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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Protecting Kindergarten

With summer coming to an end and school starting across Pennsylvania, many children will be entering their first year in the classroom – kindergarten.  However, due to declining revenue and mandated costs, many school districts in Pennsylvania are faced with the decision of whether to continue to offer full-day kindergarten, half-day or eliminate the program altogether.  As a result, many parents and guardians are now scrambling to figure out how to accommodate these changes. 

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), each district in the Commonwealth has offered some sort of kindergarten program since 1992.  Nonetheless, Pennsylvania is one of just five states in the nation that does not mandate kindergarten as part of curriculum. 

Beginning with the 2004-05 school year, former Governor Ed Rendell launched Accountability Block Grants which was flexible money that could be used by school districts for such things as full-day kindergarten, reducing class sizes and providing tutors.  Over $270 million was annually received by schools starting in the 2008-09 school year from the block grant.  This extra aid boosted enrollment in kindergarten by more than 90 percent and significantly increased how many schools offered full-day programs.

More recently, tough economic times and tight state funding has become the new reality forcing schools to reexamine their curriculum and ways to cut costs.  The Accountability Block Grants were slashed to a $100 million allocation per year under the current Administration leaving schools with a lot less flexibility to work with.  Schools’ kindergarten programs have become the latest target and causality of these funding cuts leaving many school districts with no other choice than to reduce kindergarten to a half day during this upcoming academic year. 

During the 2012-13 school year, only about 375 school districts out of the 501 statewide offered some type of full-day kindergarten.  Even though, at this point, no school district has reported to PDE that they plan to eliminate kindergarten, we need to bring Pennsylvania’s education laws in line with other states and mandate all school districts in the Commonwealth offer a kindergarten curriculum.  

With that being said, in the coming weeks I will be introducing legislation that would simply codify a kindergarten requirement in the Public School Code.  It is important to note that the bill does not address the issue of full-day or half-day programs. That decision would still be left to individual districts.

Time and time again research has shown the importance of early education in our students’ academic achievement.  Furthermore, students who are, or live, in an area of poverty are often the ones who benefit the most from a kindergarten program, yet those cash-strapped districts are usually the ones who cut these non-mandated courses first.  Because each district already offers kindergarten programs, this legislation would not necessitate even the most financially strapped schools to come up with additional money.

As budgets continue to be tight, both for schools and families with young children, these individuals should not have to worry at the beginning of each academic year if districts will be offering a kindergarten class.  Our children’s ability to participate in the first step of our K-12 education system should not be used as a bargaining chip.  After all, we owe it to the future generation to provide them with not only a basic education where they will be taught essential lifelong lessons but also a quality atmosphere where young students can socially interact with peers their own age which fosters development. 

Did You Know…

Did you know according to the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, that in full-day kindergarten classrooms, teachers have more time to get to know students and identify and address their learning challenges early which saves money and resources over the long term and increases the odds that children will be successful later in school?

FontanaFest 2013 FontanaFest!

18 Days Until FontanaFest! – The 9th Annual FontanaFest will be held on Saturday, September 7th from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at South Side’s Riverfront Park (bottom of 18th Street at the river).  The community event highlights many of the family-oriented activities that can be done on or near Pittsburgh’s three rivers.  Join us Pittsburgh Water Limo Pittsburgh Water Limo for a FREE day of family fun with activities on the rivers, free food and drink, inflatables, crafts and pony rides. 

Pittsburgh Water Limo will be offering free boat rides during FontanaFest with rides scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.  A limited amount of tickets can be picked up at the Welcome Booth as you enter the park.  The PA Fish & Boat Commission will also provide canoes and kayaks for attendees to take out on the Monongahela.  The Citiparks Roving Art Cart, celebrating its 40th year, will also Fish and Boat Commission Fish & Boat Commission be in attendance during the Fest along with other great organizations like the Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Library, and the Umoja African Arts Company just to name a few.

Be sure to visit www.fontanafest.com to view a listing of all participating organizations and sponsors. Several organizations will also be present to provide children and families with important educational information and activities.  It’s rain or shine – but I have every confidence we will have another beautiful day, so please come out and enjoy!

Flu/Pneumonia Shots & Senior Clinic

I am hosting a Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Friday, September 27th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline.  American HealthCare Group will be providing the free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card.  Make sure you bring your card with you.

