House Education Committee Approves Martin’s Telepresence Education Proposal

HARRISBURG – The House Education Committee approved a bill today to help students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness by ensuring they can 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.

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.

“Students who suffer from long-term illnesses or serious injuries risk falling behind not only in terms of education, but also in social interaction with their peers, which can create new obstacles in a child’s development,” Martin said. “This grant program will help keep students connected with their classes, classmates and teachers, even when their health presents serious challenges.”

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.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously on April 9. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

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