Senator Mario Scavello E-Newsletter

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Scavello Applauds Senate Approval of On-Time, No-Tax Budget That Invests in Education, School Safety

6/22/18 - Passage of 2018-19 State Budget
The state Senate today approved a fiscally responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 that holds the line on spending, increases funding for education and school safety initiatives, and includes no new taxes.

After several years of embracing conservative budgeting, today we find ourselves on stronger financial footing. An on-time budget with limited spending that avoids unnecessary tax increases is an example of how government can deliver services in a responsible manner on behalf of our taxpayers.

The final spending total for the 2018-19 budget is $32.7 billion, below the rate of inflation.

The budget also makes a historic investment in school safety with more than $60 million in new funding for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence.

While the funding is critical, we are fully aware that additional money won’t solve the problem alone – we need to look at programs and resources that school districts can use to keep our kids safe.  A number of measures have already been introduced, and our School Safety Task Force is still vetting additional initiatives. Since I have already held a meeting with school district officials and law enforcement in my legislative district, I am encouraged that we continue to make progress in keeping out students safe.”

A significant part of the additional spending is devoted to education. The budget increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million, Pre-K Counts and Head Start by $25 million, and Special Education by $15 million. Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.

Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3-percent boost in funding.

I was pleased with increases in statewide tourism marketing, which would be a great benefit to the Greater Pocono and Lehigh Valley region. “This budget not only restored the Administration’s proposed $8 million cut to tourism marketing, but actually increased funding by nearly $5 million over the previous year’s total. This is significant because for every one dollar the Commonwealth spends on tourism, it is has been shown that we can expect to receive an approximate three dollar return on investment.”

Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.

Other highlights include additional funding for:

  • Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market.
  • Services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Home and community-based services for an additional 5,230 seniors and those with physical disabilities.
  • Child care services to an additional 1,600 children.
  • Home visit services for 800 families impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The budget recognizes the importance of three industries that have historically been among Pennsylvania’s most critical sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, restoring funding that the Governor’s original budget plan cut.

Passing a fiscally responsible budget this year is an absolute necessity in the face of the daunting challenges we will face in the years to come.  But with those challenges come new opportunities that could set our Commonwealth on the path to a brighter economic future.

Senate Sends Comprehensive School Safety Measure to Governor’s Desk

Seeking to keep schools and students safe, the State Senate approved a comprehensive school safety bill that will dedicate significant new resources to help prevent school violence,

Senate Bill 1142 would create the School Safety and Security Grant Program to distribute $60 million in new school safety funding that was included in the state budget. The new funding is in addition to the $10 million dedicated to an existing grant program created in 2013.

The two grant programs will provide funding for a variety of measures designed to improve student safety and reduce school violence, including:

  • hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors;
  • alternative education and diversion programs;
  • violence prevention initiatives;
  • school safety and emergency preparedness plans;
  • physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.

The legislation would also create a school threat reporting and monitoring system for students, teachers and community residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools. The new Safe2Say Program would be patterned after the Safe2Tell program that was created in Colorado in 1999 after the school shooting at Columbine.

The Attorney General would administer the system and ensure the information regarding potential threats is sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency and school officials for further investigation.

The bill was also amended to include a proposal that would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to develop school safety assessment guidelines. These guidelines would offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.

The newly created School Safety and Security Committee would be made up of various experts in school safety, security, and child behavior.

In addition, Senate Bill 1142 would require schools to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security.).

The school safety measures included in Senate Bill 1142 are the first phase of the Senate’s efforts to protect students. Public hearings will be scheduled over the summer to gather input from various stakeholders regarding additional steps that can be taken to improve school safety. 

Senate Bill 1142 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

The Slate Belt Heritage Center recently recognized three outstanding local citizens for their annual Preservation Awards. Each was recognized for their work in preserving an element of local history.

Deanna Ruzanski authored “A Great Miracle Happened Here” and contributed to the publishing of the Heritage Center’s “Letters to Homefront Magazine, A Love Story Between a Community and its WWII Soldiers.”

Walter Emery was recognized for his continued work compiling an extensive postcard collection depicting different sites throughout the Slate Belt and old photographs of area one-room schools.

Peter and Karen Marmaras were honored for their work to restore their 1752 era house while staying true to its historical character.

Thank you all for your continued work on behalf of our community. If you have not yet visited the Slate Belt Heritage Center, I would encourage you to pay a visit and view the many local artifacts on display. They are located at 30 N. 1st Street in Bangor.

Congratulations to Justin Anthony of Troop 33 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout! For his project, Justin refurbished a bird blind, built a fire pit and constructed a breezeway kiosk at Waste Management’s Environmental Education Center in Pen Argyl. Families and other members of the community gathered at the Education Center earlier this year for Earth Day festivities, where we witnessed firsthand his quality work. Well done on your accomplishment, Justin!

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