The State Legislature recently passed HB 178, now Act 55 of 2017, an omnibus, budget related School Code Bill that Governor Wolf allowed to become law on Monday, since he neither signed nor vetoed the bill within 10 days of passage.
The new law makes changes to teacher furlough procedures, delays the Keystone Exams and much more. Below is an explanation of some of the specific areas where the new law impacts educators.
Teacher Furlough: School boards may now furlough professional employees based on economic reasons. However, they must show cost savings resulting from the furloughs, other cost saving measures taken, and projected expenditures for the following school year, and must also be acted upon at least 60 days prior to the adoption of their final budget.
Educators who received unsatisfactory evaluations on two of their most recent annual performance reviews shall be furloughed first. After suspending those employees, each educator where one rating was considered unsatisfactory shall be suspended second. Furloughs continue thereon based on performance ratings. Only when two educators have equal ratings is seniority considered. If the school district finds they can rehire furloughed employees, they will be reinstated in reverse order in which they were suspended.
School entities must also furlough an equal percentage of administrative staff based on the number of educators suspended. There are a few administrative positions exempt from the new law, and school districts may apply for a waiver if they can show proof of how the administrative furloughs would negatively impact the district or school operations.
Keystone Exams: The new law delays the implementation of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2019-2020 school year.
Opioid Education: The Alcohol, Chemical and Tobacco Abuse Program requires schools to now include information regarding opioid and prescription drug abuse and prevention for students in grades 6-12 beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.
Aggrieved Appeals to PDE: Appeals made by educators to the PA Department of Education regarding actions imposed by a school board against an educator is now reduced from 30 days from receipt of the written notice, to 15 days.