Aument Calls for Changes to CTE Teacher Certification Requirements

HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) has introduced legislation that would change the burdensome and expensive certification requirements for vocational teachers.

In current practice, vocational teachers in Pennsylvania must earn 78 credits over a period of 11 years in order to comply with Career and Technical Education (CTE) license requirements. This includes a number of general education credits that may have no bearing on the subjects the teacher will cover in the classroom.

“Pennsylvania loses many qualified CTE teachers simply because our licensure requirements are much more extensive than other states. The need for skilled trades is growing rapidly, so we need to do whatever we can to increase access and encourage great teachers to stay here in Pennsylvania and educate our students,” Aument said. “Some of the required classes are completely irrelevant to the subject matter that is taught in classrooms and has no impact on a teacher’s ability to prepare students to enter the workforce. This only serves to push good, qualified teachers away.”

Aument noted that vocational teachers are required to have at least four years of industry experience prior to teaching and are already experts in their field before they set foot in the classroom. The CTE licensure requirements are designed to help vocational teachers learn proper teaching strategies to better educate students.

“It is important to find the right balance between ensuring our teachers are qualified to do the job and not overburdening them with completely unnecessary classes that only waste their time and the taxpayers’ money,” Aument said. “We need to use common sense when setting standards for certification, and that process starts with eliminating any requirement that is unlikely to actually benefit teachers and students.”

Aument’s proposal, Senate Bill 1104, would reduce the number of credits required for licensure from 78 hours to 60 hours – a level that is more competitive with other states. The plan would also require the state Department of Education to form an advisory committee to review program guidelines every five years to make sure the licensure requirements are meeting the needs of teachers and students. 

 

Contact: Stephanie Buchanan (717) 787-4420

Martin and Mensch Call For Comprehensive Safety Review of PA Schools

Harrisburg –Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Bob Mensch (R-24) have introduced a Senate Resolution that calls for a comprehensive review of school safety in Pennsylvania.

The resolution would require the Joint State Government Commission to work with schools, law enforcement and other entities to assess safety measures that are currently in place and determine what steps schools have taken to evaluate and improve school safety. School safety practices in other states would also be examined to determine whether those strategies could work in Pennsylvania schools.

The Commission will also be tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of gun-free policies in schools, as well as reviewing Pennsylvania’s background check system for firearm purchases.

“Recent tragedies have created a renewed emphasis on protecting students against senseless acts of violence,” Martin said. “The first step in improving school safety is taking a closer look at strategies that have been implemented successfully here in Pennsylvania and in other states, while at the same time trying to identify areas where we have room for improvement.”

“The issue of school safety is extremely broad and complex, but there is obviously a need to review every facet of this problem to determine what is working and what we can do better,” Mensch said. “I am optimistic that the findings of this study will help guide lawmakers in taking meaningful steps to address weaknesses in the system that could lead to a tragedy.”

The Commission’s report on school safety is expected to include information on the number of schools that have received a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment by Pennsylvania State Police in the last 10 years and whether schools took action on the resulting safety recommendations.

“Improving school safety should not be a controversial or partisan issue,” Mensch said. “Each school across the state and the country has its own strategies in place to protect students. This study offers an opportunity to build upon that foundation and expand the use of proven strategies to prevent school violence.”

“Young people throughout the country rallied last weekend to be better protected against violence in schools, and their voices deserve to be heard,” Martin said. “We may not agree on every proposed solution, but we certainly share a common goal of reducing the risk of dangerous situations that endanger young people.”

 

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Corman: Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law

 

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(HARRISBURG) – The PA Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) that, if enacted, will be a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s hazing laws.

“Working with the Piazza family, prosecutors, universities and others, we have developed wide-ranging antihazing legislation that focuses at prevention, enforcement and transparency,” Senator Corman said. “With this proposal, students will have the tools they need to make informed choices about the groups they consider joining as well as safeguards so they can make good decisions in times of distress.”

Summary of Legislation

Senate Bill 1090 increases penalties for all of those involved in hazing; requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and informs students and parents of what is happening on campus. It also establishes clear-cut parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

“The bill has been carefully crafted because we want this to be a model for changing antihazing laws nationwide,” Senator Corman said in thanking Judiciary Chairman Stewart Greenleaf for swift consideration of the bill. “My intent with this legislation is clear – to prevent death or serious injury due to hazing so that families, such as Tim’s, never experience tragedies like this ever again.”

