Special Ed. Certification Bill Heads to Governor (October 12, 2018)

On October 12th, House Bill 1386 as amended by the PA Senate was passed by the PA House and has been sent to Gov. Wolf to be signed into law. The bill changes the way special education teachers are certified and changes the grade spans and age levels for certification of special education instructional certificates combining the current special education certificates into one category. Further, all special education certificates issued after Dec. 31, 2021 would cover PK-12, or up to age 21, with no additional content or dual certification required.

Acknowledgments to PSBA

Secretary Rivera Announces Grants to Benefit Deaf-Blind Students (October 10, 2018)

On Friday, October 5th, PA Education Secretary Pedro Rivera announced that the Commonwealth will receive a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to improve services to students who are deaf and blind. According to Rivera, “This funding will provide resources to schools, educators, and families to help them provide equitable instruction to students who are deaf-blind.”
Currently, PA educates 602 deaf and blind students from birth to 21 years old and have varying degrees of hearing and vision loss, which are often complicated by other disabilities.
According to the PDE, the Bureau of Special Education applied for the federal funds to implement the state’s Deaf-Blind Project, which provides resources to support schools, educators and families of those students. Rivera said the project is designed to address the complex needs of educators and families through a multi-tiered system, including implementing a regional model using the state’s intermediate units to establish deaf-blind resource teams; providing qualified paraprofessionals and interveners with training geared toward addressing needs of deaf-blind students; and facilitating family participation and engagement strategies to connect them with state and national resources. It will also evaluate education and employment outcomes for deaf-blind students.

PDE Reminds LEAs to Report Expenditures Relating to Exceptional Students (October 2, 2018)

Last month, Ann Hinkson-Hermann, Director of PDE’s Bureau of Special Education, notified LEAs that according to Act 16 of 2000 (24 PS §13-1372(8)),  school districts and charter schools must report the number of students with disabilities for which expenditures were between $1 and $25,628.39; between $25,628.40 and $51,256.79; between $51,256.80 and $76,885.19; and $76,885.20 and over for the prior school year. This report will now be collected at the student level through PIMS using the Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds.  The template will be collected during Collection #1 (October 1 through October 11, 2018).  Data is to be based on expenditures incurred during the 2017-18 school year. Guidelines regarding the Act 16 reporting can be found at the following link:  Act 16 Information. The Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds can be found in the PIMS manual at the following link:  PIMS Information. Please note that failure to complete the Student Fact Template for Special Education Act 16 Funds report may have an adverse effect on your agency’s special education funding. Questions regarding this reporting requirement may be emailed to ra-edseact16@pa.gov.  A copy of this information is being provided to each intermediate unit so they may assist school districts and charter schools with report preparation, as needed.

PDE Notifies LEAs Regarding Restraint Information System Collection (October 2, 2018)

Recently, Ann Hinkson-Herrmann, Director of PDE’s Bureau of Special Education, notified LEAs that the 2018-19 school year Restraint Information System Collection (RISC) is open for data entry. The system was enhanced to give local educational agencies (LEAs) greater opportunity to provide both more detail about restraints and to analyze trends in reducing the use of physical restraints on students. The Bureau of Special Education continues to require LEAs to report the restraints that occurred in each quarter. This reporting process encourages LEAs to report their restraints in a more timely manner, which in turn, will help LEAs monitor patterns of episodic behaviors and address them accordingly. Questions regarding the RISC should be directed to either of the following Special Education Advisers:  Keith Focht at 717.783.6921 or kfocht@pa.gov or Pat Haglund at 814.662.2662 or phaglund@pa.gov.

PDE Sends Out Act 71 Reminder (October 2, 2018)

Yesterday, Matthew S. Stem, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education sent out a reminder to LEAs regarding Act 71 of 2014, which requires school entities provide four hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention every five years for professional educators in school buildings servicing students in grades 6-12. Under this law, school entities must incorporate “protocols administering youth suicide prevention education to staff and students into their suicide awareness and prevention policy.  However, schools are not precluded from providing training and education to all school personnel, including support staff (e.g., secretarial staff, custodians, food service, etc.). The communique also list the following Resources for Student Suicide Education and Awareness:

Student Suicide Prevention Program Guide

Student Suicide Prevention Program Spreadsheet (note: Click on different tabs to review programs organized by cost, duration, etc.)

Prevent Suicide PA recently launched their Suicide Prevention Online Learning Center, with a range of free online trainings for educators, including an 8-module course that fulfills the 4-hour Act 71 requirement and covers the PDE recommended topics for educator training.

For additional information about suicide prevention efforts in Pennsylvania, visit Prevent Suicide PA’s website.

Those with questions relating to Pennsylvania’s school suicide prevention and awareness mandates, are asked to contact Carol Kuntz, Director for the Office for Safe Schools at (717)783-6469.