HARRISBURG – The Senate approved legislation today that would offer parents the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to the learning disruptions created by COVID-19, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte), who authored the bill.
Senate Bill 664 would give parents the power to make the decision on whether their child should advance to the next grade level. In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher.
The bill would only apply to the 2021-22 school year to address learning gaps related to the pandemic. An amendment developed in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Education ensures parents would have until July 15 to decide on whether their children should advance or be held back.
“Students have spent a lot of time learning at home over the past year, so parents have played a larger role than ever in the education of their children,” Corman said. “Giving parents the option to provide an extra year of education for their children offers a pathway to help students who have suffered serious learning gaps 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. In addition, the bill would apply to parents and children who attend schools responsible for the education of deaf and blind students.
The bill is supported by The Arc of Pennsylvania and other advocates for Pennsylvanians who have disabilities.
“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 – this 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.”
The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Jason Thompson