FDA Warns of Teen E-Cigarette Use Epidemic (September 29, 2018)

The FDA put the vaping industry on notice this month, issuing warning letters and fines to five major manufacturers and more than 1,300 retailers who have illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors. The move by the FDA stems from the agency’s identifying signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached epidemic proportions.According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, “We have data to show that use of e-cigarettes, while potentially posing much less harm than combusting tobacco, is not benign. It causes its own health effects. And nicotine use by kids is dangerous. It causes direct effects on their health and their brains.”

The American Lung Association has also identified a lack of government oversight of e-cigarette products and expressed its concern as to the possible health risks involved in their use.


USDE Postpones State Compliance with Significant Disproportionality Regulations (August 22, 2018)

On August 15, 2018, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, PDE’s Director of the Bureau of Special Education released a memo titled Postponement of Significant Disproportionality Regulations via PennLink informing recipients of the postponement of the December 2016 amended regulations to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) pertaining to significant disproportionality.  A copy of the memo can be viewed on the PAPSA website in the “Resources” section under “Downloads.” The final rule implementing this change can be found in the July 3, 2018 Federal Register notice.

Hinkson-Hermann explains that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has postponed by two (2) years the date for states to comply with the Equity in IDEA, or significant disproportionality regulations, from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020.  The USDE also postponed the date for including children ages three (3) through five (5) in the analysis of significant disproportionality, with respect to the identification of children as children with disabilities and as children with an impairment, from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Bureau of Special Education (BSE) will be accepting the delay and will continue to provide support to the local educational agencies. Hinkson-Hermann goes on to say that delaying the implementation date does not disregard this important work and that PDE views the two-year delay as an opportunity for our statewide system of support, schools, and community stakeholders to study and work together to address the broad concerns surrounding the issue of, and the root cause of significant disproportionality.  In fact, during the 2018-19 school year, PDE/BSE will offer training and technical assistance for equitable practices in the areas of identification, least restrictive environment, and disciplinary removals for students with disabilities.  Please refer to the monthly calendar located on the PaTTAN website for training dates. Questions regarding this information should be posed to John Gombocz at jgombocz@pa.gov or 717-772-3745.

Homeland Security to Award $1.8 Million in Grants (August 18, 2018)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to award $1.8 million in grants for the development of “School-Age Trauma Training” programs. These programs are designed to teach students how to respond to traumatic hemorrhaging during mass casualty events.

Reportedly, the focus of the program is to control bleeding in an injured person in order to increase their chances of survival. The training is aimed at preparing bystanders to effectively react to traumatic events, including school shootings, while they await the arrival of first responders. However, the program has stirred controversy with those who support tighter gun restrictions in the wake of school shootings, including some parents who’ve lost children in such attacks and have expressed their displeasure with legislators who do not look at controlling the use of guns and instead appropriate funds for teaching schoolchildren how to stop bleeding for someone who is shot while in school.

PA Receives Highest Level of Determination Under Part B of IDEA (August 14, 2018)

PA Education Secretary Pedro Rivera has announced that the US Department of Education’s (USDE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) notified him that Pennsylvania has received the highest level of determination – “Meets Requirements” – that the federal government awards to states under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Pennsylvania was one of only 22 states and territories that received the distinction this year.  This is the 11th out of 12 years that PA has been recognized with the “Meets Requirements” designation since the USDE has been issuing its determinations.

This determination is based on the totality of the state’s special education data and information, including the federal fiscal year 2016 State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR), other state-reported data, and additional publicly available information.  Consistent with the USDE’s Results Driven Accountability, 2018 determinations were based on PA’s compliance with the regulatory requirements of the IDEA as well as the extent to which positive outcomes are being achieved for students.  In making Part B determinations in 2018, the OSEP considered the following results data for students with disabilities: (1) participation on regular statewide assessments; (2) participation and performance on the most recently administered (school year 2016-17) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); (3) graduation with a regular high school diploma; and (4) dropout rates.

PA’s Part B SPP/APR is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) website or the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network website.  The USDE has developed state profiles as a resource for IDEA-related, state-specific information.  Persons interested in reviewing that information may visit the Office of Special Education Programs GRADS360 website and click on Pennsylvania.

CHIP Funding Survives as Senate Narrowly Rejects Trump Rescission Package (June 22, 2018)

On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, the Senate narrowly rejected a funding rescission bill, 50-48, that aimed to pull back about $15 billion in previously appropriated government funding. The rescission package had already passed the House and, if it had passed, the bill would have clawed back billions of dollars from CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), affordable housing investments, infrastructure, rural development and innovative energy programs.