PA State Board of Ed. September Meeting Highlights Impactful Issues (September 13, 2023)

On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, the PA State Board of Education held its 376th meeting both in person and via virtual means. The meeting opened with a welcome to new Board members by Chairperson Karen Farmer White, which was followed by a report from Dr. Lee Williams on the Academic Standards/Chapter 4 Committee. Dr. Williams reported that the committee has held public meetings on updating standards that were presented to the Board in July 2023. She also said that other proposed Chapter 4 amendments include a shift of the PSSA Science tests to fourth grade. She also said that public testimony regarding Chapter 4 revisions has been obtained through hearings and in writing, and the deadline for the acceptance of any further testimony is the end of the month.

PA Ed. Sec. Khalid Mumin reported on PDE’s efforts to make visits throughout the state to promote education, STEAM programming, and to provide tech support to education entities. He also spoke about the $567M increase in the state’s education basic education funding (BEF) budget for 2023-24 and stated that PDE is awaiting the General Assembly passing bills to release funding. In addition, basic ed. funding meetings have begun across the state. He also highlighted the PA MASLOW program, which is a cross-agency partnership that aims to ensure that every student has access to postsecondary education through support and resources that help provide for their basic educational needs.

Deputy Ed. Sec. Dr. Kate Shaw then spoke of the state’s efforts to streamline the process to allow for swifter teacher certification. She also reported that 75% of CSPGs have been updated and that Chapter 354 focus groups will review questionnaire data obtained from LEAs.

Deputy Ed. Sec. Carrie Rowe informed the Board of new CTE Director Judd Pittman now being in place and talked about the state budget increases in the area of CTE. She also said that state assessment results will be released by the School Improvement Office in October, and a preliminary look at the data shows improved graduation rates from pre-pandemic levels, as well as slight improvement in all testing levels over last year. She was then joined by PDE BSE Director Carole Clancy to discuss the policy change whereby 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 school district free of charge until their 22nd birthday.

Both Ms. Clancy and Dr. Mumin acknowledged the issues related to the timing and financial burdens felt by LEAs, but said that the state is legally obligated by federal law to make the change in eligibility for FAPE, particularly in light of at least 12 other states losing cases related such a change in policy. Ms. Clancy also stated that Acts 55 and 66 data supported such a change.

The next State Board of Ed. Meeting is scheduled for November 8-9, 2023.