– What began as a stop-gap measure designed to help Pennsylvania’s public schools navigate the COVID-19 epidemic has been signed into law as part of the 2023-24 state budget, according to state Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana).
“The budget is more than just one bill, and language from my House Bill 27
is now part of the Education Code (Act 33 of 2023
) portion of the budget,” Struzzi said. “While part of a much larger piece of legislation, my bill’s original intent to give schools flexibility when addressing the day-to-day substitute teacher shortage shouldn’t be overlooked.”
House Bill 27’s language will allow school districts to hire annuitants, prospective teachers and graduates of educator preparation programs as substitute teachers. This is a practice that began during COVID, but shortages existed prior to that and still present a challenge today.
“We’ll now be expanding opportunities for individuals who have temporary teaching certificates and substitute teaching permits, in addition to anyone who serves as a classroom monitor,” added Struzzi. “These measures were initiated out of necessity during the pandemic, and still serve as viable solutions to a problem we cannot ignore.”
Act 33 will now provide funding for libraries and career and technical schools which hadn’t been dispersed for the first five and a half months of the 2023-24 fiscal year. It also includes several provisions relating to school safety and students’ mental health, which are both of particular concern to Struzzi as a newly appointed member of Pennsylvania’s inaugural Behavioral Health Council.
“A school environment that is safe and conducive to learning is a key component of the education process, which is why I feel this is money well spent,” said Struzzi. “I also need to recognize Senator Joe Pittman for his and his colleagues’ insistence that a significant increase in funding for Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs be part of the Education Code after attempts were made to strip them out.
“We are fortunate to have great schools in Indiana County. Students in failing districts, however, should not be trapped in those situations, and these tax credits offer a way out and a path to a quality education.”
Questions about this or any legislative issue should be directed to Struzzi’s Indiana district office at 724-465-0220.