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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 7, 2015 09:46 AM
From: Representative Michael Peifer
To: All House members
Subject: Secretary of Education - Declaration of Emergencies
 
Memorandum

TO: Members of the House of Representatives

FROM: Representative Peifer

DATE: January 7, 2015

RE: Secretary of Education – Declaration of Emergencies Proposed Legislation



In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will allow the Secretary of Education to issue weather related, safety related, and health related emergency declarations under which school entities shall be given additional flexibility to satisfy the 180 instructional days per school year requirement in statute.

Each school year school entities (school districts, vocational-technical schools, intermediate units, charter schools, and cyber charter schools) prepare a calendar for the year which is intended to satisfy the 180 instructional days required by law, and into which is built a certain number of additional instructional days which the school entity believes will be needed for severe weather related closures, usually during the winter season. Despite the best planning, it is impossible to accurately predict unusually harsh winter seasons, or natural disasters, and school entities sometimes find themselves in danger of not meeting the required amount of instructional days due to an unpredictable amount of weather related closures.

Additionally, school entities may face other unpredictable emergencies which force the closure of schools, such as health related emergencies due to a contagious illness or other causes, and safety related emergencies due to hazardous school structure concerns or security concerns. As everyone is regrettably aware, on September 12, 2014 two Pennsylvania State Police Troopers were attacked in a cowardly ambush that left one trooper dead and the other in critical condition. The ensuing manhunt for the suspect lasted 48 days and resulted in the closure of schools in the Pocono Mountain School District and the Wallenpaupack Area School District for a number of days due to the close proximity of the manhunt.

My legislation provides the Secretary of Education with the authority to issue weather related, safety related, and health related emergency declarations on a school district, county, or statewide basis under which a school entity may satisfy the 180 instructional days per school year requirement in statute by one or more of the following:
  • Approving, by a majority vote of the governing board of the school entity, a school year with a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level in lieu of 180 days.
  • Approving, by a majority vote of the governing board of the school entity, the scheduling of additional instructional days on not more than one Saturday per month to complete 180 instructional days, or 900 hours at the elementary level and 990 hours at the secondary level. Student excusals for certain reasons are included in this option.
My legislation also provides that no school entity shall receive less subsidy payments or reimbursements than it would otherwise be entitled to receive by the decision to use the options provided under an emergency declaration issued by the Secretary of Education.

I believe that this legislation provides necessary flexibility for school entities facing the unpredictable loss of instructional days, and further eliminates the need for the General Assembly to address emergencies on a case by case and year by year basis as has been done in the past.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.



Introduced as HB158