Focus on Education: Week Two

Once again this week I encourage you to contact the House Education Committee Chairs, Representatives Curtis Sonney and James Roebuck Jr, if you feel any of these bills should be moved forward before expiring in December at the end of the term.

HB2307 is intended to alleviate the challenges of unaccompanied homeless youth and foster youth to keep them on track to attain a high school diploma and position them for success in the future. Homeless and foster youths who change schools face unique challenges. This legislation designates a point person to ease the transition into the new school by determining appropriate class placement and to develop a plan for graduation, among other things.

HB113 would require postsecondary colleges to adopt policies that would allow existing documentation in an IEP, 504 plan, or a record of a disability from another institution of higher education, or documentation provided from the military to be accepted as proof of a disability. Additionally, our institutions of higher education will be required to adopt policies that are transparent and easily accessible for students and their families to understand what disability-related accommodations and supports are available. The bill also seeks to strengthen transition planning in Pennsylvania. Currently, PA requires transition planning for students with disabilities to begin at age 14, a stronger requirement than what is prescribed by federal law. This bill requires that such planning should be in line with the students’ graduation goals and must provide recommendations that are specifically related to the post-secondary experience.

HB340 would require the State Board of Education, in consultation with every board of school directors located in each county, to develop assessments to be administered in lieu of the statewide standardized tests. The legislation would also eliminate the required passage of assessments to graduate. 

HB838 would allow the state to approve a community college’s request to offer baccalaureate degree programs where the following apply:

The community college:

    • is in a rural geographic area of the Commonwealth.
    • is in a geographic area that is underserved by other colleges or universities offering baccalaureate degrees; or
    • seeks to offer a baccalaureate degree program that is not offered by any other college or university serving the geographic area in which the community college is located; and
    • the board of trustees of the community college has demonstrated that each local sponsor of the community college has approved the request by resolution adopted by a majority vote at a public meeting of the local sponsor.

HB851 would eliminate suspensions and expulsions as an option for students in grades K through 5 and restrict the exception to this provision to the possession of a firearm. For students in grades 6 through 12, where a suspension and expulsion would still be allowed, it would be only for the most serious offenses and only after documented behavioral supports have failed. Additionally, the Department of Education will be required to aid school districts with the development of student codes of conduct that reflect best practices to reduce the use of suspensions and expulsions. Providing students with one day or multiple days off from school often leaves children unsupervised at home and unable to learn appropriate behavior. It will also serve to negate the unfairly applied out-of-school suspension, where minority youth are suspended at greater rates than non-minority youth.

HB1621 would establish at least five Governor’s Schools of Excellence in fields that may include agricultural sciences, engineering and technology, sciences, arts, or other disciplines determined by PDE, at institutions of higher education geographically dispersed throughout the Commonwealth and selected on a competitive basis. Under the Governor’s Schools of Excellence program, students are selected to attend a multi-week, tuition-free, summer enrichment program hosted at an institution of higher education located in Pennsylvania. This program was established originally in 1973 and discontinued on a continuous basis in 2009. This legislation would establish the program on a permanent basis. HB1882 would do the same, but specifically create just a Governor’s School of Excellence for Urban Teaching.

HB1657 and HB1658 address school violence. They would change the school violence report, which districts must submit by July 31 of each year, to be filed on a quarterly basis instead so stakeholders are aware of violence in our schools regularly and make effective change. Additionally, they would make it unlawful to spread videos of school violence with the intent to harass or bully a student.

HB1708 would provide menstrual hygiene products, at no cost, in each bathroom of public schools serving students in grades 6 through 12. Nearly 1 in 5 American young women have missed school or left early due to lack of menstrual hygiene products. The lack of access to these products due to economic factors is known as “Period Poverty.”

HB1759 would require the Department of Education to prepare a plan to create/enhance Early College High School programs, outline funding needs the state and federal government can assist with, target State System and State-Related colleges and universities to help provide support -- and do it all with the goal of making Early College High School programs available to every student by 2030. Early College High School could increase high school graduation rates, cut down on student debt and prepare students to be part of the success of EVERY Pennsylvanian