Senate Committee Approves Corman Plan to Offer Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

HARRISBURG – Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to the learning disruptions created by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate Education Committee today, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte).

In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher. Corman’s legislation would give parents the option to make that decision for the 2021-22 school year since they are in the best position to gauge their child’s development and educational needs after students have spent much of the past year learning at home.

“I have been hearing concerns from many fellow parents about how COVID-19 has disrupted their child’s education and created learning gaps for students,” Corman said. “The pandemic has taught us that every child learns differently. Some students struggle with homebound education. Given the circumstances, it makes sense to give parents a stronger say in whether their kids should advance to the next grade level or repeat a grade to make up for learning loss during the pandemic.”

Senate Bill 664 would also allow parents the option to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year due to COVID-19. This provision would prevent students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21 after missing out on much of the specialized attention they need due to COVID-19 disruptions.

“The pandemic has created challenges for all students, but the impacts are much more severe for students with special educational needs,” Corman said. “Allowing these students an extra year of learning could make a world of difference.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of life and certainly the flow of the transition process that occurs at the later stages of education for persons with an Intellectual or Developmental disability (IDD),” said The Arc of Centre County CEO Becky Cunningham. “The Arc of Centre County strongly supports any legislation that allows persons with IDD extra time – these pivotal support will provide a lifelong-benefit.  It is our mission to help people to not just live, but to thrive in their community. Extra time on this transitional bridge will only help those we support to reach their potential as successful and responsible community members.”

“Transitional education is a journey on a bridge. Everything that you need to learn in life is learned on this bridge- between school and becoming a responsible adult,” said The Arc of Centre County Board President and retired educator Jennifer Yost-Lee. “Transition education is not just preparation for life, it is life itself.”

The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT: Jason Thompson