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PRINTER'S NO. 3011
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
1915
Session of
2015
INTRODUCED BY ORTITAY, BLOOM, V. BROWN, CUTLER, ENGLISH, GROVE,
A. HARRIS, PHILLIPS-HILL, LEWIS, B. MILLER, MUSTIO, QUIGLEY,
RADER, REESE, SAYLOR, THOMAS AND WARD, MARCH 22, 2016
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, MARCH 22, 2016
AN ACT
Amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), entitled "An
act relating to the public school system, including certain
provisions applicable as well to private and parochial
schools; amending, revising, consolidating and changing the
laws relating thereto," providing for supplemental online
course initiative; and establishing the Online Course
Clearinghouse Restricted Account.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known
as the Public School Code of 1949, is amended by adding an
article to read:
ARTICLE XV-H
SUPPLEMENTAL ONLINE COURSE INITIATIVE
Section 1501-H. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this article
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Account." The Online Course Clearinghouse Restricted
Account established under section 1502-H(g).
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"Clearinghouse." The central online clearinghouse
established under section 1502-H.
"Department." The Department of Education of the
Commonwealth.
"Home education program." A program conducted in compliance
with section 1327.1.
"Institution of higher education." The term includes any of
the following:
(1) A community college operating under Article XIX-A.
(2) A university within the State System of Higher
Education.
(3) The Pennsylvania State University.
(4) The University of Pittsburgh.
(5) Temple University.
(6) Lincoln University.
(7) Any other institution that is designated as "State-
related" by the Commonwealth.
(8) The Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
(9) Any accredited private or independent college or
university.
(10) Any private licensed school as defined in the act
of December 15, 1986 (P.L.1585, No.174), known as the Private
Licensed Schools Act.
"Keystone Exam." An assessment developed or caused to be
developed by the department pursuant to 22 Pa. Code ยง 4.51b
(relating to Keystone Exams).
"Nonpublic school." A school, other than a public school,
located within this Commonwealth where a Commonwealth resident
may legally fulfill the compulsory school attendance
requirements of this act and that meets the applicable
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requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public
Law 88-352, 78 Stat. 241).
"Online course." A course of study that uses technology in
order to provide a significant portion of its curriculum and to
deliver a significant portion of instruction to students through
the Internet or other electronic means. The term shall include
all services and materials related to such course.
"Provider." An individual or a nonprofit or for-profit
organization, business, institution of higher education or
school entity which has submitted one or more online courses to
the Department of Education for inclusion in the clearinghouse
established under this article.
"School entity." A school district, joint school district,
charter school, regional charter school, cyber charter school,
intermediate unit or area vocational-technical school.
"Secretary." The Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth.
Section 1502-H. Clearinghouse for online course offerings.
(a) Duty to establish.-- The department shall establish a
central online clearinghouse which shall at a minimum include an
online database of online courses for students enrolled in
grades six through twelve and shall be accessible by school
entities, nonpublic schools, home education programs and the
general public. In establishing the clearinghouse the department
shall adhere to the following implementation schedule:
(1) From the date of establishment of the clearinghouse
which shall be no later than the commencement of the 2017-
2018 school year and in each school year thereafter, the
clearinghouse shall offer online courses for all content
areas assessed by a Keystone Exam, as well as online courses
which provide supplementary instruction relating to a
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Keystone Exam, free of charge to school entities. In
providing these online courses the department shall develop
or cause to be developed online courses which meet the
requirements of subsection (c)(2). The department may utilize
any existing online courses it has already developed for
content areas assessed by a Keystone Exam in meeting this
requirement.
(2) Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year and in each
school year thereafter, the clearinghouse shall offer those
online courses from providers that have been approved under
subsection (c) in addition to the courses required to be
offered under paragraph (1). Online courses included in the
clearinghouse from providers under this paragraph shall be
subject to purchase under the provisions of subsection (f).
(b) Responsibilities of the department.--The department
shall:
(1) Create an online database that catalogs those online
courses for which an application was approved under
subsection (c) and which the department shall develop or
cause to be developed and make the database available to
school entities, nonpublic schools, home education programs
and the general public.
(2) Construct the database provided for in paragraph (1)
in such a way as to:
(i) Provide information on each online course listed
in the database, including, but not limited to, a
description of the content and applicable grade levels of
each online course.
(ii) Provide each school entity, nonpublic school or
home education program which has utilized an online
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course from the clearinghouse the opportunity to present
feedback and rate the online course which the school
entity, nonpublic school or home education program has
utilized. In providing feedback, each school entity,
nonpublic school or home education program may, with
discretion and in compliance with all applicable Federal
and State laws, share on the database personal comments
received by the school entity, nonpublic school or home
education program from parents and students about the
online course.
