HARRISBURG – Schools would have more flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation that was approved by the Senate today and now heads to the governor for his signature, according to Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35), who sponsored the legislation.
Langerholc, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said the legislation is needed because teacher certification testing centers have been closed or have limited availability during the health emergency. In addition to enabling graduates to obtain certification, the additional flexibility will ensure schools are not faced with additional challenges in recruiting staff.
“It’s important for graduates to be able to obtain the certifications they need to become teaching professionals,” Langerholc said. “Many recent graduates have been unable to take the next step in their careers through no fault of their own. By providing greater flexibility in these difficult times, we can ensure that they meet state requirements without undue hardship or delays.”
Senate Bill 1216 would ease many certification and staff development requirements that are difficult to fulfill during the pandemic, including waiving the basic skills exam requirement for teacher preparation programs until June 30, 2021; issuing temporary or provisional instructional certificates to individuals who meet certain criteria; extending special education certifications; and extending the deadline to satisfy staff development requirements until June 30, 2021.
Emergency permit holders would also be allowed to continue to teach even if they are unable to complete the requirements associated with the permit because the program credits or assessment could not be completed.
In addition, the bill would delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2022-23 school year. The Secretary of Education would also have the authority to waive the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) assessment and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) exam requirements.
Senate Bill 1216 also deals with several issues pertaining to pupil transportation. In addition, the bill provides for the transportation of nonpublic school students during the COVID-19 emergency regardless of whether public schools are open during that time.