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PRINTER'S NO. 2636
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
1897
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY SONNEY, BIZZARRO, DeLUCA, DiGIROLAMO, HARKINS,
JOZWIAK, SCHLOSSBERG, SCHMITT AND SOLOMON, SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
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 school district cyber
education.
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 XVII-D
SCHOOL DISTRICT CYBER EDUCATION
Section 1701-D. Short title of article.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the School
District Cyber Education Law.
Section 1702-D. Legislative findings and intent.
The General Assembly finds and declares that:
(1) Students in this Commonwealth should have access to
high-quality online learning that provides the competency and
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skills necessary to succeed in the global economy.
(2) The current system of cyber education offered by
traditional public schools and cyber charter schools lacks
uniform accountability and transparency to local communities
and students.
(3) It is the intent of the General Assembly, in
enacting this article, to provide opportunities for students
to participate in high-quality full-time cyber education
programs that are accountable and transparent to local
communities and students.
Section 1703-D. 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:
"Asynchronous learning." Student participation in cyber
courses at the student's own pace.
"Blended-learning." The delivery of instruction in a
combination of time in a supervised physical location away from
home and online delivery whereby the student has some element of
control over time, place, path or pace of learning.
"Core subjects." English language arts, mathematics, science
and social studies.
"Cyber charter school." As defined in section 1703-A and
operating on the effective date of this article.
"Cyber education program." A program established by a school
district in which the program uses technology in order to
provide a significant portion of curriculum to deliver a
significant portion of instruction to students through the
Internet or other electronic means. The term may include
components of synchronous and asynchronous learning.
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"Cyber school." A school established by a school district in
which the school uses technology in order to provide a
significant portion of curriculum to deliver a significant
portion of instruction to students through the Internet or other
electronic means.
"Department." The Department of Education of the
Commonwealth.
"Educational management company." A nonprofit management
organization, for-profit educational management organization,
school design provider or other partner entity with which a
local board of school directors contracts to provide educational
design, comprehensive management or personnel functions.
"Habitually truant." Six or more school days of unexcused
absences during the current school year by a child subject to
compulsory school attendance requirements under section 1327.
"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 under Article XX-A.
(3) A State-related institution as defined in section
1502-A.
(4) Any accredited nonprofit public, private or
independent college or university.
"Parent." An individual who has legal custody or
guardianship of a student or keeps in the individual's home a
student and supports the student gratis as if the student were a
lineal descendent of the individual.
"Secretary." The Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth.
"State board." The State Board of Education of the
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Commonwealth.
"Synchronous learning." Student participation in a cyber
course at the same time, but in a different location, as the
instructor and other students.
"Third-party vendor." An intermediate unit, educational
management company, cyber charter school, institution of higher
education or other school district. The term shall not include
an individual.
Section 1704-D. School district duties.
(a) Full-time cyber education program.--A school district
shall establish and operate full-time cyber education programs
in which students can meet compulsory school requirements under
section 1327.
(b) Blended-learning program.--A school district may provide
students with an option to participate in blended-learning
programs.
(c) Cyber education plan.--No later than November 1, 2020, a
school district shall develop and submit a cyber education plan
to the department in a form and manner prescribed by the
department. The cyber education plan shall include:
(1) The identification of the school district.
(2) Any third-party vendors that are or will be engaged
to offer a portion or all of the full-time cyber education
programs and a copy of any draft or executed contracts.
(3) The mission, educational goals and instructional
model of the full-time cyber education programs.
(4) The curriculum to be offered, the methods to assess
whether students are meeting educational goals and the
methods to assist students who are not meeting educational
goals.
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(5) The application and admission process for the
enrollment of students in the full-time cyber education
programs.
(6) The proposed faculty and a professional development
plan for the faculty of the full-time cyber education
programs.
(7) The blended-learning program options, if offered.
(8) A plan to address any Internet connectivity issues
and lost or broken equipment.
(9) Information on how the school district will work
with parents and students to transition students attending
cyber charter schools.
(10) Attendance, truancy, equipment and parental
involvement policies.
(11) Methodology used to determine attendance, including
the calculation of instructional time, to meet the
requirements of section 1501.
(12) Budget and projected enrollment.
(13) A plan for providing special education and related
services.
(14) Any other information deemed necessary by the
department.
(d) Public hearing.--No later than 60 days prior to the
submission of the plan to the department, a local board of
school directors shall hold a public hearing on the cyber
education plan and receive public comment.
(e) Program offering.--A school district shall offer full-
time cyber education programs no later than the beginning of the
2021-2022 school year.
(f) Annual reports.--Beginning August 1, 2022, and each
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August 1 thereafter, a school district shall submit an annual
report describing the cyber education programs of the school
district in a form and manner prescribed by the department. The
annual report shall include the following information enumerated
by program:
(1) Total enrollment in the prior school year.
