PA Department of Insurance Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Regulation #11-258 “Mental Health Parity Analysis Documentation” (February 11, 2020

The PA Department of Insurance proposed Regulation #11-258 (IRRC #3252) entitled “Mental Health Parity Analysis Documentation” in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on February 8, 2020. The proposed regulation is available on the Pennsylvania Bulletin Web by clicking here. The proposed regulation is also available on IRRC’s Web site by clicking here.The Department is inviting the public to submit written comments on the proposal. Please reference Regulation #11-258 (IRRC #3252) on the correspondence. The deadline for submitting comments to the Department is March 9, 2020. All correspondence, public comments, and documents submitted relating to a regulation are a matter of public record and will appear on IRRC’s Web site at www.irrc.state.pa.us.

President Trump Proposes Education Budget (February 10, 2020)

President Trump’s FY 2021request was released on February 10, 2020. The proposal calls for block granting K-12 education funds and a separate and reformed federal student aid. Trump’s budget request for the U.S. Department of Education is touted by his administration as a transformative, student-first budget that prioritizes improving student achievement, reducing the outsized federal role in education, and returning control over education decisions to state and local leaders, teachers, parents, and students.

The budget calls for consolidating nearly all existing K-12 formula and competitive grant programs into one block grant to ctates, called the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant. Funds would be allocated using the same formulas as the Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies program. The budget also builds on the multi-year Federal Student Aid (FSA) reform project U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos launched in 2018.

K-12 public education skeptics are leery of the use of terms used in the USDE such as increased “freedom”, “disadvantaged”, “reducing the federal role.” A reduced fereral role is seen by some as a means to reduce federal spending, which is already inadequate with regard to the federal role in funding special education.

To view details of the full budget request, click here.

PDH Releases Coronavirus Fact Sheets (February 5, 2020)

​The PA Department of Health (PDH) has released two fact sheets regarding the coronavirus. One fact sheet provides general information on the virus. The other fact sheet is specific to K-12 schools in PA. To access these important fact sheets, either click on http://papsa-web.org/quick-links/downloads/ or visit the PAPSA website at www.papsa-web.org, go to the “Resources” drop-down,  and then click on “Downloads.”

Updated information can also be obtained in person by attending the 42nd Annual PAPSA Conference that will be held from April 1-3, 2020 in Williamsport. To register for the conference, please click here.

Gov. Wolf Releases Proposed 2020-21 Budget (February 4, 2020)

On Tuesday, February 4, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf released his proposed 2020-21 budget. Those parts of the budget that focus on education include:

  • A proposed increase of $100 million for basic education funding (BEF). Thus, the total appropriation for BEF to $6.85 billion. The funding formula will be used to distribute any new monies.
  • The proposed budget provides a $14 million increase for school employee Social Security payments.
  • The proposed budget level funds ($268 million) for the Ready to Learn Block Grant to be allocated as per 2019-20 appropriations. 
  • The budget provides an increase of $25 million to be distributed through the special education funding formula. Proposed special education funding also includes over $90 million for core services funding to intermediate units, contingency funding, institutionalized children’s program funding, special education for students who are wards of state, and special education for out of state placements.
  • Funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs remains level at $99 million, as does funding for CTE Equipment Grants ($5.5 million).
  • The proposed budget provides $15 million for the School Safety and Security Fund, which shows a $60 million cut from the current budget. 
  • Proposed funding for state and federal testing programs is level ($48.9 million).
  • The proposed budget provides an increase of $500,000 in professional development funding.
  • The proposed budget eliminates funding for trauma-informed education.
  • Pupil transportation is level funded ($549 million), as is funding for nonpublic pupil transportation ($79.4 million).
  • Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts will receive a $25 million increase, early intervention programs will receive an $11 million increase and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program will receive a $5 million increase. 
  • The 2020-21 budget proposes comprehensive Charter School Law reform that estimates a $280 million per year savings for school districts by applying the special education formula to all charter schools; establishing a statewide cyber charter tuition rate of $9,500 per student/year; and other measures. 
  • The budget includes a new mandate by calling for all public schools to provide universal, full-day kindergarten programs for all students. Although districts are not mandated to provide kindergarten, currently 82% of PA kindergartners are enrolled in full-day programs. School districts that can demonstrate capacity challenges that inhibit their ability to expand to full-day kindergarten will be able to apply to PDE for a hardship waiver along with a plan for building out future capacity.
  • The proposed budget provides for an additional $119 million towards the state’s share of schools employee pension costs. 

