Senator Argall E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • The Governor’s Proposed Education Budget – What is Real vs. What is Phony?
  • How Can We Better Teach Children How to Read?
  • Welfare Fraud Costs Pennsylvania Millions in 2023
  • Banning Russia from Receiving Pennsylvania Tax Dollars
  • A Visit to Tamaqua SHINE—in my Dad’s Library

The Governor’s Proposed Education Budget – What is Real vs. What is Phony?

The Senate Appropriations Committee has held public hearings throughout the past month reviewing Governor Shapiro’s $48.3 billion proposed budget, which would increase state spending by a massive margin of $3.2 billion (7.1%).

I agree that we need to do more to help our school students, but we need to be VERY careful. If we were to agree to all of his plans, it will be impossible to balance future budgets without deep spending cuts and massive tax increases.

Carl Marrara, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, described it this way: “It’s as if the governor is maxing-out the home renovation budget by remodeling the kitchen with new granite countertops and luxury appliances while ignoring the leaking roof and crumbling foundation.”

As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, I led the questioning of Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin and Chancellor Dan Greenstein of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which includes Bloomsburg University, Kutztown University, East Stroudsburg University, and more.

Department of Education

I made it very clear that I was prepared to vote NO on any report from the Basic Education Funding Commission that didn’t call for real, significant, property tax relief. 

As the governor calls for billions of additional dollars in funding for our schools, we need to ask ourselves: How can Pennsylvania taxpayers – already overburdened by our unfair, 1834 system – afford to pay any additional property taxes?

Nicole Castillo, who works as an intern in my Hazleton Office, recently graduated from high school WITH a two-year degree from Lackawanna College thanks to a dual enrollment program offered at Hazleton Area High School.

I asked Secretary Mumin what we can do to encourage more students to take advantage of the incredible opportunities provided by dual enrollment programs.

The Shapiro Administration published a new  “blueprint” about the governor’s new plan to combine the ten PASSHE schools and Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges under a new structure.

In Pottsville, they might say this blueprint is more foam than beer. Despite a significant funding request, we still have not seen what the governor’s plan would actually look like for the students, faculty, and communities it will impact.

I asked Secretary Mumin when the Senate Education Committee will see actual legislation to create this new higher education system. His response: stay tuned!

I asked for an update on Pennsylvania’s efforts to encourage more people to pursue the career of teaching.

Parts of the state are grappling with severe shortages in educators. If we don’t address this issue, we’re failing to prepare the next generation of Pennsylvanians for their careers.

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education

I asked Chancellor Greenstein about the governor’s new plan for higher education in Pennsylvania as well. We need to hear more details about it as soon as possible if it has any chance of success.

Chancellor Greenstein spoke about the continued importance of a four-year degree. He cited a study that the share of jobs that require a college degree is expected to increase, with over 90% of new jobs requiring higher education.

I asked about the enrollment trends of the ten schools that make up the system. Colleges and universities from across the country are facing enrollment declines, yet schools in our state system bucked this trend by increasing first-year enrollment last year.

How Can We Better Teach Children How to Read?

A bill to improve how we teach reading in Pennsylvania recently won bipartisan approval in the Senate Education Committee.

It’s impossible to function in today’s world without being able to read, yet we’re seeing very high rates of illiteracy across Pennsylvania and the nation. We need to focus on the basics. We cannot afford to fail our children in this regard.

Senate Bill 801, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), would create a screening process to identify struggling readers and implement plans to prevent children from falling behind.

Welfare Fraud Costs Pennsylvania Millions in 2023

In 2023, over 590 people were charged with welfare fraud in Pennsylvania, with the amount of fraud totaling almost $3.4 million.

To curb these instances in the future, the Senate passed three bills I introduced to protect the taxpayer dollars we provided our public assistance programs last year. These bills will ensure that taxpayer dollars are going to those in genuine need, not to bad actors trying to game the system.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has not yet considered them.

Banning Russia from Receiving Pennsylvania Tax Dollars

A new law I sponsored has taken effect that bans companies connected to the governments of Russia and Belarus from receiving state contracts, grants, or tax credits.

I’ve heard one thing loud and clear from our many Ukrainian-American neighbors in Schuylkill, Carbon, and Luzerne Counties: our state tax dollars should not support Russian war crimes.

According to a recent article from the Delaware Valley Journal, Eugene Luciw, the president of the Philadelphia branch of the Congress Committee of America, stated that, “the Ukrainian American community thanks and salutes Pennsylvania for its steadfast, consistent, and persistent support of Ukraine and her people.”

A Visit to Tamaqua SHINE—in my Dad’s Library

Beth and I met with leaders of the Schools & Homes in Education (SHINE) Afterschool Program in the Tamaqua elementary school library my father first established four decades ago. Now, a new generation is at work: two of their instructors grew up with my son and daughter and have returned as teachers.

SHINE gives students a chance to explore their interests through hands-on, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) based projects after school. The key to their success: the students learn every day, while enjoying the after-school experience with their friends. My dad would have felt very much at home in that room, where he spent so many years encouraging young minds to read!

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