(2) Projected enrollment for the current school year.
(3) Attendance information, including the number of
truant and habitually truant students and the steps taken to
address truancy.
(4) Academic information, including aggregate
performance data and measures taken to address low
performance of students.
(5) Cost per student.
(6) Updates to the cyber plan under subsection (c).
Section 1705-D. Full-time cyber education programs.
(a) Program development and access to alternative cyber
education programs.--The following shall apply:
(1) A school district shall develop a full-time cyber
education program or contract with a third-party vendor or
third-party vendors to provide students with a full-time
cyber education program.
(2) In addition to the full-time cyber education program
offered by a school district under paragraph (1), a school
district shall provide students with the option to
participate in at least two alternative full-time cyber
education programs. A school district shall contract with a
third-party vendor other than a school district or
intermediate unit to provide content for the alternative
full-time cyber education programs.
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(b) Robust course offerings required.--The full-time cyber
education programs shall include robust selections of course
offerings in core subjects and electives designed to enable
students to gain competency in each cyber course. The cyber
course offerings shall include varying course levels comparable
to the levels offered by the school district's traditional
education program, including advanced course levels.
(c) Curriculum.--The curriculum of the cyber education
programs shall be aligned with Pennsylvania academic standards
under 22 Pa. Code Ch. 4 (relating to academic standards and
assessment).
(d) Graduation.--The cyber education programs must include,
at a minimum, all courses required to meet graduation
requirements under 22 Pa. Code ยง 4.24 (relating to high school
graduation requirements).
(e) Grades offered.--A school district shall offer the same
grade levels for the full-time cyber education programs as the
school district's traditional education programs.
(f) Access to technology.--A school district shall provide
the following to each student enrolled in a full-time cyber
education program without charge:
(1) all instructional materials;
(2) all equipment, including, but not limited to, a
computer, computer monitor and printer; and
(3) all technology and services necessary for the online
delivery of the curriculum and instruction, or the
reimbursement for the provisions of this paragraph.
(g) Annual onboarding process and orientation.--A school
district shall establish and implement an annual onboarding
process and orientation for a parent of a student and student
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participating in a cyber education program which shall:
(1) provide and review all cyber education program
policies;
(2) discuss student engagement and parental involvement;
(3) include any materials provided by a third-party
vendor for students or parents; and
(4) prohibit enrollment of a student in the cyber
education program if the parent and student do not
participate in the onboarding process and orientation.
(h) Student-to-teacher ratios.--The cyber education program
must maintain the following maximum student-to-teacher ratios
for all core subjects:
(1) At the elementary level, 25:1.
(2) At the secondary level, 30:1.
(i) Exception.--A school district may apply to the secretary
for an exception to the student-to-teacher ratios under
subsection (h). The secretary shall grant the exception if, in
the discretion of the secretary, the proposed student-to-teacher
ratio will not adversely impact the academic quality of the
program.
(j) Teacher of record.--Each student enrolled in a full-time
cyber education program shall be assigned a teacher of record.
The teacher of record shall oversee the student's overall cyber
education and be the main point of contact for the student or
parent, regardless of whether the teacher of record provides
actual instruction to the student.
(k) Certified professional staff.--All professional staff
members shall hold appropriate State certification.
(l) School.--If a school district enrolls the lesser of at
least 100 students or 20% of the total number of students
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enrolled in the school district in full-time cyber education,
the school district shall establish a cyber education school. A
school district may, at its discretion, establish a cyber
education school if the school district does not meet the
requirements of this subsection.
(m) Parental communication.--A school district shall
establish a method of communication with parents regarding the
performance and progress of students enrolled in the cyber
education program. Parent-teacher conferences may be conducted
through electronic means.
Section 1706-D. Third-party vendors.
(a) Contract with third-party vendors.--The following
information must be included in a contract between a school
district and third-party vendor:
(1) duration of the service contract;
(2) roles and responsibilities of the third-party
vendor, including the governing authority and staff;
(3) the scope of services, personnel and resources to be
provided by the third-party vendor;
(4) salaries of the staff assigned to the full-time
cyber programs;
(5) performance evaluation measures and timelines;
(6) the compensation structure, including clear
identification of all fees to be paid to the third-party
vendor;
(7) methods of contract oversight and enforcement;
(8) methods for the collection, use, storage or sharing
of student data by the third-party vendor in compliance with
Federal and State laws; and
(9) conditions for renewal or termination of the
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contract.
(b) Publicly available information.--Contracts entered into
under subsection (a) shall be posted on the school district's
publicly accessible Internet website. The local board of school
directors shall also disclose and explain any potential
conflicts of interest between the local board of school
directors and the third-party vendor at a public meeting and
post the disclosure on the school district's publicly accessible
Internet website.
