Act 66 left behind some of Pennsylvania's students most impacted by COVID - youths with significant developmental disabilities who will graduate in 2022 or 2023 (Download a flyer here). But we also understand that our elected officials have to balance many considerations in advancing new legislation. Here are some details that might help to convince our legislators.
Fiscal impact. Our campaign is restricted to those students who turned 21 this school year ending in June or will do so during the next school year. Our conversations with a number of policy leaders leads us to conclude that 100% of the costs of our proposal would be covered by federal pandemic relief funds. This is the most powerful way to address learning loss among youths profoundly impacted by COVID.
Burden on school districts. This will be minimal because of the relatively low number of students in each district eligible to continue past 21 years of age. Using state education data, we project that 85% to 93% of Pennsylvania's 500+ school districts would not need to hire additional teachers. Why? Only 7-15% of districts are likely to have more than 4 students who will choose to stay an additional year. In fact, more than 40% of districts are unlikely to have more than one such student. Compared to other proposals to address learning loss, this is one of the easiest programs to implement!
This legislation is easy to draft. In fact, much of the bill has already been written! How? This bill requires only that Act 66’s protections to students with disabilities be extended for two more years. Those interested in other language can also consider other proposals, such as HB 2083.
We need to identify Pennsylvania lawmakers ready to introduce legislation in the House to extend Act 66’s protections for youths with disabilities for two more years, or co-sponsoring other such efforts. We will keep you up to date with these and other efforts. Pennsylvania’s House and Senate passed Act 66 unanimously, demonstrating their concerns about COVID’s impact, and their compassion for the children and families affected. We need to help our lawmakers to take one more step for Pennsylvania's disabled youths.