PDE Search

RIGHT TO KNOW LAW POLICY, Pennsylvania Department of Education
 
 
Pursuant to Section 504 of the Right-to-Know Law, 65 P.S. §67.101 et seq. (RTKL), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (“Agency”) or (“PDE”) sets forth the following policies, process and procedures, regarding responses by the Agency to requests made pursuant to the RTKL, in addition to complying with the policies set forth in Management Directive 205.36. In addition, to facilitate access to documents of public interest and reduce the need for RTKL requests, the Agency makes many documents public. Additionally, the Department of General Services publishes many solicitations, awards and contracts on its website at http://www.emarketplace.state.pa.us/;. Uploads of contracts to the Department of Treasury website, pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 17 of the RTKL, 65 P.S.§§67.1701-1702, may be found at http://www.patreasury.gov/newsMediaRTK.html.

I.   REQUESTS
 
    A.   A written request to the Agency under the RTKL must:
 
          1.  Be addressed to the Agency Open Records Officer (“AORO”):
Larry McComsey
Agency Open Records Officer
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market St., 15th Floor
Harrisburg, PA  17126-0333
(717) 787-5380
(717) 783-8445 (TTY)
(717) 772-2317 (Fax)
Email:  
RA-RTK-Education@pa.gov
          2.  Identify a name and address to which the agency should address its
               response;

          3.  State that the request is being made pursuant to the RTKL;
 
          4.  Be submitted in person, by email or by facsimile;
 
          5.  Be sufficiently specific to enable the Agency to ascertain which records are
               being requested; and
 
          6.  Be from a person that is a legal resident of the United States.
 
    B.   While verbal requests may be fulfilled by the Agency, the requester cannot
          pursue the relief and remedies provided under the RTKL unless the request is
          in writing.
 
    C.   RTKL requests may be on the form available at the website of the Office of
          Open Records (attached as Appendix “A”), at: http://openrecords.state.pa.us.
 
    D.   The regular business hours of the RTKL Office are 8:00 a.m.  to 4:30 p.m.
          Monday through Friday. Any RTKL request received by the RTKL Office after
          the close of regular business hours shall be deemed to have been received by
          that office on the following business day.
 
    E.   RTKL requests received by the Agency will be considered “public record”
          information by the Agency and such requests may be made available for public
          access through its website.
 
 
II.   RESPONSES
 
The AORO may respond by providing a requester with access to inspect a record electronically or as otherwise maintained by the Agency, either:
1.  by providing access in the offices of the Agency,
2.  by sending a copy to the requester or
3.  by notifying the requester that the record is available through publicly
     accessible electronic means.  Each of these options is a "response"
     for purposes of the RTKL, as is the Agency's written notice to the
     requester granting, denying or partially granting and partially denying
     access to a record.  The Agency may send written responses to
     requesters by United States mail, by hand (in person or by delivery
     service), by facsimile or by email.
Unless a longer period of time is needed and communicated to the requester by an “interim response” (as discussed in paragraph A below), the RTKL requires that the Agency respond to an RTKL request within five business days. For purposes of determining the end of the five business day period, the day that a RTKL request is received is not counted.  The first day of the five business day period is the Agency's next business day.
 
   A.  Interim Responses
 
    The Agency must provide a final response to a RTKL request within five business
    days unless one or more specific conditions are satisfied and the AORO gives the
    requester written notice that additional time will be required.  That notice is
    referred to as an "interim response."
 
    The AORO may send an interim response if any of the following apply:
1.  The RTKL request requires redaction of a public record;
2.  The RTKL request requires retrieval of a record from a remote location;
3.  A response within the five business day period cannot be accomplished due
     to bona fide staffing limitations, which limitations must be specified in the
     interim response;
4.  A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record requested is
     subject to access under the Act;
5.  The requester has not complied with the Agency’s policies regarding access
     to public records;
6.  The requester has not complied with a demand for prepayment of fees,
     which are required to fulfill the RTKL request and which are estimated to
     exceed $100; further, if prepayment of fees is required by the Agency, 
     the time period for response shall be tolled from the time the demand
     for payment is made until such time as payment is actually received; or
7.  The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required
     time period.
    An interim response must:
1.  be sent to the requester on or before the last day of the five business day
     period;
2.  state that the request is being reviewed and the reason for the review;
3.  give an estimate of applicable fees owed when the record becomes
     available; and
4.  state a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided.  This
     date must not be more than 30 calendar days from the end of the five
     business day period.
    If the date of an expected response is in excess of 30 days following the five days
    allowed for in Section 901, the request will be deemed denied unless the requester
    has agreed in writing to the date specified in the notice.
 
   B.  Final Responses
 
    There are three possible final responses. Either the request is: 1. granted; 2.
    denied; or 3. granted in part and denied in part. The failure to make a timely
    response is deemed to be a denial.
 
