Senator Argall E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • Giving Schools Relief from Oppressive State Mandates
  • Basic Education Funding Commission Concludes Public Hearings
  • How Can We Fund Education More Fairly in Pennsylvania?
  • New Law Makes It Easier for Students of Military Families to Enroll in School
  • High Schoolers: Can You Fix These Transportation Issues?
  • Punishing Looters and Thieves
  • RGGI Carbon Tax Stuck Down in Court
  • Supporting Long-Term Care Centers

Giving Schools Relief from Oppressive State Mandates

The burden of state mandates on public schools was reviewed in depth during a public hearing of the Senate Education Committee I chaired last week.

The hearing was requested by Sen. Jarrett Coleman, who introduced Senate Bill 569 to reestablish a mandate waiver program that previously operated from 2000 to 2010. Over 700 applications were approved during the previous program, saving educators many headaches and a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars.

We ask our educators to do many things on a daily basis – it’s no surprise this leads to overburdened workers and ever-increasing costs.

As we continue to consider a better way to fund our public schools, making school operations more efficient must be part of the conversation. We need to ensure that these dollars are being spent on what truly matters – preparing our children for the future.

Basic Education Funding Commission Concludes Public Hearings

The Basic Education Funding Commission held its 11th and final public hearing earlier this month. The commission has crisscrossed the state, hearing from dozens of local leaders, interest groups, and advocacy organizations about how we could more fairly fund our public schools, after the current system was declared unconstitutional.

Since the 1960s and 70s, taxpayers have invested massive funding to improve our public schools in Pennsylvania.

Many of our buildings are much improved over the schools our parents and grandparents attended in much earlier eras, our teachers and support staff are better paid and prepared, we have greatly improved special education, added an extraordinary number of new extra-curricular activities and online options, greatly expanded pre-school and access to more challenging courses and higher education—and yet during the 11 hearings of the Basic Education Funding Commission, we heard from dozens of advocates very unhappy with the state of our public schools.

During the commission’s final hearing, I asked the basic question: What is the solution?

The commission is expected to release a report detailing our findings and recommendations early next year. If you are interested in leaving a public comment, visit this link.

How Can We Fund Education More Fairly in Pennsylvania?

I was a panelist on WVIA’s Keystone Edition Reports. The show focused on the discussions in Harrisburg about how to fund our public school system more fairly. Joining me was Brian Waite, the Superintendent of Shenandoah Valley School District, and Katie Meyer, a reporter from Spotlight PA.

Watch the full show here.

New Law Makes It Easier for Students of Military Families to Enroll in School

Recently signed into law, Act 24 of 2023 makes it easier for an estimated 185,000 students of relocating military families to enroll in school.

Previously, students of military families that transferred on official military permanent change of station orders were not eligible to register in classes, enroll in specialized academic programs, or participate in lotteries for charter or magnet schools until they were physically located within the district boundaries. The delay caused students to miss deadlines, requiring them to shift their planned courses of study, which forced some to take summer classes, or even graduate later than expected.

The new law allows such families to establish residency for purposes of enrollment in the school district in which they will be residing by providing the school district with a copy of their military transfer order. This enables them to access registration and enrollment at the same time it is open to the general population.

High Schoolers: Can You Fix These Transportation Issues?

High school students are invited to participate in the seventh annual PennDOT Innovations Challenge. The statewide competition pushes teams of students to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges.

Regional winners will be selected by PennDOT’s Engineering Districts. Those winners will move on to a statewide competition where an overall winner will be selected.

Students can find the details of the 2023-24 Challenge and project guidelines here. All submissions must be received by Jan. 26, 2024, at 11:59 p.m.

Punishing Looters and Thieves

The widespread looting that occurred in Philadelphia just a few weeks ago was shocking to see. In the aftermath of this crime spree, the Senate approved my bill to fight back against organized retail theft by a strongly bipartisan vote of 46-4.

We must stop this dramatic increase in retail theft – the sooner, the better. Read more about my bill here.

RGGI Carbon Tax Stuck Down in Court

Since Governor Wolf first attempted to unilaterally impose a tax on carbon by joining RGGI in 2019, I have said many times that no Governor, Republican or Democrat, can be allowed to create any new taxes without the support of the General Assembly. Earlier this month, the Commonwealth Court agreed.

Study after study has shown that RGGI would lead to huge increases in energy prices and kill thousands of family sustaining jobs across Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, Governor Shapiro appealed this decision during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The fate of RGGI now lies with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Supporting Long-Term Care Centers

Many of our families have faced the difficult decision of helping a beloved parent or grandparent to move into a long-term care center.

I saw first-hand the love and care that the workers in facilities like Providence Place Senior Living in Pine Grove have for their residents. Now, many of our long-term care centers are struggling because they cannot find enough qualified, well-suited employees.

We need to give these workers and residents a boost. Earlier this month, I announced legislation which will encourage more people to pursue this career path.

Joining me in Pine Grove was the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, Rep. Barton, and Rep. Twardzik.

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