Quick summary: Senate Bill 1286 (Sen. Langerholc, R-Cambria) would establish a program that would allow public schools to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for a waiver of many state-imposed mandates if the school can show that its instructional program will improve or the school will operate in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner. Certain laws and regulations would not be waivable, such as those relating to student safety, academic standards and assessments, special education, protected handicapped students, gifted education, student attendance, professional educator conduct standards, among others. PSBA worked with Senator Langerholc to draft the proposal and thanks him for his efforts to move this issue forward.

Status: Introduced on September 8, 2020 and referred to the Senate Education Committee

Provisions of Senate Bill 1286

Senate Bill 1286 adds a new section to the Public School Code, Section 129, called Mandate Waiver Program. The program would be available to school districts, career and technical schools, intermediate units and charter schools, cyber charter schools and regional charter schools. The bill would become effective in 60 days after it is signed into law.

Applying for a waiver: The governing body of the school entity may adopt a resolution to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for a waiver of one or more state-imposed mandates permitted to be waived under this section. The waiver application must be submitted on a form established by PDE and will require applicants to:

(1)  Specify the provisions of this act, regulations of the State Board, standards of the secretary or policies or guidance of the department for which the applicant is seeking a waiver.

(2)  Include the reasons why the waiver is being requested.

(3)  Provide supporting data or information to explain the benefits expected to be obtained as a result of the waiver.

Applications must be adopted by a resolution of a governing body at a regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body. Approval from the department shall be required prior to implementing the waiver.

Consideration of application: In considering each waiver application, PDE may not impose any additional requirements on the applicant. The department shall approve any waiver application that complies with the application process, provides all of the required information and does not conflict with a provision of federal law or regulation, or any other law or regulation that is not permitted to be waived under this section.

The department has 30 days from receipt of the waiver application to issue a written approval, disapproval or request modifications to the application. If the department fails to act within that time period, the waiver application shall be deemed to be approved. If PDE requests modification to or disapproves the application, the specific reasons for the department's request or disapproval shall be transmitted to the applicant.

Denial of application: If PDE denies an application, the response to the applicant shall include an explanation of any provision of law, regulation of the State Board, standard of the secretary or policies or guidance of the department that is not subject to waiver under this section and would be violated if the application were granted. The waiver applicant may submit a revised application.

Appeal of a disapproval:  A waiver applicant may appeal a disapproval to the secretary pursuant to 2 Pa.C.S. Chs. 5 (relating to practice and procedure) and 7 (relating to judicial review). A waiver applicant shall not be required to revise and resubmit the waiver application prior to appealing a disapproval.

Duration of the waiver: A waiver shall remain in effect permanently unless rescinded by the governing body or found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be in violation of the required application process.

Public listing of waiver applications approved: PDE shall maintain and annually update a listing of all approved waiver applications on its website. The listing shall include the name of the school entity and the provisions of law, regulation, standard of the secretary or policies or guidance of the department for which waivers were granted.

Collective bargaining agreements: Nothing in this legislation shall be construed to supersede or preempt any provisions of a collective bargaining agreement in effect on the effective date of this subsection.

Nonwaivable provisions: The following provisions may not be waived

Non-waivable sections of the School Code:

108, Religious or Political Tests Prohibited

110, Official Visitor (Gov. Officials) Access to Public Schools

111, Employee Criminal History/Background Checks

111.1, Employment History Review

321, Compensation of Board Members Prohibited; Oath of Office

322, Board Member Eligibility

323, Board Member Ineligibility

324, Board Members Not Employed by or do Business with District

325, Offering Bribes

326, Receiving Bribes

327, Demanding Gratuities from Employees

328, School Director Training Program

431, Board Secretary Bond

436, Board Treasurer Bond

437, Audit of Accounts

440.1, Investment of School District Funds

443, Penalty for Embezzlement

513, Group Insurance Contracts

518, Retention of Records

527, Drug Law Convictions

701.1, Referendum or Hearing Prior to Construction

708, Abandonment of Property

740, Water-closets or Out-houses

741, Substrata Evaluation

752, Contracts to Require Competent Workmen

753, Stipulations for Minimum Wages

771, U.S. Flag Display

776, School Property Exempt from Taxation

785, Failure to Pay Rent or Make Payments; Withholding Appropriation

808, District Employees as Agent for Book/Supply Seller

809, Giving or Offering Bribes; Penalty

810, Seeking/Receiving Bribes

1073, Superintendent Appointments

1073.1, Superintendent Performance Review

1076, Assistant Superintendent Appointments

1077, Term and Salary of Assistant Superintendents

1080, Removal of Superintendents

1302, Right to Free School Privileges

1303, Immunizations Required

1310, Assignment of Students to Schools

1310.1, Classroom Placement of Twins

1317, Authority over Students

1317.1, Possession of Pagers Prohibited

1317.2, Possession of Weapons Prohibited

1318, Suspension and Expulsion of Students

1327, Compulsory School Attendance

1327.1, Home Education Programs

1327.2, Attendance Policy at Charter, Regional Charter and Cyber Charter Schools

1330, Exceptions to Compulsory Attendance

1332, Reports of Enrollments

1361, Transportation of Students

1366, Computation of Transportation Distances

1501, Minimum Number of School Days

1502, Days Schools not to be Open

1513, Physiology and Hygiene

1517, Emergency Drills

1518, Fire Danger Instruction

1521, Prohibition on Enrollment Discrimination Based on Race

1523, Student Right to Refuse Animal Dissection

1526, Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention

1546, Release of Students for Religious Instruction

1547, Drug Abuse Prevention Program provisions prohibiting discrimination;

Non-waivable Articles from School Code:

VI, School Finances

VI-A, School District Financial Recovery

IX-A, Intermediate Units

XI, Professional Employees

XI-A, Collective Bargaining

XII, Certification of Teachers

XIII-A, Safe Schools

XIII-B, School Safety and Security

XIII-C, School Security

XIII-D, Safe2Say Something

XIII-E, Threat Assessment

XIV, School Health Services

XVII-A, Charter Schools

XVIII, Career and Technical Education

Non-waivable state education regulations under 22 Pa. Code:

Chapter 4 (academic standards and assessment)

Chapter 10 (safe schools)

Chapter 11 (pupil attendance)

Chapter 12 (students)

Chapter 14 (special education)

Chapter 15 (protected handicapped students)

Chapter 16 (special education for gifted students)

Chapter 17 (intermediate units)

Chapter 235 (Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators)

Chapter 339 (vocational education)

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