Section 1707-D. Admission.
(a) Admission and application.--All students in this
Commonwealth shall qualify for admission to the full-time cyber
education programs offered by the resident school district of
the student. Each school district shall develop an enrollment
application form or utilize the department's model enrollment
application form for parents to enroll children in the school
district's cyber education programs. All school districts shall
provide parents with timely written notification of at least one
open enrollment period for full-time students of 90 days or more
which ends no later than 60 days before the first day of school.
A school district may permit enrollment in the school district's
cyber education programs after the open enrollment period.
(b) Eligibility.--If a student is habitually truant, the
school district shall withdraw the student from the cyber
education programs and the student shall not be eligible to re-
enroll in the cyber education programs for a period of two
years. The school district shall provide an opportunity for the
student or the parent to demonstrate that failure to participate
in a cyber education program is due to an event that would be
considered an excused absence.
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(c) Enrollment not required.--A school district may not
require a student to attend a full-time cyber education program.
(d) School district students.--A student enrolled in a
school district cyber education program shall be considered a
student of the school district.
Section 1708-D. Department responsibilities.
(a) Technical assistance.--The department shall provide
technical assistance to school districts to help ensure quality
cyber education programs.
(b) Guidelines.--The department shall issue guidelines
within 180 days of the effective date of this section to assist
school districts in implementing the provisions of this article.
The guidelines issued under this subsection shall be posted on
the department's publicly accessible Internet website. The
guidelines shall include:
(1) best practices for operation of a full-time cyber
education program;
(2) recommended third-party vendors to assist school
districts in the implementation of this article;
(3) model enrollment and application forms;
(4) model attendance and truancy policies;
(5) model methodologies for the calculation of
attendance;
(6) best practices related to special education and
cyber education;
(7) available Federal, State or private grants available
to develop or maintain cyber education programs; and
(8) any other information as determined by the
department.
(c) Report to Governor and General Assembly.--The department
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shall issue an annual report to the Governor and General
Assembly beginning on or before October 30, 2022, and October 30
of each year thereafter. The annual report shall:
(1) outline school district cyber education programs
offered in this Commonwealth;
(2) assess the trends and needs in school district cyber
education programs; and
(3) make recommendations regarding legislative or
regulatory changes needed to improve cyber education.
Section 1709-D. State board responsibilities.
(a) Regulations.--The State board may issue regulations
necessary to implement this article.
(b) Cyber Education Advisory Committee.--The State board
shall convene and consult with a Statewide advisory committee on
cyber education. The following shall apply:
(1) The advisory committee shall be appointed by the
State board and include at least one of all of the following
individuals:
(i) A school superintendent.
(ii) A school board member.
(iii) A representative from an intermediate unit.
(iv) A representative from a third-party vendor.
(v) A designee from the department.
(2) Members of the advisory committee shall be selected
in order to be representative of the rural, suburban and
urban school districts of this Commonwealth.
(3) The advisory committee shall be convened not later
than 60 days after the effective date of this section.
(4) The advisory committee shall aid in the development
of the regulations under subsection (a) and provide guidance
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to the State board and department on an ongoing basis. The
advisory committee shall meet at least annually.
Section 1710-D. Cyber charter schools.
(a) Continuing operation.--A cyber charter school
established under section 1745-A in operation on the effective
date of this section may continue to operate through the 2020-
2021 school year unless the charter of the cyber charter school
is revoked or nonrenewed under section 1729-A.
(b) Ceasing of operations and dissolution.--A cyber charter
school must cease operation and dissolve at the conclusion of
the 2020-2021 school year. After the disposition of any
liabilities and obligations of the cyber charter school, any
remaining assets of the cyber charter school, both real and
personal, shall be distributed on a proportional basis to the
school district with students enrolled in the cyber charter
school. In no event shall the school district or the
Commonwealth be liable for any outstanding liabilities or
obligations of the cyber charter school.
(c) Contract with school district.--A cyber charter school
established under section 1745-A in operation on the effective
date of this article, unless revoked or nonrenewed under section
1729-A, may contract with a school district or school districts
to offer a full-time cyber education program as a nonprofit
corporation.
(d) The department shall not approve any cyber charter
applications under section 1745-A after the effective date of
this section. Any pending applications for a cyber charter
school shall be denied and new applications shall not be
accepted.
Section 1711-D. Prohibitions.
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(a) Full-time cyber education program prohibited.--A charter
school or regional charter school may not establish a full-time
cyber education program.
(b) Blended-learning opportunities permitted.--A charter
school or regional charter school may provide blended-learning
opportunities to students if permitted by the terms of its
charter.
Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately.
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