Worth Another Look: The Public School Code

As we make our way toward finally finishing the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, another “code bill” reached the governor’s desk. The final version of H.B. 178 (Day, R-Berks), the Public School Code omnibus bill, passed in the House of Representatives last week and today passed finally in the Senate.

Highlights include:

  • Delays the implementation of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for one year, until the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Requires a new State plan for the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act to be developed by the Department of Education and submitted to the General Assembly for review;
  • Requires school directors to participate in training provided by the Department;
  • Removes Erie School District from financial watch status, provided they demonstrate a structurally balanced budget.
  • Suspends the approval of new school building construction or reconstruction project applications for the 2017-2018 fiscal year;
  • Reduces the time period for a public meeting of the school board to be held to consider retention of a district superintendent from 150 days to 90 days prior to the expiration of their current contract;
  • Allows school employees to be furloughed for economic reasons in order of performance based on annual performance evaluations;
  • Requires that the Department process an application for provisional college certification submitted by an individual who is a member of the United States Armed Forces within fourteen days of receipt;
  • Prohibits teacher preparation programs to require a passing score on teacher certification assessments as a condition of program completion or graduation;
  • Requires school districts to serve meals to children regardless of whether the child’s family owes money to the school;
  • Allows schools to perform safety and security drills in place of a fire drill;
  • Provides for enrollment of students in the Drug and Alcohol Recovery High School Pilot Program until 2021;
  • Requires instruction related to the prevention of opioid abuse for students in grades six through twelve;
  • Establishes the Commission of Agricultural Education Excellence to assist in the development and implementation of a statewide plan for agriculture education;
  • Allows charter schools to consolidate into a multiple charter school organization if approved by the Department;
  • Provides flat funding community colleges;
  • Expands the dual enrollment program to require institutions of higher education to award academic credit for prior learning that can be applied toward graduation;
  • Provides funding for public libraries and intermediate units, makes technical changes to the calculation of the basic education funding formula, and distributes Ready-to-Learn block grant funding;
  • Allows the Department to use up to $5M in undistributed funds to assist school districts in financial distress or those in financial watch status;
  • Provides that new truancy laws, implemented in 2016, apply to nonpublic schools beginning in the 2018-2019 school year; and
  • Increases the maximum amount of tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program by $10M.

 

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