Quick summary: Senate Bill 73 (Sen. Langerholc, R-Cambria) and House Bill 1473 (Rep. Staats, R-Bucks) 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 Sen. Langerholc and Rep. Staats to draft the proposal and thanks them for their efforts to move this issue forward.
Status of Senate Bill 73: Introduced on January 20, 2021, and approved by the Senate Education Committee on May 10, 2021. Currently in the House Appropriations Committee.
Status of House Bill 1473: Introduced on May 21, 2021, and referred to the House Education Committee.
Provisions of the proposed legislation
The legislation 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
- 1317.2, 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)