On June 30, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Act 65 of 2021, amending the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act to establish new public notice requirements applicable to meetings of school districts’ boards of school directors. The amendments become effective August 29, 2021.
Posting of Agendas
In addition to any public notice requirements under the Sunshine Act, the amended statute will require the following:
These notice requirements apply to any meeting where deliberation is expected to occur – even if there is no vote being taken. Consequently, such public notice is required for planning meetings and committee meetings. Notably, however, the requirements do not apply to executive sessions or conferences that are not required to be open meetings under the Sunshine Act.
Changes to an Agenda
The new law also prohibits a school board from taking official action on a matter of business at a meeting if that matter was not included in the required public notification, except under certain circumstances:
A matter may be added to the agenda during the conduct of a meeting upon a majority vote of the school directors present and voting at the meeting, and the reason for the added item is announced before the vote. For matters added to an agenda by a majority vote, the board may then take official action on the matter provided that it posts the amended agenda on its website and at its principal administrative office no later than the first business day following the meeting at which the agenda was changed. Also, the official minutes of the meeting must reflect the substance of the matter added, the vote on the addition and the announced reasons for the addition.
These new requirements and limitations create an additional burden on administrators to thoroughly plan board meeting agendas to ensure that necessary subjects of potential action are included. Additionally, school districts should review and revise their meeting policies to ensure alignment with this legislation.