(iii) Display feedback and a cumulative rating of an
online course as a part of the information provided about
the online course.
(iv) Facilitate communication between school
entities, nonpublic schools or home education programs
and providers of online courses cataloged in the
clearinghouse to expedite the purchasing of those online
courses.
(3) At least annually, or at any time the status of an
online course changes, update the database provided for in
paragraph (1).
(4) Collect application fees provided for in subsection
(d) and deposit the fees into the account.
(5) Utilize the funds in the account, including interest
on the funds, to pay expenses incurred by the department in
carrying out its duties under this article.
(6) Explore the possibility for Federal and private
funding to support the clearinghouse.
(7) Upon request, provide assistance to school districts
which have been declared to be in financial recovery status
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or identified for financial watch status under Article VI-A
by facilitating the school districts' search for low-cost or
no-cost online course options.
(c) Applications.--The department shall develop an
application and an application process that specify the time,
form and manner by which providers may submit their online
course offerings to the department for inclusion in the
clearinghouse. The department shall approve applications under
one of the following procedures:
(1) In the case of an online course which does not
provide instruction in a content area assessed by a Keystone
Exam and which is not used to provide supplementary
instruction relating to a Keystone Exam, a provider may
submit an application to the department for approval of the
online course through a certification process. The
application for this process shall include:
(i) A notarized affidavit certifying that the online
course being submitted for inclusion in the clearinghouse
is aligned to the State academic standards for education
provided for in 22 Pa. Code Ch. 4 (relating to academic
standards and assessment).
(ii) Evidence that the online course being submitted
for inclusion in the clearinghouse fulfills at least one
of the following criteria:
(A) has been approved by another state for use
by its public schools;
(B) has been developed by a provider that has
been accredited by a national accreditation body
recognized by the United States Department of
Education; or
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(C) has been designed by a school entity that
utilizes the online course or provides the online
course to another school entity for its use.
(iii) Evidence that the online course being
submitted for inclusion in the clearinghouse includes an
assessment component for determining student performance.
(2) In the case of an online course which provides
instruction in a content area assessed by a Keystone Exam or
which is used to provide supplementary instruction relating
to a Keystone Exam, a provider shall submit an application to
the department for approval of the online course through a
department review process. The department shall perform a
review of the online course to confirm that the online course
meets the following criteria:
(i) Is aligned to the State academic standards for
education provided for in 22 Pa. Code Ch. 4.
(ii) Provides a detailed and quality curriculum and
accountability plan.
(iii) Includes an assessment component for
determining student proficiency.
(iv) Is adapted to the age, development and needs of
the students.
(3) In the case of an online course which does not
provide instruction in a content area assessed by a Keystone
Exam and which is not used to provide supplementary
instruction relating to a Keystone Exam, a provider may
voluntarily submit an application to the department for
approval of the online course through the department review
process established in paragraph (2).
(d) Fees, application review and approval.--The following
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shall apply to the establishment of fees and the review and
approval of applications:
(1) The department may establish a nonrefundable
administrative fee not to exceed $75 for the purpose of
reviewing each application submitted by a provider under
subsection (c)(1) .
(2) The department may establish a nonrefundable
administrative fee not to exceed $750 for the purpose of
reviewing each application submitted by a provider under
subsection (c)(2) or (3).
(3) If, after a review of an application, the department
determines that the application meets the applicable
requirements under subsection (c) , the department shall
approve the application, notify the provider of the approval
and include the online course in the database provided for
under subsection (b)(1) until such time as the provider
requests that the online course be removed or the department
removes the online course under the provisions of paragraph
(5).
(4) If, after a review of an application, the department
determines that the application does not meet the applicable
requirements under subsection (c) , the department shall
withhold approval of the application and notify the provider
of the reason approval was withheld so that the provider may
revise and resubmit the application. Any application that has
been resubmitted for review shall be subject to the
associated administrative fee authorized by this subsection.
(5) The department may revisit and review any approved
application at any time and remove the associated online
cou rse from the database provided for under subsection (b)(1)
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if the department determines that:
(i) the information contained in the application was
false or misleading or is no longer accurate;
(ii) the online course has been materially changed
or revised in such a way that the approval previously
granted for the online course should not apply and the
provider of the online course has not submitted an
application to the department seeking approval of the
revisions to the online course in accordance with the
application and fee requirements of this section; or
(iii) the standards applicable to the course have
materially changed in such a way that the approval
previously granted for the online course should not apply
and the provider of the online course has not submitted
an application to the department within 30 days seeking
approval of the online course with revisions to address
the revised standards in accordance with the application
and fee requirements of this section.