In 2017, there were four hazing-related deaths in the United States at fraternities. In a November 2017 study on hazing by NBC News, 75 percent of those surveyed believed that something should be done to stop hazing.

CONTACT: Jenn Kocher (717) 787-1377 or jkocher@pasen.gov

Corman, Tim Piazza Family Unveil Groundbreaking Legislation to Strengthen PA Antihazing Laws

 

(BELLEFONTE) – Through a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s hazing laws, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) and the family of Tim Piazza hope to prevent future hazing-related tragedies by addressing prevention, enforcement and transparency. 

Summary of Legislation

“Jim and Evelyn Piazza have taken what is an unspeakable tragedy – their very personal heartbreak – and channeled it into what will be the most complete antihazing law in the nation,” Senator Corman said. “They are driven by the memory of Tim, propelled by the desire to make certain that no other child dies as part of some coerced and misguided rite of passage.”

“The anti-hazing bill introduced by Senator Corman is a very significant step forward, and is wholeheartedly and enthusiastically supported by the parents of Tim Piazza,” said Tom Kline, lawyer for the Piazza family. “Jim and Evelyn Piazza believe that, if adopted, the Pennsylvania Timothy J. Piazza Law will make our college campuses and fraternity life safer, and will serve as a model law to be adopted and every other state in the United States.”

The proposed bill increases penalties for all of those involved in hazing; requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and informs students and parents of what is happening on campus. It also establishes clear-cut parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

“We want this to be a model for establishing and strengthening antihazing laws nationwide,” Senator Corman said. “With this proposal, students will have the tools they need to make informed choices about the groups they consider joining as well as safeguards so they can make good decisions in times of distress.”

In 2017, there were four hazing-related deaths in the United States at fraternities. In a November 2017 study on hazing by NBC News, 75 percent of those surveyed believe that something should be done to stop hazing. However, only 56 percent believe that it can be eliminated from college campuses.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro highlighted the proposal’s importance for police and prosecutors.

“The Corman bill gives law enforcement the tools we need to hold students accountable when they engage in hazing that results in the death or serious bodily injury of a fellow classmate, as tragically happened in the death of Tim Piazza last year,” Shapiro said. “I commend Senator Corman for his leadership on this important issue.”

 CONTACT: Jenn Kocher (717) 787-1377 or jkocher@pasen.gov

Regan Briefs Senate Panel on Measures Needed To Enhance School Safety and Security in PA

 

Senator Mike Regan (R-31) testified before the Senate Education Committee during a public hearing on school safety, focusing his remarks on efforts to improve school building security through professional assessments, customized safety plans, extensive training, and reprioritized state funding.

To view Senator Regan’s full testimony, click here.

Regan, a former U.S. Marshal who was responsible for security planning and implementation at federal court houses, said school administrators and faculty must be trained and prepared to address an active shooter situation as part of a broader Comprehensive School Safety Plan. 

As part of that effort, he stressed that schools should receive a professionally-conducted preliminary needs assessment to ensure that funding is being used with maximum efficiency. 

He emphasized that school safety plans should tailored to the unique needs of each school.  “Simply stated, “one-size-fits-all” plans do not work,” Regan said. “Customization is the name of the game.”

He added that confidentiality of school safety plans is crucial, citing a bill he is sponsoring with Senator Robert Tomlinson (R-6) which would require school security matters to be discussed in Executive Session.

Regan emphasized the importance of rigorous and recurring active shooter training to help school personnel function under extreme duress. 

“People never rise to the occasion, they fall to the level of their training,” said Regan. “Robust training acclimates responders to stress.”

Finally Regan noted that efforts to improve school safety will cost money – an investment he says is critical to their success.  He noted that last year approximately $8.53 million was dedicated to the Safe School Initiative line item. This figure represents less than 1/10th of 1 percent of General Fund spending in Education. 

​Regan said funding should be part of the overall effort to make schools safer and implement the improvements and training that can save lives in the event of a school shooting.

In the coming weeks, he intends to work with the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, education stakeholder groups, and security experts to develop new school safety standards which he hopes will “become a national model.” 

Contact: Noah K. Karn 717-787-8524 / nkarn@pasen.gov

 

Torsella and Gordner Announce Keystone Scholars Program Legislation

(HARRISBURG) – Legislation to establish the Keystone Scholars program was unveiled in Harrisburg today, according to Senator John R. Gordner (R-27).  Senator Gordner, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, was joined by bill co-sponsor, Senator Vincent Hughes (D-7), State Treasurer Joe Torsella and other dignitaries to make the announcement.

