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Omnibus School Code Changes and other Recent Legislation Worth Noting

On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed into law Acts 24 and 26 of 2021 (House Bill 1348 and Senate Bill 381 respectively), making minimal changes to the Pennsylvania School Code (the “School Code”). While each year’s omnibus act generally brings with it significant, or controversial changes to the School Code, this year’s omnibus act makes less dramatic change. Governor Wolf also signed into law Acts 25 and 27 of 2021 (House Bill 952 and House Bill 101, respectively), and while these Acts did not change the School Code, we believe they are worth noting.

Substitute Teachers
During the 2015-2016 session, the General Assembly created an opportunity for prospective teachers to serve as substitute teachers for a limited time. Act 86 of 2016 provided school districts with the option of engaging an individual, training to be a teacher, to serve as a substitute teacher, provided the individual had valid clearances and at least 60 credit hours. This provision was set to expire on June 30, 2021. Act 26 of 2021 (“Act 26”) removed the expiration date of the provision, extending the ability of districts to engage individuals who are training to be teachers to serve as substitutes.

School Construction and Facilities (“PlanCon”)
When school districts seek reimbursement from the Commonwealth after undertaking major construction, they initiate the process known as PlanCon. However, since fiscal year 2017-2018, the General Assembly has placed a moratorium on the acceptance of new PlanCon applications. Act 26 has extended the moratorium through fiscal year 2021-2022. In addition, the reauthorization and modernization of the PlanCon process, put into law as part of Act 70 of 2019, is delayed until July 1, 2022, as a result of Act 26. Finally, Act 26 modified Section 1706-E.2 of the Fiscal Code to extend until December 31, 2022, the deadline for school districts with approved PlanCon applications, to award bids on construction contracts in order to be eligible for reimbursement.

Educational Improvement Tax Credit (“EITC”)
Act 26 authorized a $40 million increase to the EITC program for scholarships only.

Omnibus Fiscal Bill (“Act 24”)
Act 24 includes the largest education funding increase in Pennsylvania history, investing approximately $416 million into education. Specifically, Act 24 provides:

  • A funding initiative for the “Level Up” proposal to provide a $100 million equity supplement to the state’s 100 poorest school districts. “Level Up” is designed to close the funding gap between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school districts, and to help underserved students in those urban, suburban and rural districts that have been struggling with years of underfunding from the state;
  • Language to continue eliminating the charter school “double dip” for pension and social security; and
  • Language that outlines the appropriate formula used to determine each school district’s allotment of Federal ARP dollars and provides that the grant money is to be used to implement evidence-based interventions to address learning loss, provide summer enrichment programs, and provide comprehensive after-school programs in response to the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students impacted by COVID-19.

Act 25 of 2021
The Governor approved Act 25 of 2021 (“Act 25”) on June 30, 2021, which amended the Tax Reform Code of 1971. Specifically, Act 25 relates to tax credit eligibility and reports and is applicable to tax credits provided under the School Code. Applicants or recipients of tax credits or tax benefits must file all required state tax reports and returns and pay balances of state tax due. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue may issue an assessment against a taxpayer if a tax credit or tax benefit was improperly issued or the benefits were improperly conferred. Act 25 requires the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) to deliver training to providers. The DCED is to issue an annual report for each tax credit or benefit the department administers. Act 25 information can be found here.

Act 27 of 2021
The Governor also approved Act 27 of 2021 (“Act 27”) on June 30, 2021. Act 27 relates to the Agricultural Activity Protection Act and provides limited civil liability protection for persons who offer agritourism activities on a farm and meet the conditions outlined in the Act itself. Act 27 may create additional opportunities for students to participate in student agritourism activities and programs. Act 27 information can be found here.

As always, the School Law Practice Group at Stock and Leader monitors all legislation developments in the education sphere. Members of our Group are ready to discuss concerns, answer questions, and provide counsel on any of your school district’s issues.

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