PSBA Legislative Report
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
August 21, 2020 

The General Assembly remains in recess although committee meetings are continuing. At this time, the House of Representatives is scheduled to return to voting session on September 1 and the Senate is scheduled to return on September 8.

PSBA seeks liability protection for schools  

PSBA is seeking action at both the federal and state levels to provide temporary, limited liability protections to public schools. This pandemic continues to require schools to make health-related decisions impacting students and employees. Yet, despite careful preparation, there is no guarantee that schools can prevent potential exposure to COVID-19. As school reopen, they will need enhanced protections from frivolous or opportunistic lawsuits alleging exposure to COVID-19. An executive order could provide carefully balanced safeguards for public schools without protecting willful or negligent misconduct.
At the federal level, PSBA is communicating with members of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation. At the state level, PSBA is working with legislators in the General Assembly to introduce a proposal in both the House and Senate that would provide liability protections for schools during the pandemic. In addition, PSBA is asking the governor's office to introduce an executive order that could be effective immediately. Read testimony to the House Education Committee and a joint letter with PASA and PACTA to the governor.
This week PSBA is urging all school officials to ask Governor Wolf to take executive action now, before the new school year begins, Our public schools should not have to plan for lawsuit mitigation while they are attempting to do the best possible job to safeguard the students and staff in their care.

Click here to send a letter to Governor Wolf.



Pennsylvania requests extension of federal waivers to ensure meals for school-aged children

This week Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting extensions on several national waivers due to expire on August 31, 2020, that provide schools with meal distribution flexibility. The extensions are needed to ensure all Pennsylvania children under the age of 18 have consistent access to breakfast and lunch as schools approach the 2020-21 school year using a variety of instructional models that include hybrid or fully virtual learning. These deviations from normal operations present challenges for providing consistent access to food for children living in low-income households.
The letter asks for the immediate extension of several federal waivers, including those that would:
  • Allow the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to be used to feed children during the 2020-21 school year. Permitting both schools and nonprofits to continue use of this waiver would significantly reduce administrative burdens, limit confusion of where meals can be accessed and allow meals to be provided at locations most convenient for families.  
  • Expand the non-congregate and other approved waivers for the National School Lunch Program to the SFSP and SSO to allow these programs to be used to feed children when they are not physically in school. Extending these waivers will allow community-based nonprofit organizations to assist schools in meeting the needs of children at locations that work best for families, particularly on days when children are engaging in remote, virtual learning.
  • Extend the Area Eligibility waiver for SFSP and SSO through the 2020-21 school year. Allowing feeding sites to provide meals in communities that do not meet the 50 percent free or reduced-price threshold for area eligibility has been essential to providing necessary food to children.
  • Waive the Afterschool Activity Requirement for the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs available through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) through the 2020-21 school year. This waiver is critical for CACFP sites to be able to provide access to meals and snacks when providing the activity component is not otherwise safe or feasible.
  • Allow those providing meals through the SFSP or SSO to also serve through the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs. While children receiving meals through SFSP or SSO are only able to receive two meals per day, USDA allowed a third meal to be provided under guidance issued through the unanticipated school closure waiver. This waiver was critical over the past six months in providing three meals a day to children in need of food assistance.
Recognizing the urgent need for the extension of the waivers, PSBA is working with the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to push for swift resolution on this issue.

 Latest News
State News
Approved by the House Education Committee
  State News  
  Pennsylvania will release $20 million to help schools with special education services  
  This week the Governor's Office announced that approximately $20 million will be available to help 678 local education agencies, including school districts, to provide education services for students with disabilities who may be negatively impacted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts and may face additional challenges through the new academic year. The funding includes $15 million from Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and $5 million from PDE's federal funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Special Education COVID-19 Impact Mitigation Grant (SECIM) will provide $15 million in financial support ($10M GEER; $5M IDEA) to schools to:
  • Provide enhanced synchronous (real-time) instruction to bolster remote services and supports for students with complex needs; and
  • Provide services and supports to students with disabilities who experienced a loss in skills and behavior and/or a lack of progress due to the mandatory school closures
An additional $5 million in GEER grant funding will be available to Preschool Early Intervention programs to provide compensatory educational services. 

Grant amounts were calculated using an allocation formula based on the number of students with complex special education needs within each school.

Grant recipients will receive direct communication from PDE with eGrant application instructions.



  PDE issues updated mask requirements for students in schools  
  This week the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH) issued a memo to schools updating the requirement for students to wear face coverings while in school. Under the requirement DOH is clarifying that students wear face coverings at all times while in school, even when six feet of social distancing can be achieved. There are limited exceptions. The memo was issued following the release of updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) that strongly recommended children age two and older should wear face coverings at all times to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Click here to see PDE's Answers to FAQs: Universal Face Coverings Order. 


  Approved by the House Education Committee  
  School sports and extracurricular activities during COVID-19  
  House Bill 2787 (Rep. Reese, R-Westmoreland) authorizes a school entity to determine whether to hold sports and other extracurricular activities in-person and whether to allow spectators.


  Optional year to continue education  
  House Bill 2788 (Rep. Topper, R-Bedford) allows  students and families to have the option to continue their education and extracurricular activities for an additional year to make up for the loss of instruction and competition during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. The bill was amended to allow a 12-month extension of secondary school attendance to a student aged 20 to 21. (PSBA note: the amended version of the bill is not yet published.)  


  Temporary certification flexibility  
  Senate Bill 1216 (Sen. Langerholc, R-Cambria) allows for temporary allowances and waivers to the state certification process impacting teachers, recent graduates, undergraduate students and paraprofessionals. The following provisions would apply for one year or expire on June 30, 2021:
  • Allow the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to issue a temporary certificate to individuals that have completed all of their teacher preparation requirements except their final assessment (i.e. praxis).
  • Allow PDE to issue an exceptional case permit for current educators who are unable to take their assessment to move from an Instructional I certificate to an Instructional II certificate.
  • Allow PDE to issue a temporary certificate under limited circumstances for individuals who were seeking to add on a certification (physical education/health, cooperative education and special education are exempted). Individuals must provide proof to PDE that their assessment was cancelled.
  • Waive requirement for undergraduates to take the basic skills exam that is required for teacher preparation programs.
  • Extends the deadline for paraprofessionals to satisfy staff development requirements.
  • The bill was amended to allow PDE to continue to issue the existing special education PK-8 and 7-12 certificates to a student enrolled in a teacher preparation program prior to December 31, 2021. The amendment provides an overlap in the transition to the new PK-12 special education certificate that will replace the two current PK- 8 and 7-12 certificates that additionally require another certification in a content area. Under Act 82, all special education certificates issued after December 31, 2021 will cover PK-12, or up to age 21, with no additional content or dual certification required.
(PSBA note: the amended version of the bill is not yet published.)