Billing Concerns Delay Proposed School-based Medicaid Rule (April 13, 2024)

Concerns over negative impacts to students’ out-of-school public insurance benefits appear to be delaying the release of a U.S. Department of Education (USDE) final rule that is supposed to ease the process of obtaining parental consent for Medicaid school-based health services. While some worry that children’s school-based services can adversely affect outside services, there appears to be no concrete examples of such. In fact, parental consent forms allowing for school-based Medicaid billing explicitly state that such permissions will not affect lifetime coverage or any other insured benefits.

However, last August 26th organizations said in a letter to the USDE that, “Parents are routinely informed, sometimes even after services in other settings have already been rendered, that the Medicaid agency has deemed them duplicative with school-based services and their coverage is denied.”

The final rule was expected to be released in January and there is still no release date in sight.

For more from K-12 Dive, click here.

Shapiro Administration Launches Anti-Stigma Campaign To Support College Students’ Basic Needs (April 7, 2024)

On April 5, 2024, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) launched a new anti-stigma campaign to support postsecondary students struggling to meet basic needs such as housing, transportation, financial needs, and physical and mental health.

Through the PA MASLOW “You Good?” campaign, PDE developed posters that colleges and universities can personalize, print, and post on their campuses directing students to critical resources. Additionally, PDE has been convening student panel discussions around the state as proactive way to inform the anti-stigma campaign as well as the programs and policies that postsecondary institutions are implementing. Through quarterly virtual meetings, the department has been engaging with the field on ways to expand upon and improve anti-stigma efforts.

This effort to promote wellness, safety, and belonging at postsecondary institutions complements Governor Josh Shapiro’s recently announced blueprint for higher education—a plan that dramatically increases funding for state colleges and universities, unites them under a new governance structure, and caps tuition costs for income eligible students to ensure a higher education is affordable for all. Gov. Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget proposal invests $975 million in the community colleges and PASSHE universities that will comprise this new system, a 15 percent increase in the amount of funding those institutions received last year. In addition, next year, the Governor will call for an investment to make higher education more affordable by ensuring students from families making up to the median income will pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges. Furthermore, to help students attending state-related universities and independent colleges, Governor Shapiro’s plan will increase PHEAA grants for students from families making up to the median income by $1,000.

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Pennsylvania is one of the least affordable states to attend college, with only 18% of two-year institutions and 0% of four-year institutions attainable for low- and moderate-income families. Nationally, 63% of two-year institutions and 31% of four-year institutions are affordable for that same population of students. Pennsylvania has the third largest average amount borrowed for the class of 2020 at $39,375 with 64% of learners accruing student debt.

The high cost of higher education hurts students with the fewest financial resources and keeps many Pennsylvanians from pursuing a higher education at all. On average, PASSHE enrollment has decreased by 30% over the past decade, and Pennsylvania community college enrollment has decreased by 37 percent over the same period.  

In addition to increasing resources available to community colleges and PASSHE universities, the new blueprint will help reverse declining enrollment trends caused in part by the high cost of higher education, simplify credit transfer for students, and increase collaboration and cooperation between public universities so that community colleges and PASSHE institutions can focus on their unique missions and successes rather than competing with one another.

The Governor’s blueprint will help ensure higher education is both affordable and accessible for all, giving Pennsylvanians the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. It will also provide more resources to colleges and universities that can be directed into student support services that help meet students’ basic needs so they can successfully complete degrees and credentials that lead to good-paying jobs. Additionally, Governor Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget expands access to community-based mental health resources with a $20 million increase in funding for county mental health services.

PA MASLOW is a cross-agency partnership that expands upon the mission of PDE – ensuring every student not only has access to education, but that the education pursued provides them with support and resources to create optimal learning environments. This initiative will engage postsecondary institutions in several pillars of work, including digital equity, housing and transportation, mental health, personal needs, adult student needs, finances, and safety and belonging. 

The program is a comprehensive guide to supporting postsecondary students, translated from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, which includes physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs. By addressing these basic needs in a more individualized approach, we can ensure that learners have everything they need to be successful and complete their credential.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education, please visit the Department of Education website.

PDE Awards More Than $27 Million In Grant Funding Available For Community Learning Programs (April 4, 2024)

On April 4, 2024, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that 61 organizations in 18 counties have been awarded more than $27 million in funding under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant program. This funding is available to establish and/or support community learning centers that provide academic, artistic, and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.