Under the program, every child born in Pennsylvania would receive an automatic, one-time $100 scholarship payment to his or her own PA 529 savings plan.  That money will compound over time and would assist in paying for post-secondary education or job training costs in the future.  The program would be administered by the state Treasury Department and be funded through investment returns from its Guaranteed Savings Plan, as well as philanthropic endowments.

“Millions of jobs have been added since the end of the Great Recession in 2009,” said Senator Gordner.  “A vast majority of those jobs require some sort of post-secondary education, whether it be a college education or training attained through a trade or technical school.  These funds would become the seed for achieving that necessary education and demonstrates the Commonwealth’s strong partnership with every young person in our state.”

A related demonstration program, to be carried out by the Treasurer in six counties across the state, was also announced at the press conference.  Luzerne County has been included in that initial program.

“I look forward to working with Treasurer Torsella, Senator Hughes and the rest of my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass this important legislation and to give each of Pennsylvania’s children a head start on their future,” added Senator Gordner.

CONTACT:  Mike Stephens 717-787-8928

Senate Passes Greenleaf’s Legislation Bringing National Guard Youth Challenge Program to Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG—On Monday, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s (R-12) SB 52 which would bring the National Guard Youth Challenge Program to Pennsylvania.  The program is aimed at helping high school drop outs earn their diploma. 

The program began in 1993 through an act of Congress as a 10 state pilot program to help at-risk youth gain work experience and earn their high school diploma or equivalent.  The program focuses on improving basic life skills and promoting fellowship and good citizenship through military based training and supervised work experience for youth between the ages of 16 and 18.  In 1998, Congress made the program permanent. 

“When I learned about this program, I immediately saw the value it can bring to Pennsylvania,” said Senator Greenleaf.  “With federal funding, we can easily have this tool to help reach at-risk and troubled youth.  So many young lives can be put back on track with some simple guidance and training if they just had somewhere to go.  Furthermore, the program saves taxpayer dollars spent on juvenile detention programs and adult incarceration.”

The bill directs the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to apply for federal funding for the program. 

The program includes 22 weeks of residency for eligible participants, and an additional 12 month post-residential mentoring period.  Participants must be residents of PA, and not attending secondary school.  Those with felony convictions are barred from the program as well as those on parole or probation.  All shall be subject to drug testing.

In 2011, the National Guard reported graduating 4,411 students, with over 54% of those graduates earning a high school diploma or GED; 47% joining the work force; 9% joining the military; and nearly 44% continuing their education.

For every dollar invested, there is a $2.66 return.  In the long term, the public will save money on juvenile detention programs and adult incarceration.

There are currently 40 youth challenge programs operating in 28 states.

The Senate has passed this legislation in prior sessions.

Senate Approves National Guard Youth Challenge Program

 

The Senate today approved Senate Bill 52, legislation that would establish the National Guard Youth Challenge Program in Pennsylvania, according to Senator Randy Vulakovich, a co-sponsor and strong supporter of the proposal. Video

The bill, which was approved last July by the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee chaired by Senator Vulakovich, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 “Over 13,000 students drop out of school in Pennsylvania each year,” said Senator Vulakovich.  “One way to help reduce this number is by tapping into the resources of our military and providing students a more structured environment by which to succeed.  This program has seen great results across the nation and I know it can and will work in Pennsylvania.”

Started in 1993, the National Guard Youth Challenge program provides a structured, quasi-military residential education for youth, aged 16 – 18, who are at risk of dropping out of school.  It is a free, voluntary program that helps those young people earn a high school diploma or GED.  Now in 29 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, the Program has educated more than 140,000 students nationwide. 

 

Contact:  Nate Silcox (717)   787-6538         nsilcox@pasen.gov

Bill Securing $14M in Recurring Funding for Erie Schools Sent to Governor

Efforts championed by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) to lock in a recurring $14 million increase in state funding for the Erie School District could soon payoff as legislation securing the funding is headed to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

At Senator Laughlin’s request, the Erie School District was allocated $14 million in Educational Access Program Funding as a one-time, one-year expenditure in the Fiscal Year 2017-18 state spending plan that was enacted in July.

