Senate Panel Endorses Telepresence Education Proposal

HARRISBURG – The Senate Education Committee approved a bill today that would ensure students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning, according to one of the bill’s prime sponsors, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

Senate Bill 144, which was introduced by Martin and Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democrat Leader Jay Costa (D-43), would create a new grant program to help Intermediate Units purchase technology that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology.

Martin said the technology includes robotic devices that resemble an i-Pad mounted on a mobile Segway unit that allow real-time communication between students and their classrooms.

“One school district I represent said they had as many as 10 to 15 local students who require homebound instruction every year,” Martin said. “Long-term injuries or illnesses can create a serious void in the lives of young people, making them feel isolated and placing them at risk of falling behind in their studies. Telepresence technology can help bridge the gap between these students and their teachers and classmates.”

In current practice, homebound education is available to students who cannot attend school due to serious medical issues. However, Martin said many schools struggle to find a qualified teacher to provide instruction.

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, Martin said.

Martin, Aument and Costa introduced similar legislation last year (Senate Bill 1275).


CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

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