The 21st CCLC program provides opportunities for communities to establish or to expand activities in community learning centers that:
-Provide opportunities for academic enrichment, including tutorial services to help students, particularly students who attend low-performing schools, to meet state academic standards;
-Offer students a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities, such as youth development activities, tutoring, service learning, nutrition and health education, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, arts, music, physical fitness and wellness programs, technology education programs, financial literacy programs, environmental literacy programs, mathematics, science, career and technical programs, internship or apprenticeship programs, and other ties to an in-demand industry sector or occupation for high school students that are designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program of participating students; and
-Offer families opportunities for active and meaningful engagement in their children’s education, including opportunities for literacy and related educational development.

These opportunities must occur during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session to help students attending high-poverty and low-performing schools to meet state and local standards in core academic subjects. Centers must also offer students a broad array of activities that can complement their regular academic programs and literacy and other educational services to their families.

The 21st CCLC program is authorized under Title IV, Part B of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.

The list of awardees can be found on PDE’s website.

Governor’s Budget Investment Proposal Aims at Intellectual Disability & Autism Services (March 29, 2024)

According to a press release, Governor Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget proposal puts life-changing investments for the intellectual disability and autism (ID/A) communities. The proposal includes major increases in home- and community-based services for Pennsylvanians with ID/A as well as reimbursement rates for the providers and direct support professionals who provide essential care and support every day. 

The proposed budget sets a transformative course to eliminate the emergency waiting list for services for adults and reduce barriers to care for thousands of Pennsylvanians over the next several years. This system change will make Pennsylvania one of a handful of states to end its emergency waiting list and help ID/A community members access vital services to live independently, pursue education and job opportunities, and participate in the Everyday Lives they deserve. 

DHS would re-examine rates to better support ID/A service providers and the direct support professionals who dedicate their careers to helping Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism. The investment in rates will support recruitment, retention, and wages for direct support professionals across this field who make inclusive, enriching lives possible for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. 

Ending the emergency waiting list would be accomplished through a multi-year program growth strategy that shifts how waiver program capacity is managed. To date, intellectual disability and autism waiver programs were managed by allocating a set number of “slots” to each county, which determines a person’s eligibility. Under this model, services they need are covered through their designated slot. Moving forward, program capacity will be managed under an overall budget for each county, giving more flexibility to local program administrators to serve more people based on current needs, service utilization, and overall costs. This shift will allow counties to serve more people with greater efficiency.

To jumpstart this transition and help counties begin to serve more people, Governor Shapiro directed DHS to immediately release additional program capacity to counties, which will provide services to an additional 1,650 Pennsylvanians this year, and service providers will also receive a one-time supplemental payment later this spring to assist with workforce recruitment and retention. The 2024-25 proposed budget seeks to build on this by investing $78 million in federal and state funds to serve an additional 1,500 Pennsylvanians in the next fiscal year.

Read the Governor’s full budget proposal by clicking here.

PDE Announces Compliance Monitoring Training for Peer Monitors (March 28, 2024)

On March 26, 2024, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy sent a PennLink message to all LEAS titled Compliance Monitoring Training for Peer Monitors. The message states that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has the responsibility to ensure that all school districts and charter schools administer special education programs and services that comply with state and federal laws and regulations. To fulfill this responsibility, the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) trains individuals to serve as peer monitors on special education monitoring teams. The training will review the updated monitoring procedures that peer monitors will utilize to assist in the monitoring. This includes file reviews, interviews, online data entry and logistical processes.

All interested individuals, including currently contracted peer monitors, must complete this mandated training in person to continue to serve as peer monitors for the 2024-25 school year through the 2028-29 school year. The following individuals may serve as peer monitors: current peer monitors, retired special education personnel, advocates, family members, special education administrators.

Registration is available on the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network’s (PaTTAN) website at

This required in-person training will be offered:
Monday, May 13, 2024, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM              Allegheny IU 3
Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 9:00 AM – Noon                  PaTTAN West
Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 9:00 AM – Noon             Riverview IU 6
Friday, May 17, 2024, 9:00 AM – Noon                     PaTTAN Central
Monday, May 20, 2024, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM             PaTTAN East
Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 9:00 AM – Noon                  Luzerne IU 18
Tuesday, June 4, 2024, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM              School District of Philadelphia

Please contact Charmaine Lee at [email protected] for questions.