BCIU Provides Updated PA State Mandate Documents (April 28, 2024)

Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) continues to be a leader in producing a comprehensive set of documents detailing PA state mandates pertaining to education. BCIU Early Childhood and Student Services Director Dr. Michelle Reichard-Huff has again provided PAPSA and its members with excellent updated documents regarding these mandates. This latest version was updated March 2024. Many thanks to Dr. Reichard-Huff and her BCIU team!!

For reference, please see the following 2024 State Mandates Documents created by the Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU):
-BCIU_Mandates:_March2024__
https://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/BCIU_Mandates_March2024__.pdf
-BCIU_Mandates_March 2024_SummarySheetofRevisions__
https://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/BCIU_Mandates_March-2024_SummarySheetofRevisions__.pdf
-BCIU_MandatesChecklist_March2024__
https://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/BCIU_MandatesChecklist_March2024__.pdf
-BCIU_MandatesChecklist_March2024_Summary Sheet of Revisions__
https://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/BCIU_MandatesChecklist_March2024_Summary-Sheet-of-Revisions__.pdf

The creation of the State Mandates Document stems from a concerted effort to enhance communication and ensure clarity regarding the numerous regulations and requirements outlined in the Pennsylvania School Code that govern our education system as well as federal regulations impacting school entities. Acknowledging the intricate and evolving nature of educational policies, this document serves as a consolidated resource, offering school leaders a comprehensive overview of their obligations mandated by the state and by federal regulations.

One of the primary objectives behind developing this document is to equip school leaders with the knowledge and understanding necessary to effectively navigate the regulatory landscape. By clearly outlining the legal requirements and expectations placed upon schools, it serves as a valuable reference point for ensuring adherence to state and federal mandates and regulations.

Furthermore, the State Mandates Checklist provides school leaders with a succinct summary of training/drills, reporting, policies/plans, and personnel requirements. This checklist serves as a convenient reference for school code and education policy obligations, detailing how to accomplish each requirement, the intended audience, frequency, and due dates to ensure adherence at all levels of the education system.

The BCIU provides these documents to the school districts and career and technology centers served within Berks County at no cost. Additionally, Intermediate Units across the Commonwealth are provided an opportunity to subscribe to this service which are customized for their use within their region.

Should you have any questions or require additional information regarding the State Mandates Documents, please do not hesitate to contact me or Mrs. Toni Cramp, BCIU Executive Office Program Administrator, at 610-898-8956.

PHEAA Announces Extension of FAFSA Deadline to June 1st (April 28, 2024)

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has announced the submission deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), with relation to the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, has been extended to June 1.
The launch of the FAFSA application for the upcoming academic year was delayed almost three months as the FAFSA underwent changes as a result of the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was intended to streamline the financial aid application process. The U.S. Department of Education rolled out the new FAFSA on Dec. 31 for the 2024-25 academic year, but it has since encountered a number of issues, delays and errors in processing student applications.
The PA State Grant Program uses the FAFSA form as its primary application point to determine student eligibility for a PA State Grant award. Historically, May 1 was used as the deadline for students to complete their FAFSA for PA State Grant purposes.
More information is available at pheaa.org.

Important Update for Students Seeking Financial Aid (April 26, 2024)

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has announced the submission deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), with relation to the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, has been extended to June 1.

The launch of the FAFSA application for the upcoming academic year was delayed almost three months as the FAFSA underwent changes as a result of the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was intended to streamline the financial aid application process. The U.S. Department of Education rolled out the new FAFSA on Dec. 31 for the 2024-25 academic year, but it has since encountered a number of issues, delays and errors in processing student applications.

The PA State Grant Program uses the FAFSA form as its primary application point to determine student eligibility for a PA State Grant award. Historically, May 1 was used as the deadline for students to complete their FAFSA for PA State Grant purposes.

More information is available at pheaa.org.

2023-24 SY RISC Tracking and Training 3rd and 4th Qtr Reporting Window Open (April 22, 2024)

On April 22, 2024, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy, sent a memo to all LEAs titled 2023-24 School Year Restraint Information System Collection Tracking and Training Third and Fourth Quarter Reporting Window. The memo states that the Restraint Information System Collection (RISC) is open for data entry for the third and fourth quarter of the 2023-24 school year (restraints occurring between January 1 – July 14, 2024). The RISC program has been enhanced and gives local educational agencies (LEAs) greater opportunity to provide both more detail about restraints and to analyze trends to reduce the use of physical restraints.

LEAs are required to report RISC data quarterly during the 2023-24 school year. This includes reporting zero restraints during a quarter when restraints did not occur. Additionally, LEAs still are required to comply with 22 Pa. Code § 14.133(f) or 22 Pa. Code § 711.46(f) Positive Behavior Support related to training of personnel in specific procedures, methods, and techniques. However, 22 Pa. Code § 14.133(f) and 22 Pa. Code § 711.46(f) Positive Behavior Support does not require LEAs to acquire specific certification in the use of restraints and leaves this up to the LEAs and their specific training model. The training of personnel should provide varied intervention and strategies needed to address problem behaviors. The types of intervention chosen for a specific student or eligible young child shall be the least intrusive necessary. The use of restraints is considered a measure of last resort, only to be used after other less restrictive measures, including de-escalation techniques.

