Position Paper – HB 121, P.N. 2058, Opioid Awareness Education Curriculum (June 23, 2017)

PSBA Position: Support

On behalf of the 4,500 elected officials who govern the commonwealth’s public school districts, we request your support for House Bill 121, sponsored by Representative Aaron Kaufer. House Bill 121 will help to address the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania by requiring school entities to include age-appropriate opioid abuse prevention education for students in grades 6-12. Although PSBA typically opposes curriculum mandates on school districts, we believe that this legislation will benefit the well-being of our students and communities by combatting opioid abuse while imposing only minimal additional requirements on schools. As drafted, it also contains appreciated flexibility for district implementation.

School Code section 1547 already requires that age-appropriate drug education be provided at every grade level. House Bill 121 would just require that, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, a district’s existing drug education curriculum for grades 6-12 include instruction on opioid and prescription drug abuse prevention. The language also allows, but does not require, schools to use a model curriculum which will be provided by PDE.

The language further mandates training for teachers who will be providing instruction in opioid abuse prevention every three years, however, it then allows teachers to apply these hours of training as credit for continuing professional education under section 1205.2 of the School Code. While this training is an addition to current law, it is something that PSBA has found many school districts already do.

Summary:

House Bill 121, P.N. 2058 (Rep. Kaufer) would update existing drug abuse prevention instruction requirements to include specific instruction for students in grades 6-12 on opioid abuse prevention beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The instruction would emphasize prescription drug abuse and the connection between prescription opioid abuse and addiction to other drugs.

The Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health would be required to jointly develop a model curriculum which school districts may, but are not required to use in providing the newly required instruction on opioid abuse prevention.

Any instructors providing the newly required instruction on opioid abuse prevention would be required to undergo in-service training every three years related to the newly required instruction on opioid abuse prevention. The Departments of Education and Health will also jointly develop in-service training programs which districts may use in complying with this requirement. This in-service training will count toward a teacher’s continuing professional education credits under section 1205.2 of the School Code.

The Departments of Education and Health would be required to report to the General Assembly on their efforts to assist schools in combatting the opioid abuse epidemic, to post the model curriculum and in-service training program, and evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts in reducing the use of controlled substances.