Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of January 17, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 158, which amends the Public School Code to give the Secretary of Education more options to issue an emergency declaration concerning schools. This legislation also assists schools and other educational institutions in fulfilling the 180 day attendance requirement.

Under the bill, an emergency declaration could be for weather, safety, or health related. For meeting the attendance requirement, school boards would have the discretion to:

  • Rather than having a 180 day school year, a board can choose to have 900 hours of school at the elementary level and 990 hours of school at the secondary level.
  • School boards could approve Saturday school days to meet the hour or day requirement. Tests or other exams cannot be scheduled on a Saturday. A school entity would not be allowed to schedule more than one Saturday each month as an instructional day.

With a parent’s written permission, a student could be excused from Saturday attendance to observe or participate in a religious activity or function.

The bill would also enable school employees and applicants to submit criminal history and child abuse clearance reports that are no older than five years, rather than the current one.

This bill is now in the governor’s hands.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 880, which would delay the implementation of the Keystone Exam as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year.

The exams are end-of-course assessments designed to assess proficiency in three subjects: Algebra I, Literature and Biology. Without this bill, the high school class of 2017 would be required to pass the Keystone Exams to graduate.

This bill would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to conduct a study to investigate alternative methods for students to demonstrate basic skills for graduation. The department would be required to present its report within six months of this bill’s implementation.

This bill was enacted as Act No. 1 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 936, which would limit the fee an employer could charge an employee to accommodate a child support order.

Employers currently may deduct “2 percent of the amount paid under the support order for reimbursement” of expenses. This legislation is meant to ensure that the fee an employer takes out to initially establish wage garnishment is a one-time fee instead of a repeated fee. This one-time fee would be $50.

This legislation was previously introduced as Senate Bill 843 of the 2013-14 session, but was never acted upon in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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