Health - June 19, 2015

House bill clarifies background check law

The House passed a bill this week to clarify the state’s background check law. The newer law requires anyone that has direct contact with children, through employment or volunteering, to obtain clearances. The House voted to further exempt certain people from having to obtain the background checks. By a vote of 180-9 the bill limits those needing to obtain clearances to “adult volunteers and employees at schools, child care facilities and similar places to those who have direct and routine interaction with children.” The original law stemmed from reforms passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case and years of cases involving church clergy. Since passage, the law has generated some negative feedback about costs and effort, though the actual costs to obtain the clearances are fairly low. Even so the Wolf administration recently waived the $10 fees for both the child abuse clearance and criminal background check for volunteers and reduced the fee to $8 for certain other people.

Basic Education Funding Commission releases report

On Thursday, the Basic Education Funding Commission released a report recommending that Pennsylvania adopt a new funding formula for basic education. The report comes after nearly a year’s worth of hearings and studying the issue. The Commission, headed by Sen. Pat Browne and Rep. Mike Vereb, said the new formula aims to “fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors.”

Governor Wolf applauded the recommendation, which takes into account “the number of students living at the deepest level of poverty” and not just the number of low-income students in a district. The plan has also been backed by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Education Voters Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. The new formula would still need to be approved the General Assembly before going into effect.