HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed into law a bill that ensures continued payment of all school employees during the school closures spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
An amendment to the state’s Public School Code of 1949, Senate Bill 751 waives the requirement for schools to be in session at least 180 days and provides for continuity of education plans, according to a news release from Wolf’s office.
The new law, known as Act 13 of 2020, confirms that schools are permitted to negotiate interim agreements or contract amendments to pay school bus contractors, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania School Bus Association (PSBA).
Applauded by the PSBA, the law assures that contractors’ fixed, personnel, administrative, and equipment costs are maintained during the school closures.
“PSBA would like to thank the general assembly and governor for their unanimous support of this legislation,” said Richard Wolfington Jr., president of the PSBA. “By allowing pupil transportation funding to continue, we increase our chances of a seamless start back to school with professional and trained drivers ready to resume the important job of transporting Pennsylvania’s future: our children.”
The PSBA, which consists of approximately 300 school transportation contractors and industry partners, met with numerous legislative leaders in early March. Locally, PSBA members contacted state legislators seeking their support.
School bus contractors represent the majority of school bus operators in Pennsylvania, where over 1.5 million students are transported to school each day on a school bus, according to the association.
Meanwhile, as School Bus Fleet previously reported, President Trump signed into law on Friday the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was created to mitigate the economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes $30.75 billion for an "Education Stabilization Fund" for states, school districts, and institutions of higher education for costs related to the pandemic. Of that, $13.5 billion is allocated for elementary and secondary education schools, distributed through states.
Of note in the provision is a condition on receipt of the funding: “A local educational agency, state, institution of higher education, or other entity that receives funds under ‘Education Stabilization Fund,’ shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to Coronavirus.” [Section 18006]
As SBF previously reported, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) had continuously pursued financial support for the student transportation industry by asking governors, state departments of transportation and education, Congress, and the Trump administration to craft a resolution to provide relief for hundreds of thousands of school bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, and office support staff during the pandemic.