Some claim that everyone with disabilities was shielded from COVID’s impact by Act 66. This is NOT TRUE!! So why does this myth persist?
In Pennsylvania (as in almost everywhere else in the US), state law specifies that eligibility for public education ends at 21 (technically, at the end of the school year during which the individual turns 21). Some youths with less significant levels of disability might become ready to leave public school before they turn 21. But youths whose disabilities are more significant need a lot of training and support to prepare for a more independent life as an adult, and so typically stay in public school until they age out at 21.
Almost every one of youths in this latter group who requested an extra year through Act 66 was told that they would not receive it because Act 66 did nothing to change this law about eligibility for public education ending at 21. The only exception was for students who turned 21 during the 2020-2021 school year - Act 66 specifically allowed these students to stay in school until the end of the school year in which they turn 22 (see Section 1383 (b)).
If you are confused, you are not alone - in fact, we continue to hear from legislators and others who claim that Act 66 left no one behind! Click here for an example of a letter from one school district trying to explain to a parent of one such youth why they would not receive the extra year offered to everyone else in Pennsylvania under Act 66.
The good news is that a simple fix may lie in the language of Act 66 itself: one may need only to extend Act 66’s provisions, offering an extra year of schooling to those who turned 21 this school year or who will turn 21 during the next school year. Even better news is that federal pandemic relief funding will cover the entire cost!