    If a written request is denied in whole or in part, the Agency will issue a final
    written response that will include an explanation of the procedure for the requester
    to appeal, if the requester chooses to do so. The written denial will also set forth
    the specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority.
    If the denial is the result of a determination that that the record requested is
    exempt from disclosure, the specific reasons for the Agency’s determination shall be
    included.

   C.  Redaction
 
    The Agency will not deny access to a record based upon the fact that portions of
    the record are not public records and, as a result, not subject to disclosure.  The
    Agency will redact the portions that are not public records and produce the
    portions that are public records.
 
   D. Access
 
    The Agency may provide a requester with access to inspect a record electronically
    or as otherwise maintained by the Agency, either: 1) by providing access in the
    offices of the Agency, 2) by sending a copy to the requester or 3) by notifying the
    requester that the record is available through publicly accessible electronic means. 
 
    The Agency has the discretion to determine the building(s) and room(s) that will
    be used to provide a requester with access to the Agency’s public records. The
    selection of buildings and rooms for access to the Agency’s public records is a
    matter within the discretion of the AORO.
 
    The Agency will provide a public record to a requester in the medium requested if
    the record exists in that medium.  Otherwise, the public record must be provided in
    the medium in which it exists.  If a public record only exists in one medium, the
    agency is not required to convert that public record to another medium, except
    that if the public record is only available in an electronic form, the agency must
    print it out on paper if the requester so requests.
 
    The Agency is not required to create a public record that does not already exist,
    nor is it required to compile, maintain, format or organize a public record in a
    manner in which the Agency does not currently do so.
 
   E.  Duplication of Public Records
 
    The Agency may either make copies itself or, in its discretion, allow the requester
    to bring the necessary equipment to make its own copies.  The Agency may make
    its duplication equipment available to a requester but require that the requester
    operate the equipment; assign Agency staff to make the duplications or contract
    for duplication services and require the requester to pay the applicable rate. 
 
III.  APPEALS
 
When a request is denied or deemed denied, whether in whole or in part, the requester
may file an appeal with the Office of Open Records, where it will be assigned to an
Appeals Officer. This appeal must be filed within 15 business days of the denial or deemed denial.  The appeal must state the grounds upon which the requester asserts
that the record is public, and should address any grounds stated by the agency for
delaying or denying the request. The appeal shall be sent to:
The Commonwealth Office of Open Records
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, Plaza Level
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225
Phone: 717-346-9903
A person other than the Agency or the requester, with a direct interest in the
record that is subject to an appeal, has 15 days following actual knowledge of the
appeal, but no later than the date the Appeals Officer issues an order, to file a
written request to provide information or to appear before the Appeals Officer in
support of the requester’s or the agency’s position in the appeal.  The Appeals
Officer may, but needs not, grant the request.
 
For further information on appeals, it is suggested that the requester review the
website of the Office of Open Records.
 
IV.  FEES
 
Applicable fees to be charged by the Agency under the RTKL are as follows:
 
   A. Fees Determined by the Office of Open Records
 
    Under the RTKL, the Office of Open Records has the authority to establish two
    fees for Commonwealth agencies: Duplication, 65 P.S. §67.1307(b) and Enhanced
    Electronic Access (an agency may establish user fees, subject to approval by the
    Office of Open Records), 65 P.S. §67.1307 (e).
 
    The fees for duplication are established by the Office of Open Records, as posted
    on its website at http://openrecords.state.pa.us. PDE will charge a maximum of
    $.25 per page for duplication and currently does not have a fee for enhanced
    electronic access.
 
   B. Specialized Fees
 
    1.  PDE will charge $1 per copy for certified copies, when requested by the
         requester.
    2.  PDE will charge the actual cost for postage, facsimile/microfiche or other
         media, as well as for specialized documents.
    3.  Special rules apply to fees for transcripts of administrative proceedings:
         (i)   Prior to an adjudication becoming “final, binding and non-appealable,”
               transcripts may be requested through an agency, however the
               stenographer or court reporter is permitted to charge the regular fee
               for this service.
         (ii)  Following an adjudication becoming “final, binding and non-appealable,”
               a request for the transcript shall be treated like any other request for
               a record and the usual duplication fee of up to $.25 per page will be
               charged.
 
  C. Reasonable and Necessarily Incurred Costs
 
    As expressly provided by 65 P.S. §67.1307(g), PDE has the authority to charge
    requesters reasonable fees for necessarily incurred costs. PDE will determine
    and charge such fees on a case by case basis.
 
  D. General
 
    No charge shall be made for agency or legal review of the record to see whether
    the requested records are public records that are subject to production.
 
    If the estimated fees that are required to fulfill the RTKL request exceed $100,
    it may be necessary for the requester to pay the estimated amount in advance,
    either by certified check or by ordinary check, which must first have cleared to
    be considered received by PDE.  The demand for prepayment may specify a
    reasonable period of time in which the requester must make such prepayment. 
    If the requester fails to make prepayment within the specified time, PDE is not
    required to produce the records requested.
 
    All applicable fees must be paid in order to receive access to the record
    requested.  65 P.S. §67.901.