In this update:
Basic Education Funding Commission Votes on Final Recommendations
Yesterday, the Basic Education Funding Commission held its final meeting. My Republican colleagues and I unveiled our report (Report #1) during the commission’s final meeting at the state Capitol.
The report provides a roadmap to provide greater budget stability for school districts, ensure students will receive at the least the same amount as the current year’s historic budget allocations, and seek to put in place greater accountability measures for YOUR hard-earned tax dollars that go to pay for public education.
As you may recall, the commission is comprised of three Senate Republicans, three Senate Democrats, three House Republicans, three House Democrats and three members from Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration.
Our report (Report #1) received six favorable votes, six negative votes, while three members of the commission abstained.
Report #1 recommends reforms to the state’s Basic Education Funding Formula that will provide greater stability and predictability for school funding, which was a key theme during the commission’s hearings.
Additionally, the report encourages that none of the state’s 500 public school districts lose funding based on historic allocations received in the most recently completed state budget. The report also recommends the state continue to build upon its recent bipartisan success in prioritizing funding for school district maintenance projects, including lead-based paint remediation and asbestos abatement. This was included in the recently approved budget-related bills in December.
A second report aligned with many of the suggested changes for the formula in how tax dollars are driven to the state’s 500 public schools and the continuation of school district maintenance programs, but also suggested that the state spend an additional $7 billion in new education spending. While this report was the “majority report,” it also garnered the highest number of negative votes with a total vote of 8-7. All Republicans and one Democrat opposed the report.
Below is a chart of state spending on education in Pennsylvania since the pandemic.
The reports released are recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor. The legislature will have the opportunity to review all recommendations made by the commission and begin legislative and budgetary deliberations.
Catching Up at the 108th Farm Show
It was a fun-filled week celebrating Pennsylvania’s number one industry at the Farm Show, which runs through this Saturday!
Tuesday evening, it was an honor to again compete in the annual Sen. Mike Waugh Draft Horse Competition. My late predecessor, Sen. Mike Waugh, was a champion for agriculture in our region and across the state and would have been proud of the 30 competitors who were raising money for a great cause – to provide scholarship opportunities for our next generation of farmers.
I am happy to report that out of the field of competitors, I brought home third place with Scott Karns, CEO of Karns Foods. Thanks to all of the organizers who work tirelessly on the annual Sen. Mike Waugh Draft Horse Competition! I am proud to see Mike’s legacy live on at this event!
If you have not attended yet, there is still time as this event runs through tomorrow at 5 p.m. Check out on some of the neat things you will see if you attend by listening to my conversation with Deputy Secretary Lisa Graybeal of the Department of Agriculture here (Apple) and here (Spotify).
You can find more photos on my Facebook.
Then on Wednesday, one of our community’s agriculture leaders, Julie Schrum, and I met with several local farmers who have exhibits at the Farm Show. Julie is a farmer from Fawn Grove and serves as a State Board Member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
Our walking tour around the Farm Show led us to a showcase of one of our county’s largest employers, Rutter’s, followed by a visit with potato growers and the opportunity to see the end product: potato chips that are manufactured right here in York County! And, of course, we could not resist a pit stop at Steinmetz Family Farm’s goat cuddling stand, which has become one of the most popular exhibits at the Farm Show.
Yearly Rewind: Empowering Parents with Their Children’s Education
Just as Senate Republicans led efforts to help students, we also focused on increasing parents’ involvement in the education of their children. After all, the people who know their child best and love them most should not be barred from playing an active role in their lives in any environment.
We passed a bill to empower parents to protect their own child from accessing sexually explicit content at school, without impacting the books available to other students. Schools should not have the ability to show our children content adults are barred from viewing at their jobs if their parents don’t support it. Another bill would expand parents’ access to what students are learning.
A new law makes it easier for parents to enroll their children in school when they move because of the family’s involvement in the military. It would help students avoid delays that can require them to take summer classes or graduate later than expected.
Serving Up Hot Chocolate at Windy Hill Senior Center
This week, Rep. Seth Grove and I served up hot chocolate and our chair volleyball skills at the Windy Hill on the Campus Senior Center. We had an exhilarating game of chair volleyball, and the cookies and hot chocolate added an extra layer of warmth and sweetness to the occasion.
All the participation made the day special, and we look forward to more lively and enjoyable gatherings in the future.
Supporting Pennsylvania Veterans in 2023 and Beyond
Our military members and veterans made the selfless decision to serve our country and preserve the American way of life we hold so dear. The Senate passed several measures in 2023 to support military families and veterans.
Act 13 of 2023 ensures Pennsylvanians entering military service can retain professional licenses and certifications. Previously, veterans had a much more challenging transition from military life to civilian life because certain skills they obtained during the service were not recognized. Now, veterans don’t have to waste time duplicating the training they already received.
Senate Resolution 46 establishes the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care, which will study the unique health care and access issues facing female veterans and make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly for action.
Other measures we passed exempt disabled veterans’ benefit payments from income eligibility calculations for government programs, provide educational support for children of National Guard and Reserves members, establish the Veteran-Owned Business Loan Guarantee Program and more.
PA Youth: Become a Litter Hawk
Kids in grades kindergarten through sixth grade who want clean places to live and play are invited to become litter hawks to help people see how litter and trash hurt the environment through art, words or video.
Individuals, school classrooms, homeschoolers, scout groups, clubs and other organized groups are all welcome to participate. Prizes will be awarded to two entries per grade. Categories are poster (K-4), essay (5) and video (6). Apply online by Jan. 31, and winners will be announced in May.
Helping First Responders Access Federal Dollars
Federal assistance grants are available to support firefighter and emergency medical service organizations, but only a fraction of the first responders who apply do so successfully.
Giving organizations the information they need to access this critical funding for vehicles, gear and more will help local governments avoid raising taxes to cover the costs associated with keeping our communities safe.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers free webinars about how to apply for funding under the Assistance to Firefighters grant program and workshops covering the Assistance to Firefighters grant program, Fire Prevention and Safety grant program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants. Learn more.
AARP Tax Prep Offering Assistance
The York County AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program is again offering FREE tax service for York County taxpayers, especially adults 50 and older with low or moderate income, during the 2023 tax season.
Last year in York County, nearly 100 volunteers filed more than 4,200 federal, PA and local income tax returns at 14 different locations throughout York County.
There is no fee and AARP membership is not required. You can find more information at their website here.
See You in Penn Township Next Week!
Starting on Thursday, my team will be at the Penn Township Municipal Building every third Thursday for the rest of 2024!
You can find more information on this initiative here.
As always, you can find services my office can assist you with on my website.
In case you missed it: I recently redesigned my website to improve its speed, make it more user-friendly – particularly on mobile devices – and give it a fresh look so it is easier for you to get the state-related information you need. My goal is always to make your experience dealing with YOUR government as positive as possible, whether you prefer to interact online or in person.
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
On Monday, Jan. 15, our senate offices will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Normal office hours will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 9 a.m.
President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in November of 1983, making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday the third Monday of each January.
One of Dr. King’s quotes continues to be a driving factor for me as YOUR senator and one I reflect upon every day in office: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”