letter of support
 

 

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  Other News  
  Plan to revise educator evaluation system introduced  
  This week Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) introduced Senate Bill 751, legislation that would revise the state's system for educator evaluation. Aument said that although the current evaluation system under Act 82 of 2012 was well-intended, it has come up short in providing school districts, career and technical centers, and intermediate units with a system to improve student academic performance by giving educators useful and actionable feedback to help them improve and share best practices. "As the author of the original teacher evaluation bill in 2012, I can confidently say that the implementation of the current system does not match the original intent," Aument said. Read Sen. Aument's news release.
 

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  PSBA 2020 Legislative Platform  
  June 28 deadline: There are just two weeks remaining for school boards to submit proposals for PSBA's 2020 Legislative Platform. Click here for information on the process and the guidelines for submitting platform proposals.  

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