HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Wednesday the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill that gives parents the option to let their child repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year.
Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman wrote the bill in reaction to hearing from families who were concerned that their children were falling behind academically because of covid learning challenges.
Right now teachers and schools are the only ones that have the power to decide whether or not to hold a student back. The bill would temporarily give that power to parents too.
“Students have spent a lot of time learning at home over the past year, so parents have played a larger role than ever in the education of their children,” Corman said. “Giving parents the option to provide an extra year of education for their children offers a pathway to help students who have suffered serious learning gaps during the pandemic.”
Under the bill, parents would have until July 15 to decide on whether their children should advance or be held back.
The legislation would also give parents the option to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year due to COVID-19. That would prevent students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21.
The Arc of Pennsylvania, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, says they support the bill.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of life and certainly the flow of the transition process that occurs at the later stages of education for persons with an Intellectual or Developmental disability (IDD),” said The Arc of Centre County CEO Becky Cunningham. “The Arc of Centre County strongly supports any legislation that allows persons with IDD extra time – this pivotal support will provide a lifelong benefit. It is our mission to help people to not just live, but to thrive in their community. Extra time on this transitional bridge will only help those we support to reach their potential as successful and responsible community members.”
Now the bill goes on to the House of Representatives.