The Bureau of Special Education (BSE) continues to require LEAs to report the restraints that occurred in each quarter. This reporting process permits LEAs to report restraints in a timely manner which, in turn, allows LEAs to monitor patterns of episodic behaviors and address them accordingly.

The quarterly windows of reporting for the 2023-24 school year are as follows:

QuarterBegin DateEnd DateLast Day to ReportZero Window OpensZero Window Closes
107/01/202309/30/202310/19/202310/01/202310/18/2023
210/01/202312/31/202301/15/202401/01/202401/15/2024
301/01/202403/31/202404/14/202404/01/202404/14/2024
404/01/202406/30/202407/14/202407/01/202407/14/2024

The RISC reporting design provides an “End Date” for LEAs to comply with their end of quarterly reporting. In addition, there is a two-week window date labeled “Last Day to Report” to allow LEAs to gather and report on those students that attend an out-of-district facility where they were placed in a restraint during that quarter. This two-week period is also a designated time for LEAs that had no restraints during the quarter to report zero in RISC. BSE will continue to send out reminder PENN*LINKS about this quarterly reporting requirement.

In reviewing restraints submitted in RISC of school-age IEP students, the Special Education Advisers of BSE will continue to focus on LEA monitoring responsibilities, as well as:

  • Training of staff in de-escalation techniques;
  • Excessive time of restraint;
  • Excessive use of parent/guardian waivers;
  • Mechanical restraints;
  • Injuries;
  • Number of restraints;
  • Ten-day window (school days) to convene an IEP meeting after a restraint occurs; and
  • Handcuffing of students or students charged with a Safe Schools offense.

A new RISC reporting webinar has been recently posted on the RISC website: apps.leaderservices.com/_risc/index.aspx. This RISC reporting webinar link is located below the login box of the Leader Services RISC sign-in page. This webinar explains the reporting and investigation process and how to use the RISC system. The webinar also shares how to update your LEA’s contact information. All parties involved with RISC are highly encouraged to view this webinar to learn how to report restraints, how to use the system, and to understand the regulatory responsibility of LEAs.

Additionally, BSE’s “Guidelines for De-escalation and the Use of and Reporting of Restraints in Educational Programs” is available for review on the RISC website.

Questions regarding RISC should be directed the RISC Resource Account at [email protected].

Families Urged to Sign Up for Federal Student Aid During FAFSA Week Of Action (April 22, 2024)

As advocates across the country are calling, with increasing urgency, for a concerted effort from all stakeholders to assist students and families with their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, the White House and US Department of Education (USDE) have announced this week the FAFSA Week of Action to raise awareness and encourage FAFSA completion.

“The biggest barrier to entry for many of Pennsylvania’s current or prospective postsecondary students is cost, and despite resources such as the FAFSA and other sources of financial aid, too many students are forced to defer college or not attend at all, said PDE Secretary Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “The Commonwealth ranks 49th for state investments in higher education, causing Pennsylvania postsecondary students to incur an average of $40,000 in student debt. By investing in our system – and thus our students – we can reverse the decades of disinvestment and build a stronger higher education sector that will ensure success in our students and communities for decades to come.”

FAFSA is the sole gateway to all federal, state, and most institutional financial aid in Pennsylvania, including student loans available for all income levels. Completion is at crisis-low levels due to delays in the application release and subsequent processing and data errors, which is why it is now more important than ever for Pennsylvania to lend support to postsecondary students.

Despite decades of disinvestment in higher education in Pennsylvania, coupled with having one of the most decentralized higher education sectors in the country, the Commonwealth is faced with the unique opportunity to do right by current and future postsecondary students – whether they’re preparing for college after high school graduation, currently enrolled in two- or four-year programs, or returning to school after taking some time off.

The Shapiro Administration’s blueprint for higher education addresses more than just affordability, it would also build a new public system for higher education that unites PASSHE Universities and Community Colleges, and reinvests in our publicly-funded colleges and universities via a predictable, transparent funding formula. 

As college continues to grow more expensive, enrollment is dropping, and college attainment rates are below the national average in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Many counties have little access to affordable higher education options resulting in low college-attendance rates. National experts predict the impact to postsecondary enrollment in the fall could be as bad or worse than during the COVID pandemic.

This is an emergency for PA’s higher education sector, students, and the state economy because:
-High school senior completions are down close to 23% from this time last year;
-FAFSA submission does not equal completion. Many students must also make corrections in order to get their financial aid;
-Further drops in enrollment could be devastating and force closures for more PA colleges and universities; and
PA’s workforce sector currently faces a workforce shortage in addition to the disinvestment and decentralized higher education sector. We need 61,000 more people with the right college degrees or credentials to fill open jobs. If nothing is done, estimates show that the talent gap will increase to at least 218,000 unfilled jobs within just a decade.
Governor Shapiro’s blueprint for higher education aims to set the course for a new era of higher education in Pennsylvania. It is grounded in research, lessons learned from leading states, and input from vested partners. In the months ahead, the administration will continue to engage in a collaborative process to build out the details of this plan, delivering tangible results for our students, workforce, and the future of the Commonwealth.