(e) Appeal.--A determination by the department that an
online course which provides instruction in a content area
assessed by a Keystone Exam or which is used to provide
supplementary instruction relating to a Keystone Exam does not
meet the criteria under subsection (c)(2) shall be appealable
under 2 Pa.C.S. (relating to administrative law and procedure).
(f) Contracts for the provision of courses cataloged in the
clearinghouse.--The following shall apply to contracts entered
into by school entities, nonpublic schools or home education
programs and providers of online courses cataloged in the
clearinghouse:
(1) The purchase price and other payment and contract
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terms of an online course cataloged in the clearinghouse
shall be determined by direct negotiations between a school
entity, nonpublic school or home education program and a
provider.
(2) A school entity, nonpublic school or home education
program shall not be required to pay more than 60% of the
total purchase price per participating student for an online
course prior to a student's completion of the online course.
Upon a student's completion of an online course, the school
entity, nonpublic school or home education program shall pay
the provider the remainder of the total purchase price per
participating student for each student that completed the
online course.
(3) Immediately upon commencing negotiations of the
terms of a contract for an online course, a provider shall
provide the school entity, nonpublic school or home education
program with information regarding refund policies and the
process for contesting payment amounts.
(g) Online Course Clearinghouse Restricted Account.--
(1) There is hereby established a restricted revenue
account in the General Fund to be known as the Online Course
Clearinghouse Restricted Account.
(2) The account shall consist of application fees
collected under subsection (d) , fines collected under section
1504-H and any interest generated by funds in the account.
(3) The funds in the account are hereby appropriated to
the department on a continuing basis for the purposes of
paying expenses incurred by the department in carrying out
its duties relating to the administration of the
clearinghouse under this article.
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Section 1503-H. School entities.
A school entity may utilize any online course made available
through a school entity, through the clearinghouse or through
any other source. A school entity that offers online courses to
students shall:
(1) Determine how instruction relating to an online
course shall be delivered.
(2) Establish policies and procedures for student
eligibility and participation, including a policy on the
selection of online courses made available to students by the
school entity. The policies and procedures shall be made
accessible to parents and students and posted on the school
entity's publicly accessible Internet website.
(3) Ensure that parents and students are made aware of
the opportunity for online learning and make information
about available online courses easily accessible to parents
and students.
Section 1504-H. Penalties.
(a) Participation prohibited.--If the department determines
that a provider intentionally submitted false or misleading
information on an application, the provider shall be prohibited
from participating in the clearinghouse for a period of five
years.
(b) Fine.--In addition to the penalty provided under
subsection (a), the department may also assess a provider a fine
of up to $1,000 for each application on which the provider was
found by the department to have intentionally submitted false or
misleading information.
(c) Deposit of fines.--Any fines assessed in accordance with
this section shall be deposited into the account.
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(d) Appeal.--A determination by the department that a
provider intentionally submitted false or misleading information
on an application shall be appealable under 2 Pa.C.S. (relating
to administrative law and procedure).
Section 1505-H. Report.
The secretary shall submit a report to the Governor, the
chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the
Senate and the chairman and minority chairman of the Education
Committee of the House of Representatives and post the report on
the department's publicly accessible Internet website no later
than June 30, 2021 . The report shall at a minimum include all of
the following information:
(1) The number of students participating in online
courses.
(2) The number of students participating in online
courses from the clearinghouse.
(3) The number of online courses available through the
clearinghouse.
(4) A description of the types of online courses
available through the clearinghouse.
(5) An assessment of the academic impact of online
courses on the participating students.
(6) Recommendations for improving the clearinghouse.
Section 1506-H. Construction.
Nothing in this article shall be construed:
(1) To prevent a school entity from establishing and
offering its own online course or program.
(2) To prevent a school entity or school entity
personnel from:
(i) supplementing an online course;
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(ii) providing assistance, tutoring or enrichment to
a student enrolled in an online course;
(iii) using the content of an online course in
instruction delivered by school district personnel; or
(iv) monitoring a student's progress and attention
to instruction in an online course.
(3) To require a student to participate in an online
course offered by a school entity.
(4) To supersede or preempt the rights, remedies and
procedures afforded to school employees or labor
organizations under Federal or State law, including the act
of July 23, 1970 (P.L.563, No.195), known as the Public
Employe Relations Act, or any provision of a collective
bargaining agreement negotiated between a school entity and
an exclusive representative of the employees in accordance
with that act.
Section 1507-H. Regulations.
The State Board of Education may promulgate regulations
pursuant to the act of June 25, 1982 (P.L.633, No.181), known as
the Regulatory Review Act, necessary to establish approval
periods for courses approved under section 1502-H(d) and to
implement this article.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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