HARRISBURG – Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate and sent to the governor Thursday.
Senate Bill 664, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte), would give parents the power to make the decision on whether their child should advance to the next grade level by July 15.
In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher.
“I have been hearing concerns from many fellow parents on how the pandemic has affected their child’s education and created learning gaps from much of the past year learning at home,” Corman said.
“Some students have struggled, and it makes sense to give parents a stronger say in whether their child should advance to the next grade level or repeat a grade to make up for learning loss.”
The bill would only apply to the 2021-22 school year to address learning gaps related to 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 extend eligibility for programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act during the next school year.
The bill would also 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 Arc of Pennsylvania are fully supportive of the bill in that it would address this critical need, after these students missed out on the essential transition supports and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, much of which is job training and life building independence skills for their transition to adulthood,” said Katie Yost, government and chapter relations manager for The Arc of Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.