Welcome Back to School
8/24/2018
Welcome Back to School
 

Good luck to all the students heading back to school this week. As parents are looking forward to new achievements, the Legislature has been working to support students and keep them safe.

This year’s budget increased funding for preK-12 education by $450 million to a historic high of $12.3 billion. Since 2011, while I served as Majority Leader and Speaker, total education spending has increased by 38 percent.

Under my leadership, the Legislature also prioritized school safety by establishing a $60 million block grant program to provide schools throughout the Commonwealth with grants to be used for safety and security enhancements.

Recognizing that each school’s needs are different, the block grants can be used for a variety of tools to fight violence, including metal detectors, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors, alternative education and diversion programs, violence prevention initiatives, school safety assessments and preplanning, and other physical upgrades to ensure a safe learning environment.

Act 44 of 2018 established a new committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to review applications from each school district. PCCD is also tasked with offering a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania. Schools are required to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security, and school security drills are required to be held in each school building annually.

The new law also allows public school entities, such as school boards, to go into private, executive session for school safety discussions. This will allow school officials to freely debate and develop security plans that address the needs of their schools without disclosing their plans to would-be attackers.

Act 44 also created the “Safe2Say” program, a confidential, statewide tip line for students and teachers to report potentially dangerous or violent activities involving any school property or program 24-7 via a phone, computer or smartphone app.

The program will be administered by the Office of Attorney General beginning in January 2019. The tip line will be staffed by trained professionals who can appropriately respond to the situation and provide the reporter peace of mind that their concern will be addressed. The tip line was modeled after the Safe2Tell program in Colorado, which has received more than 30,000 reports since its inception in 2004, including reports of a planned school attack, suicidal threats and child abuse.
 
 
Touring the North Park Pool Improvements

 

This week, I toured the North Park Pool with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to review the status and impact of improvements made to the facility.

Through these improvements, the North Park Pool will continue to be a place that families can enjoy for many years.

Thank you to Andrew Baechle, director of County Parks for Allegheny County, for his work to make these improvements a reality.

In 2017, my office secured a $350,000 grant for: 
  • New family-oriented changing rooms.
  • New shade structures throughout the pool area.
  • A new chain-linked security fence, without barbed wire.
  • ADA accessible improvements to the pool and bathhouse.
My office secured another grant that will help complete these upgrades and restore bleachers at the pool that have fallen into disrepair over time. These repairs will preserve the historic and architectural integrity of the facility.

The North Park Pool opened on July 5, 1937. At the time it opened, it was thought to be the largest pool in the United States. Not only does the pool carry historical significance, but it also continues to be a critical component to the quality of life in the North Hills community.
 
 
Work Begins on Sidewalk Near La Roche College

 

The sidewalk connecting La Roche College, the McCandless Crossing shopping area and the nearby bus stop began construction recently. The project was made possible by a grant from the state’s Multimodal Transportation Fund that I secured.
 
 
Save for College with State 529 Plan

For families looking to plan for higher education, the Pennsylvania Treasury offers the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), in which growth is tied to the rate of college tuition inflation, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which offers 15 investment options by The Vanguard Group.

Contributions to PA 529 plans are deductible from Pennsylvania income taxes, grow tax free, and, when used for qualified educational expenses, are federal and state tax exempt. Both plans provide flexibility to pay for higher education expenses at most higher education institutions across the country. The PA 529 GSP is designed to enable your savings to help keep pace with the rising costs of higher education. The PA 529 GSP contributions grow at the rate of tuition inflation but are subject to fees and premiums.

The PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) is offering free enrollment – a $50 savings – for all new accounts opened before August 31, at PA529.com. Use code “SUMMERGSP” when prompted.

The PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options. No enrollment fee is charged for the PA 529 IP.
 

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