Wednesday, March 25, 2020 10:46 AM
Things on the emergency legislation front are moving along after a lot of chaos, last minute changes and discussion. The House amended the emergency legislation amendment into SB 751 (which provides for changes to the teacher and principal evaluation system). The bill is teed up for consideration by the full House tomorrow, and it is expected to pass. It will then go to the Senate for consideration, and they are expected to concur and send it to the governor for his signature.
While theoretically this should all be done by the end of the day tomorrow, there are still opportunities for things to happen, so nothing is a done deal just yet. Stay tuned for more tomorrow and take a look at a summary of the bill below.
Additionally, we know that the emergency legislation will result in a lot of questions--we have many questions ourselves! We'll continue to work through the many implications and questions you've posted so far and will work to get you guidance asap. Please recognize that while there are some questions that must be answered immediately, there are many that will require some time to address and others that will require local discussions and decisions in LEAs across the state.
Here's what's in the language that was amended into SB 751:
The emergency legislation would apply only to the 2019-20 school year as a result of the global pandemic and:
- Waives 180 Day Requirement: Immediately waive the requirement that school entities be kept open for at least 180 instructional days.
- Authority to the Secretary: Allows the Secretary to do any of the following:
- Order the closure of all school entities until the threat caused by the pandemic has ended
- Waive the application deadline to participate in the Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program and increase the number of FIDs
- Waive the minimum total number of hours required for CTE programs
- Waive the requirement to include student performance data as part of a professional employee's annual rating
- Waive the minimum number of days of pre-k instruction
- Waive the 12-week student teacher requirement in educator preparation programs
- Waive the NIMS assessment and NOCTI exams
- Payment to School Employees: Require school employees (employed as of March 13, 2020) to receive no more or less compensation they would have been entitled to had the 2020 pandemic not occurred, had the Secretary not closed schools or the minimum instructional day requirement not been waived.
- PSERS Credit: Require school employees (employed as of March 13, 2020) to receive no more or less PSERS credit nor contribute more or less than they would have contributed had 2020 pandemic not occurred, had the Secretary not closed schools or the minimum instructional day requirement not been waived.
- Cleaning Supplies/Protective Gear: Require school entities to provide employees who are responsible for cleaning school facilities with appropriate cleaning materials and protective clothing/gear as recommended by the CDC.
- FAPE Communication to Parents: Require school entities to provide written notice to parents/guardians of each student with an IEP of the school entity's plans for ensuring the student receives FAPE as required under IDEA.
- Continuity of Education: Ensures schools make a good faith effort to plan to offer continuity of education using alternative means during the period of school closures. Plans have to be submitted to PDE and posted on LEA websites. PDE will provide guidance.
- Subsidy and Other Payments: Ensure school entities may not receive less subsidy payments, reimbursements, allocations, tuition or other payments from PDE or another school entity than they would have been entitled for the 2019-20 school year to had the 2020 pandemic not occurred or had the Secretary not taken action to close schools or had the 180 day requirement not been waived. This includes payments by school districts to IUs, charter schools and CTCs. The language also includes clarification that payments to charter schools during the closure shall be based on the number of students enrolled in the charter school as of March 13, 2020
- Federal Testing Waiver: Require the Secretary to apply to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver of the testing and accountability requirements under ESSA to allow the cancellation of testing for the 2019-20 school year.
- Waiver Program for LEAs: Allow the governing body of a school entity to apply to the Secretary for a waiver (in a manner determined by PDE) of any provision of the School Code, regulation or standards (excluding sections 1124, 1125.1 and 528) if the waiver is directly related to the school entity's staffing needs or impacts the school entity's instructional program or operations as a result of the pandemic of 2020. The Secretary shall have 30 days from receipt of the school entity's application to approve or disapprove the request.
- School Bus Contractors: Allows school entities to renegotiate contracts for school bus transportation services to ensure contracted personnel and fixed costs are maintained during the period of the closure. During the period of closure a school bus contractor must submit weekly documentation that its complement levels remain at least what they were on March 13, 2020. A school entity that continues to pay its school bus contractors during the closure (or operates its own transportation program) will receive transportation subsidy for 20-21 at the same rate that they would have received it had the pandemic not occurred, had the Secretary not closed schools or the minimum instructional day requirement not been waived.
- Continuing Education Time Period: Ensure a professional educator's current continuing professional education compliance period is extended by one year.
- Streamline Federal Waiver Process: Ensure that any waiver of federal requirements sought by PDE due to the pandemic of 2020 would be streamlined and the requirements in section 126 of the Public School Code would not be applicable.
- Nonpublic School Waivers: Allow nonpublic schools to close due to the threat caused by the pandemic of 2020 and makes the minimal instructional time requirements in section 1327(b) of the Public School Code inapplicable. Also waives the requirement of nonpublic schools to administer a standardized or statewide assessment test for 2019-20.
- Nonpublic School Payments: Requires a nonpublic school closed during the pandemic to receive the payment from school entities it would have received had the pandemic not occurred for any student placed in the nonpublic school and enrolled as of March 13, 2020 as long as the nonpublic school is offering continuity of education during the period of the closure.