PSEA President commends PA lawmakers for passing bill protecting students, providing greater clarity to schools and employees

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PSEA President commends PA lawmakers for passing bill protecting students, providing greater clarity to schools and employees

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Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (March 25, 2020) – Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, welcomed the Pennsylvania Legislature’s vote today to adopt legislation that provides direction to schools impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

“The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for our schools, students, and staff,” Askey said. “This legislation reflects a shared commitment among education stakeholders, lawmakers, and the Wolf administration to keep students safe and healthy, while ensuring their educational needs are met."

PSEA joined other education and labor organizations last week to send a letter to legislative leaders urging them to pass comprehensive COVID-19 legislation as soon as possible.

The legislation does the following:

  • Waives instructional day requirements for all public and private schools, career and technical education programs, and prekindergarten programs, as well as student teacher hour requirements, during the 2019-20 school year;
  • Allows the secretary of education to increase the number of flexible instructional days;
  • Requires the Department of Education to apply for a federal waiver from PSSA and Keystone Exam testing in 2020, and authorizes the secretary of education to waive exams for career and technical education students;
  • Protects school staff responsible for cleaning school buildings by ensuring that they are provided with the proper supplies and protective gear to conduct deep cleanings; and
  • Ensures that all school employees continue to be paid while schools are closed because of the COVID-19 response and that employees are given the same retirement credit as they would in a normal school year.

“School administrators and staff have had a lot of questions about how Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their students and their operations,” Askey said. “This legislation will answer many of those questions. I commend legislators and Gov. Wolf for working with education stakeholders on this important bill.”

The COVID-19 response legislation was voted in both the House and Senate earlier today. The provisions were amended into Senate Bill 751, which also makes important changes to reform Pennsylvania’s educator evaluation system by placing greater emphasis on direct classroom observation, reducing the impact of student standardized testing, and accounting for the effects of poverty on student achievement. PSEA supports these changes and commends state lawmakers for adopting a more accurate and fairer evaluation system that will work better for students and educators alike.

Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.