Thanks to PSBA for being a source of information.

PDE Announces Annual Deaf-Blind Child Count for Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Students (January 27, 2020)

BSE Director Carole L. Clancy and Carl Beck, Director of the Bureau of Early Intervention Services and Family Supports,  have disseminated a memo titled Annual Deaf-Blind Child Count for Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Students. Annually, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), requires the Pennsylvania Deaf-Blind Project to conduct the National Deaf-Blind Child Count, formerly called the National Deaf-Blind Census.  The Deaf-Blind Child Count records the number of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students who have dual sensory impairments or who are at risk of developing dual sensory impairments, and who are enrolled in early intervention or special education as of the December 1, 2017 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) child count. The count will be conducted beginning February 1, 2020.  LEAs must verify and submit their information no later than February 28, 2020.  It is important for Pennsylvania to have an accurate Deaf-Blind Child Count as this information is tied to funding research, training, and technical assistance for this population of children. LEAs are advised that, for the Deaf-Blind Child Count, the federal definition of deaf-blindness is more inclusive and extensive than the one used for the IDEA child count.  Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students should be reported in the count if they meet one or more of the following criteria: Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students whose primary or secondary diagnosis is deaf-blindness; Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students who have a mild to severe hearing loss and some degree of vision impairment that requires adaptations or modifications; Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students who have a diagnosis that places them at risk for developing a hearing loss and visual impairment; Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and students with multiple disabilities who may demonstrate inconsistent responses to light and sound.

 It is important for each Early Intervention Program and LEA to participate in the Deaf-Blind Child Count and to keep the following in mind: If they do not have any infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or students with deaf-blindness, you will still need to log in and identify that you are not educating anyone with deaf-blindness at the present time; If they are educating an infant, toddler, preschooler, or student with dual sensory impairments, you will need to either enter a new record or verify information about a child who already exists in the system; School-age and preschool programs are encouraged to work closely with contracted providers (e.g., Approved Private Schools, Charter Schools for the Deaf or Blind) to ensure an accurate count of children; Connecting families of children who are deaf-blind with supporting networks and information is vital.  A feature of the Deaf-Blind Child Count, initiated two years ago, is a letter which you will be asked to send to the family of each child listed in your count.  The letter provides information which will link them to support and information for their family.

 Deaf-Blind Child Count – Approved Private School (APS) Entries:  All Approved Private Schools (APSs) entered their student data prior to the Deaf-Blind Child Count being opened for Early Intervention programs, school districts, charter schools, and service providers.  While there are few infants and toddlers served in an APS, you may see a child in the Deaf-Blind Child Count which has been entered by an APS.  For those programs with many students who qualify, this will save them valuable time.  This was done by all APSs even if there are no students who qualify for the Deaf-Blind Child Count enrolled in their school.  As the Early Intervention Program or LEA for these respective students, you must either confirm that the student is your responsibility or reject them if the student is not within your catchment area or in the age range of children you serve.  After you confirm that you are the Early Intervention Program or LEA for the student, you can update other data as necessary. 

 The Early Intervention Program responsible for providing early intervention services to the entered child should confirm that the child is their responsibility.  If the child is not the responsibility of the program (i.e., the child is not within your county/county joinder or in the age range of children you serve), please email dbchildcount@pattan.net.

 The Deaf-Blind Child Count website is: https://www.leaderservices.com/_DBcensus. The process for entering information is as follows:

 For Early Intervention Programs: Log in with your username and password; If the username or password for the Deaf-Blind Child Count is not known, use the “Forget your Login Info” link on the Deaf-Blind Child Count website to have the information emailed to the person responsible.

 For School Districts and Charter Schools: Log in using the LEA AUN number as the username; The password for the system is the same password that is used to access the Special Education monitoring system; If the password is not known, use the “Forget your Login Info” link on the Deaf-Blind Child Count website to have the information emailed to the person responsible.

For Preschool Early Intervention Providers: Log in using the Early Intervention Provider PELICAN ID as the username; If the password for the Deaf-Blind Child Count is not known, use the “Forget your Login Info” link on the Deaf-Blind Child Count website to have the information emailed to the person responsible.

 Any questions regarding the data collection system or responsibilities for entering child data into the Deaf-Blind Child Count, should be submitted to dbchildcount@pattan.net.