The House of Representatives returns to session next week with a variety of items on the agenda both on the House floor and in committee.
With the Governorâ€™s annual budget address just over a week away, the House Education Committee will look at how special-education programs are being funded in the Commonwealth by holding an informational briefing on recommendations made by the Special Education Funding Commission. In December, the commission recommended adopting a new formula based on three cost categories â€“ low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The formula would also include factors reflecting community differences such as market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate and small and rural school districts.
Last week, by a vote of 187-9, the House passed HB 1738 (State Rep. Bernie Oâ€™Neill, R-Bucks), to establish a commission to study and make recommendations for a new formula for distributing state funding to basic education. The commission would work with school districts and charter operators to develop a funding formula based on the school districtâ€™s market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support and other factors.
State Rep. John Taylor (R-Kensington) has voted in favor of legislation to create a commission that would reevaluate how Pennsylvania distributes state dollars for basic education.
â€œThe basic education formula has been unchanged for more than 20 years,â€ Taylor said. â€œThis commission would develop a new formula to take into account each school districtâ€™s market value/personal income aid ratio, geographic price differences, enrollment levels and local support.
â€œThe goal is to collect current information, talk to school officials and other experts, and develop a new way of distributing state funding based on actual student and school data.â€
The commission would be comprised of equal representation from the House and Senate majority and minority caucuses, along with representatives from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education and the Governorâ€™s administration.
HB 1738 builds on the ideas adopted in the Special Education Funding. â€œEducation funding accounts for nearly 40% of our state budget,â€ Taylor said. â€œIt is critical we make sure these funds are distributed fairly.â€
The commission would be expected to issue a report of its findings and recommendations one year from the date of enactment, following a series of public hearings. Recommendations would not take effect unless enacted by the General Assembly.
State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington) has urged schools in the 2nd Senatorial Dist. to apply for a grant to participate in the most complete Presidential Youth Fitness Program and help their students improve their fitness and wellness. Applications are due by Jan. 31.
â€œThe free version of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program will help many schools teach the importance of taking care of the body and the mind, but if districts are able to participate in the full fitness curriculum, the results will be dramatic,â€ Tartaglione said.
Schools awarded grants will enable participation in the program for the 2014-15 school year plus the following two years.
To learn more about the program, visit www.pyfp.org.
To encourage students to work together and take the initiative against bullying, State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-W. Phila.) is sponsoring an anti-bullying mobile application design contest for students in his 8th Senatorial Dist.â€™s Philadelphia, Southeast Delaware Co. and William Penn school districts.
The application entries should show how the technology would help students address or report bullying, Williams said.
Classmates of all finalists from each school district will be invited to see an open rehearsal performance by Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Groups and their anti-bullying hip-hop program this spring. The winning mobile app will be unveiled at this show and each member of the winning design team will receive an Apple iPad 2.
â€œParents and adults can say all there is to say about the importance of not bullying others, but the best solutions to stopping this problem remain with our children,â€ Williams said. â€œWe are encouraging students to work together to come up with great ideas that will not only help them and their classmates crush bullying behaviors, but help other students throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.â€
The Senatorâ€™s contest requires three to five students in grades 7 through 12 to work together in an independent group. Each group is required to write a summary of their mobile app concept that includes the name of their app, how it will look and perform and how it will help students address and report bullying.
Designs are due by Feb. 28.
CRUZâ€™ NEWBORN SCREENING BILL UNANIMOUSLY PASSES HOUSE
With unanimous approval, the State House has passed on to the Senate legislation authored by State Rep. Angel Cruz (D-Kensington), Democratic chairman of the House Human Services Committee, which adds Krabbe disease and five other lysosomal storage disorders to the list of diseases for which Pennsylvania hospitals must screen newborns.
â€œIâ€™m incredibly thankful to my fellow legislators who have shown such great support for this bill,â€ Cruz said. â€œThe screenings this legislation mandates will greatly improve the quality of life for children and families impacted by these diseases and give newborns a fair chance at a healthy life.â€
HB 1654 was the subject of a press conference last fall in which Cruz was joined by NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who along with his wife, Jill, established the Hunterâ€™s Hope Foundation in 1997 after their infant son, Hunter, was diagnosed with Krabbe leukodystrophy. The foundation aims to create awareness about leukodystrophies and to support the families of children diagnosed with these disorders.
Cruz was also joined at the press conference by Vicki Pizzullo, mother of Hannah Ginion, who inspired Cruzâ€™ bill, and other families of children diagnosed with lysosomal storage disorders.
â€œIf Hannah was tested at birth, she might have had a chance for a transplant and had a more-normal life,â€ Pizzullo said. â€œBut I am grateful her story has inspired this legislation so that hopefully no other families will go through what weâ€™ve been through.â€
The State needs to do a better job including nurses on state-appointed healthcare-related advisory boards when legislation creates such advisory boards, advocates State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-Northwest).
â€œThe key word is team, and nurses are an integral part of our health-care system,â€ said DeLissio. â€œWe seem to pretty consistently overlook the role of our nurses, particularly as health care moves forward, and we need to correct that. This legislation allows for many physician categories to participate and includes only one nurse category.â€
The Oxford Circle-based family counseling group, the Center for Families & Relationships, will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Feb. 27 with a Casino Night event at Tendenza honoring Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon.
Henon, who represents the 7th Dist. in Lower Northeast Philadelphia, will receive the groupâ€™s Daniel Gottlieb Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of his years of community activism and constituent service.
â€œBobby Henon has been a great friend to CFAR,â€ said Jordan Urban, the groupâ€™s executive director. â€œHeâ€™s always been there for us when we needed him.â€
Founded in 1994 by Maryann Volk, who retired last year, CFAR provides family counseling, anger management and other therapeutic services to children and families throughout Philadelphia.
State Rep. Michelle Brownleeâ€™s (D-N. Phila.) resolution declaring January 2014 as Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in Pennsylvania was unanimously approved. She had the pleasure of bringing a Big Brother and a Big Sister to Harrisburg with her to honor the occasion.
â€œIf I wasnâ€™t already convinced of the great people and great work their organization offers our youth and community, I would be after meeting Marcus Allen and Lauren Craig from our Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter,â€ the Representative commented afterwards.
Pennsylvaniaâ€™s population is getting older. As the fourth-oldest state in the country, it is home to 1.7 million seniors, with that number expected to top 3.6 million by 2030.
State Sen. Bob Mensch represents the 24th Senatorial Dist., which includes parts of Montgomery, Berks, and Bucks Cos. State Sen. LeAnna Washington represents the 4th Senatorial Dist., which includes parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia Cos.. They are Co-Chairs of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee.
They stated, â€œWe are proud to be part of this population. Throughout our tenure one of the most alarming trends we have seen is the increasing instances of neglect and abuse, fraud, and inefficient care. Unfortunately, many seniors and service providers are reluctant to report these crimes. Just one in 44 cases of senior financial exploitation is reported and many cases of senior neglect are investigated too late. This is unacceptable and we can do better for our seniors.
â€œOur 2014 Agenda for Seniors includes advocating for a comprehensive rewrite of the Older Adult Protective Services Act; improving the reporting requirements for suspected elder abuse, as well as providing investigators with enhanced tools to prosecute these crimes; and, working to strengthen background checks for those who are providing direct care for our seniors. Additionally, we will continue to work to streamline communications between organizations and agencies that care for our seniors, and find ways to increase health-care efficiency.â€