Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-43) announced a proposal recently that would utilize new technology to prevent homebound students from falling behind in their studies.

The legislation would create a new grant program for the state’s 29 intermediate units to purchase technology that will allow real-time communication between homebound students and their classrooms. The technology would allow students who are unable to physically attend classes to participate in classroom activities and normal schoolwork.

In current practice, homebound education is available to students who cannot attend due to serious medical issues. However, the senators pointed out the fact that some schools struggle to find a qualified teacher to provide instruction. The time away from classmates and teachers can also create difficult circumstances for children.

“Many students face significant academic challenges when they are forced to spend an extended period of time away from school,” Martin said. “Whether their absence is due to a severe injury, debilitating medical condition or recovery from surgery, students and their parents shouldn’t have to worry about the impact these challenges could create in terms of schoolwork.”

“Every child deserves a quality education, and it is especially important to lend a hand to students who are unable to attend school through no fault of their own due to serious illnesses or injuries,” Aument said. “Telepresence technology has evolved to the point where we can finally close the gap between homebound students and their classrooms, and this great program takes the first step toward that goal.”

The grant program would be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Funding would come from any undistributed money that is not already committed to other projects, so it would not create a new expenditure for state taxpayers.

Similar legislation has already been enacted in Maryland, and a telepresence education bill is also under consideration in the General Assembly in New York.

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