In this Update:
Simplifying Retirement for Teachers with Military Service
Servicemembers returning from a deployment deserve ample time to make informed decisions about their retirement benefits. I’m pleased to partner with Senator Katie Muth as joint sponsors of SB 1033, which seeks to level the playing field for educators with military service, and apply the same standard to all, regardless of when that service occurred.
Senate Bill 1033 would give all active PSERS members who had activated military service between July 1, 1990, and June 30, 2013, until their date of termination of service to purchase service credit. Currently, service members called to active duty during this period only have one year after returning to Pennsylvania public school service to apply to PSERS to purchase service credit. This legislation will bring greater consistency to how our veterans are treated by PSERS and will remove unnecessary post-deployment burdens for these military families.
Basic Education Funding Commission Report
I was honored to serve on the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), which was charged with evaluating the state’s Basic Education Funding Formula.
The purpose of the Commission was to determine if changes were needed to the formula, which dictates how state funding is distributed to school districts across the Commonwealth. It was not the role of the commission to determine how much funding is needed.
The commission gathered testimony from more than 90 individuals at our 14 public hearings and received more than 1,000 comments through the public website. Two reports were presented at yesterday’s final BEFC hearing, both of which include recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor.
Report #1, which I supported, would provide greater stability and predictability for school funding, which was a key theme during the commission’s hearings. It also requires more accountability for schools and opportunities for students. I voted no on Report #2, which would require billions of dollars in tax increases.
I believe government-run education needs to be accountable to the students and parents who depend on it and to the citizens who pay for it. We need to create opportunities for all students, hold schools accountable for student outcomes and further empower parents in the education of their children.
2023 Review: Supporting Parental Involvement in 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.
2023 Review: Supporting Pennsylvania Veterans
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.
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time for reflection on his peaceful contributions to the civil rights movement. Many people also spend time honoring Dr. King’s legacy by participating in community service to better their neighborhoods. No matter how we spend the day, let us remember his desire to unify our country as he shared in his historic speech in Washington, D.C. more than 60 years ago.
If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter please sign up here.