House Bill 674, the omnibus Fiscal Code bill that received final legislative approval Tuesday, locks in the increased funding on a recurring, annual basis, Senator Laughlin said. Video

“This is a game changer for the City of Erie and the City of Erie School District,” said Senator Laughlin. “It is much needed help and I know the city is going to be very appreciative of this. The kids are going to get a great education in Erie now.”

Senator Laughlin thanked his colleagues for recognizing Erie’s financial crisis and stepping up to provide needed funding to ensure the district’s students receive the quality education they deserve.

“It takes more than one person to get a job like this done,” Senator Laughlin said. “Having the help of Senate leadership, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, played a big role in helping me to get this done and I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Senate as well.”

Senator Laughlin also lauded the efforts by former Erie School District Superintendent Jay Badams, current Superintendent Brian Polito, Erie School Board President Frank Petrungar Jr., school board members, school district staff and administrators as well as students and their families.

“They did a great job. Obviously, there was – and still is – a real sense of urgency. But this financial crisis galvanized the community and you could see there was never a willingness to just give up. I am truly proud to have worked with all these people, here and in Harrisburg, to see the state make this commitment to Erie’s children and our future,” Senator Laughlin said.

Erie School District welcomed the news that legislation locking in the recurring state funding was headed to the Governor.

“This is obviously a transformational moment for Erie’s Public Schools. Our students deserve the highest level of educational resources and opportunities and we are grateful to our state legislators for their commitment to this work,” said Petrungar. “This has truly been a community-wide effort. The board and staff of Erie’s Public Schools identified our funding challenges nearly two years ago and have collaborated with our local and state officials to educate them about our need for additional state aid. We are extremely grateful to Senator Laughlin for taking this issue on as his personal mission and working tirelessly on our behalf to secure the additional resources our students need.”

“I am so grateful that we have been given this opportunity to show what our students and our district can accomplish with appropriate funding. For the first time in many years, Erie’s Public Schools will be financially stable and have the ability to focus on the critical work of improving achievement for all students,” said Polito. “This funding increase is transformational for the district and will allow us to begin a new chapter in the history of Erie’s Public Schools. We believe it also represents a turning point for our entire city and demonstrates what we can accomplish when we work together. We are grateful to our school communities, our staff and the entire region for supporting us throughout our efforts over the past two years. We want them to know that this is a new day for Erie’s Public Schools and we look forward to working with them to serve the 11,000 students of our city in the years to come.”

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Contacts:

Matt Azeles – Senator Laughlin       (717) 787-8927 or mazeles@pasen.gov

Daria Devlin – Erie School District   (814) 460-5387 or ddevlin@eriesd.org

Senate Approves Greenleaf Bill to Make PHEAA Grants for Distance Education Permanent

Today, the Pennsylvania Senate approved legislation (SB 53) sponsored by Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R, Montgomery, Bucks) that would permanently allow for distance education to be included in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) State Grant Program.

In 2013, the General Assembly approved Senator Greenleaf’s legislation creating a five year pilot program—the State Grant Distance Education Pilot Program (SGDEPP)—permitting students who take the majority of their courses online to apply for PHEAA grants (Act 59 of 2013).  SB 53 would make the pilot program permanent. 

“Previously, students who didn’t earn at least half of their credits in the classroom were barred from being eligible for PHEAA grants,” said Senator Greenleaf. “This was unfair to many who are taking advantage of distance learning opportunities.  I believe this move will encourage more students who don’t have the opportunity to attend traditional classroom programs to pursue valuable degrees.  Nearly everyone must complete some form of higher education or training in order to gain meaningful employment.  Many adults need further education to advance or change careers.  Distance learning is the right choice for many people, and they deserve the same opportunities for PHEAA grants as all other students.”

Based on data for the first three years of the current pilot program, over $24.25 million in grants have been awarded to nearly 13,000 students at 91 participating schools.  Based on data from PHEAA regarding student performance, recipients earned high marks in credit completion, which is a strong measure of student success toward degree attainment.  Recipients earned 2.97 and 2.98 cumulative GPAs for 2013-14 and 2014-15 award years, respectively. These GPAs translate to approximately a “B” average at most schools.  Furthermore, on the whole, recipients earned a higher average cumulative GPA than the comparable general undergraduate population in the same programs of study at SGDEPP schools.

The PHEAA Board has recommended that the State Grant Program become permanent, starting with the 2017-18 Academic Year.