All attendees can also receive a free blood pressure screening and have their blood sugar tested compliments of Primary Care Health Services and will have an opportunity to speak with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy and “Ask the Pharmacist” questions about medications.  Several other organizations will be in attendance including:  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; PA APPRISE; PA Office of the Consumer Advocate; LifeSpan; AARP; and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services – all providing senior with important information on available services and resources.  Light refreshments will be also provided.  I look forward to seeing you there!

School Bus Safety

School Bus SafetyYellow school buses that transport students from home to school will be re-appearing this week and next, as classes get underway for the upcoming school year.  If you are driving in areas with a high concentration of students waiting for the bus, please slow down and be careful.  Parents and students can visit Just Drive PA to view tips offered by PennDOT for kids to stay safe while riding the bus.  I also want to remind motorists of the state’s School Bus Stopping Law and that anyone convicted of violating the School Bus Stopping Law can face penalties including a $250 fine, five points on your driving record, and a 60-day license suspension:

  • Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended

  • Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus, or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped

  • Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safely

  • If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails, or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping

  • Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety

School SuppliesBack to School Celebration

The Sto-Rox Family Center is hosting a night of activities centered on going back to school on August 26th from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Center, located at 618 Russelwood Avenue in McKees Rocks.  Staff will be present to speak with kids about the importance of homework and completing assignments and to parents about ways they can help their children have a successful school year.  The Sto-Rox Family Center is also collecting back to school supplies.  If you are interested in attending or donating supplies, please call the Center at 412-771-6817.

Rox OffRun (or Walk) Your Rox Off!

It’s not too late to register for the 5th Annual Run Your Rox Off 5K and 1 Mile Run/Walk scheduled for Friday, August 30th.  This event provides an evening of fun and festivities and a chance to give back to the community.  All proceeds from the event benefit the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation and its mission to continue the revitalization of McKees Rocks and Stowe.

The race begins at 6:30 p.m.at the Miles Bryan School, located at 1125 Wayne Avenue in McKees Rocks.  Following the race, awards will be given to top finishers followed by a free concert in the park.  Parking is available in the parking lots at Pat Catans and the Bottom Dollar with shuttles available from each lot beginning at 5 p.m.  For more information please visit http://mckeesrocks.com/blog/

Heidelberg Oktoberfest

Heidelberg Borough is hosting their annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, September 28th from 1 – 8 p.m. at Heidelberg Park (corner of Jackson Street and Industry Way).  The day features several musical performances, children’s games, hay rides, craft vendors, a petting zoo, and much more.  German and American foods will be sold along with Paulaner Oktoberfest beer and a fireworks display will cap off the day at 8 p.m.

Additional craft and food vendors are wanted for the event.  For more information, please contact the Borough Manager at 412-276-0363 or visit the Borough's website.

Autumn Breeze Fest

The Brookline Chamber of Commerce is hosting the Autumn Breeze Fest on Saturday, September 21st from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. along Brookline Boulevard.  The Boulevard will be lined with arts, crafts, food, and merchant sales and specials.  For more information on the Autumn Breeze Fest, including space availability, please email Blvdbreezefest@hotmail.com.

Brookline Business Feature

Decio'sThis week’s featured Brookline business is Decio’s Custom Tailoring and Formal Wear, located at 812 Brookline Boulevard.  Decio’s has served the community for 34 years offering customers tailoring services, specializing in tailoring formal wear.  They also offer formal wear rentals including tuxedos, formal dresses and other accessories.  Decio’s is open Monday – Saturday, opening each day at 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, until 7 p.m. on Thursdays and until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.  For more information on Decio’s services or to make an appointment, you may call 412-561-3830.  Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape project and remember:

Brookline is open for business!

Fontana Fact

According to scholars, cremation began during the Stone Age, sometime around 3,000 B.C.  The first crematory in North America was built in 1876 in Pennsylvania, Washington, PA to be exact.  The Beinhauer Family built Pittsburgh’s first crematory in 1921, which today is the second oldest continuously operating crematory in the United States.  According to the Cremation Association of North America, by 2009, there were over 2,100 crematories operating in the United States and over 36% of deaths in the United States were handled through cremation.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Run Your Rox Off