CMS Taking Action Against States Over Kids Losing Medicaid Coverage Due to Flawed Determination Systems (September 6, 2023)

As school districts nationwide work to help children and families retain benefits amid the transition to automatic renewal systems due to the end of the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is threatening state Medicaid agencies with sanctions for improperly removing children from the safety-net coverage during ongoing eligibility checks resulting from the end of the public health emergency declared during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. received letters from the federal government after it was found that a number of states using automatic renewal systems to review the eligibility of families all at once, despite a lower bar for children that would allow them to remain eligible. Such action could result in eligible children improperly losing their Medicaid coverage.

The CMS is giving state until mid-September to assess their systems, pause disenrollments if they find errors, and reinstate coverage for any affected individuals.

Source: K-12 Dive. Click here for more.

PDE Memo to LEAs Announces FAPE Age Raised to 22 Effective Sept. 5th (August 31, 2023)

On August 30, 2023, Dr. Carole L. Clancy, Director of the PDE Bureau of Special Education, sent a memo to all LEAs titled Change in Age of Eligibility for Free and Appropriate Public Education.

The memo states that “[t]he Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is writing to communicate an important policy change that will provide continued education services to special education students. This policy change will ensure students can access Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as they are entitled under federal law.”

“Effective no later than September 5, 2023, all students entitled to FAPE and all of the rights and procedural safeguards under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Chapter 14 of Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code may remain enrolled in public school until they turn 22 years of age. This includes students who turned 21 and exited during or after the 2022-2023 school term.”

It goes on to state that “PDE has concluded that Pennsylvania’s adult education programs constitute public education for the purposes of section 1412(a)(1)(B) of IDEA, and Pennsylvania is required to make FAPE available to students with disabilities until their 22nd birthday. This change is effective no later than September 5, 2023.”

The Guidelines

In addition, PDE has revised its guidance pertaining to INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABLITIES EDUCATION ACT PART B POLICIES AND PROCEDURES UNDER 34 CFR §§ 300.101—300.176 . That guidance can be accessed at: www.education.pa.gov/Documents/IDEAB.pdf.

Page three of that document states, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ensures that all children with disabilities ages 3 years through 21 years residing in Pennsylvania have the right to a FAPE, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school. The commonwealth shall make FAPE available to a child with a disability eligible under IDEA until the student turns 22. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a child eligible under IDEA who attains the age of twenty-one (21) years may remain enrolled in their resident district free of charge until their 22nd birthday.”

PDE Advises these Next Steps

First, LEAs should review the FAQs at https://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/IDEABFAQ.aspx. They should then take the following steps to comply with this change in policy:

  1. PDE will be contacting students with disabilities who turned 21 and exited during or after the 2022-2023 school term. LEAs should also contact those students and provide them the option to re-enroll and access FAPE until their 22nd birthday.
  2. LEAs should include a link to PDE’s webpage that contains the Amended Age-Out Policy, a copy of the Notice Letter, and a copy of the Penn Link Communication on their websites.
  3. Upon enrollment, LEAs should provide FAPE in accordance with IDEA. Please direct questions or requests for assistance to [email protected]

To access the Memo, click here.
To access the guidelines, click here.\
To access the FAQs, click here.

PDE Announces Professional Learning Opportunities on PA’s High School Graduation Requirements (August 28, 2023)

Webinars are 50-minute presentations with a brief question/answer period; whereas, office hours are open forums with brief introductory presentations All sessions are scheduled from 11:00 am to noon.

September 26, 2023
HS Graduation Requirements Refresher (webinar)

October 3, 2023
Grad Report: Collecting & Reporting Data (webinar)

October 10, 2023
PDE Tracking Tool (office hour)

October 17, 2023
Grad Data: Informing Local Practice (webinar)

October 24, 2023
FAQ (office hour)

Sessions can be accessed using the following log-in:
https://iu13.zoom.us/j/99586637885?pwd=Q25VVHR4TTB3VDgra1hTTktON0VYZz09

PDE Launches New Tool To Help Students Earn High School Equivalency (August 23, 2023)

On August 17, 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced a new tool to help Pennsylvanians earn a high school equivalency (HSE) credential by combining their scores from different high school equivalency tests, an option that was not previously available in Pennsylvania. The opportunity to earn an HSE opens up employment and higher education opportunities for Pennsylvanians, giving them the freedom to chart their own course in life.

“This system will help more students achieve a credential, no matter their background, first language, or age,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “As we endeavor to increase credential attainment across all demographics, this commonsense approach will expand our workforce and enable learners to complete—or take the next step in—their education journey.”

Using TotalTranscript® by DiplomaSender, students can combine subtests of the two high school equivalency tests, the GED® test and the HiSET® exam, to earn the Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma (CSSD), Pennsylvania’s high school equivalency credential. Students may also now combine Spanish and English subtests to earn the CSSD. CSSDs may be issued to applicants who reside in Pennsylvania, are at least 18 years of age, do not possess a secondary school diploma from the United States, and have either scored a passing score on a high school equivalency test or have completed 30 semester hours of study at a U.S. accredited institution of postsecondary education.

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

As 2024 ARP Deadline Looms, Survey Shows Anticipated Impact on Pupil Services (August 23, 2023)

As next year’s deadline for American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds approaches, school districts must prepare for the impact. To that end, with roughly a year left before the September 2024 obligation deadline, The School Superintendents Association (AASA) launched its fourth American Rescue Plan (ARP) survey of school district leaders to ascertain what spending priorities and challenges they are anticipating as the fiscal timeline tightens. The survey reveals 53% of school district leaders anticipate the need to decrease specialist staffing, including behavioral health personnel and reading specialists, as well as cuts or decreases in summer learning programming tailored exact student needs.

To access School District Spending of American Rescue Plan Funding Part IV, click here.