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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2018 04:19 PM
From: Senator Scott Martin and Sen. Ryan P. Aument, Sen. Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Keystone Telepresence Education Grant
Each year, children throughout Pennsylvania are forced to miss extended time in school due to medical emergencies. The challenges these boys and girls face are often severe, therefore we will be reintroducing legislation that would ease their path to continuing their education during this trying time.

Homebound education is available to students who cannot attend school due to serious medical conditions so they do not fall too far behind in their required studies. Whether a child is diagnosed with cancer, injured in a car crash, or recovering from surgery, our education system provides learning support. But even with this support, homebound students face significant challenges. They often find themselves isolated and excluded from daily interactions with friends and teachers, which compounds the already difficult situations they face. Additionally, schools struggle to find a subject-certified teacher to provide the homebound instruction and as a result, this service is provided by an individual who is not as familiar with the subject matter as the student’s regular education teacher.

We have an opportunity to change this. Technology has enabled us to better educate students, and we are now seeing this expand to homebound students as well. Over the last several years, the emergence of telepresence technologies has closed the gap between homebound students and their classrooms. This technology includes robotic devices that resemble an i-Pad mounted on a mobile Segway unit that allow real-time communication between students and their classrooms. The technology has been highlighted in the press, both locally and nationwide. One example of a young lady from Lancaster County was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer; another Pennsylvania student was featured in U.S. News and World Report.

The use of telepresence technologies is effective and it is providing homebound students a better education here in Pennsylvania. To further this effort and build upon the success stories we have already seen, we will soon be reintroducing legislation to create the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant, which will give the state’s 29 intermediate units access to a maximum of $300,000 in funds to purchase telepresence equipment to support homebound students facing serious medical conditions. This legislation requires that PDE utilize undistributed funds not expended, encumbered or committed from appropriations made to the department for grants and subsidies, and therefore would not create a new expenditure for the Commonwealth.

Maryland has enacted similar legislation and New York has worked on the measure, as well.

We all stress the importance of a quality education. Sadly, that quality is often diminished for students who are medically unable to attend school. Greater use of telepresence technology can counter these diminished results and better support the educational, social and emotional needs of homebound students.

This legislation was introduced late last session as Senate Bill 1275 and was co-sponsored by Senators Mensch, Gordner, Regan, Blake, Schwank, Ward, Yudichak, and Rafferty.

We hope you will join us in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB144