In July, Governor Tom Wolfe finalized the state budget and also signed into law nearly 50 changes to the Pennsylvania School Code. These far-reaching revisions are sure to affect all areas of school administration, including special education, school safety, and homeschool programs. Here are some key amendments and what they could mean for your school.
2022-23 School Code Changes
Building Projects: The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will not approve new school building construction or reconstruction project applications for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Education Commissions: A new commission – the Commission on Education and Economy – will hold public meetings and make recommendations on educational goals. The Special Education Funding Commission will reassemble in January 2024 and issue a report by November 30. The General Assembly will then decide whether to implement both commissions’ recommendations.
School administrators can make sure their voices are heard by providing comments when there are opportunities to do so.
Homeschool Programs: For the 2023-24 school year, school districts must allow homeschooled students to participate in all extracurricular activities, including “any cocurricular activity that merges extracurricular activities with a required academic course.” This includes activities like band and orchestra. Homeschooled students can participate in academic courses for at least one-quarter of the school day, provided certain conditions are met.
Keystone Exams: Students can still satisfy the graduation requirement of a proficient score on a Keystone Exam by attaining an “industry-recognized credential.” The amendment defines this term as “[a] credential identified in the industry credential resource book or the industry-based learning guidelines compiled by the department.” You can access the guidelines here.
Another amendment allows students to pass the Keystone Exams and graduate by obtaining a composite score of at least 2939 using the highest scores on two of the three exams. In that situation, students must get a proficient score on two of the exams and a basic score on the third.
School officials should determine whether any of their students are eligible to graduate through this alternative manner and include a note on the student’s transcript if the answer is yes. They should also update their policies on graduation requirements.
Nonprofit School Food Program: The old rule was that schools could provide students with an alternative meal instead of the school food program meal if they owed more than $50 in a school year for unpaid meals. The new rule raises the amount owed to $75.
Additionally, school districts must offer assistance to families applying for the school food program. School staff cannot discard a school lunch that has been served to a student.
School Safety: Many of the revisions deal with school safety issues. For example, school safety and security grants can now be used for suicide awareness and prevention curriculum, suicide and bullying prevention, and mental health early intervention.
In addition, schools must have a school safety and security coordinator who completes training requirements within one year of appointment. Vacancies must be filled in 30 days. As for school employees, they must complete expanded training requirements.
Special Education: Students with disabilities who turned 21 during the 2021-22 school year or the summer of 2022 are entitled to an additional year of schooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Revised reporting requirements now include the number of special education students for which expenditures are less than $5,000 per school year and the number of students for which expenditures are between $5,000 and $25,000.
School officials should check that they have procedures to count the number of students in these new categories.
Students Experiencing Education Instability: Students who attended school in the 2021-22 school year can request a diploma from the school they attended in that school year or a prior school or request a Keystone Diploma from PDE retroactive to the 2021-22 school year.
Bottom Line for Schools
School officials should familiarize themselves with all of the amendments. They should also work with their legal counsel to ensure their policies and procedures are up to date and in compliance.
If you have specific questions about how a revision will impact your school district and the steps you need to take to comply, contact your solicitor or an education attorney at KingSpry.