Senator Fontana attended Brookline's West Liberty K-5 school event that recognized Patriot Day on September 11th. Senator Fontana spoke to the students about the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the many heroes who risked, and in many cases, lost their lives that day as they assisted others. He also talked to the students about the many people in their lives who care about them, and make sacrifices every day to protect them and keep them safe, referring to these individuals as Pittsburgh’s Everyday Heroes.
On Friday, Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released the findings of an audit on the Sto-Rox School District. Every child deserves the right to a good education no matter where they live in the state. However, what the audit found was something myself, many members of the state Legislature, as well as school districts have been preaching since Governor Corbett has taken office: poorest school districts are suffering the most under the Administration’s budget cuts and major changes need to take place.
Charter and cyber charter schools are public schools that are open to students throughout the state. The system was developed to give parents or their guardians an alternative to their home school districts. There is no additional cost to the family to attend a charter school because the student’s district must pay the charter school its per-pupil cost of education plus additional money for students who receive special education services. Currently, of the 1.8 million K-12 public school students, Pennsylvania enrolls 119,000 students to charter schools with charter schools receiving about $1.1 billion in taxpayer funding.
Since 2002, the state has reimbursed each school district a portion of that amount – 30 percent of charter expenses for most districts, but nearly 42 percent for districts with a higher number of students attending charters. However, when Governor Corbett took office in 2011, he cut $224 million from the budget that reimbursed school districts for the portion of the costs they paid to charter schools with the rationale being that the reimbursement program was only supposed to be temporary and the original reason for that funding had run its course. This is in addition to the more than $1.2 billion the Administration has cut to the K-12 Basic Education Subsidy.
The Sto-Rox School District has paid more than $2.5 million to charter schools and was getting reimbursed about $400,000 prior to 2011. Today, Sto-Rox is still paying $2.5 million but no longer getting the reimbursement from the state.
The Auditor General’s audit revealed that in general, Sto-Rox School District has been in compliance with state laws but because of the lack of proper funding for this financially distressed school district, Sto-Rox is on the verge of bankruptcy. In fact, even if Sto-Rox did embrace every recommendation the audit made, the school district would still come up short.
Of the more than 150 school district audits Auditor General DePasquale has done this past year, one theme has been consistent, especially in districts with limited tax bases: the elimination of the charter school reimbursement funding in 2011 has been, and will continue to be, devastating. And the more money school districts have to pay out for charter school expenses, class sizes will undoubtedly increase with fewer teachers for instruction and less money to pay for updated textbooks and classroom materials. Furthermore, these schools will still continue to incur everyday costs like water and electric bills.
A report in 2012 by the former Auditor General found that charter school funding should be based on more of the costs to operate charter schools verses the current funding structure. Cyber charter schools in particular were receiving too much revenue for what it typically costs to operate them according to the report.
In the fall, Auditor General Depasquale will hold a series of hearings throughout the state to seek a comprehensive solution to the growing financial crisis facing Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts. Victims of our current education system include children who attend these struggling schools as well as the elderly taxpayers who shoulder the rising property taxes. It is obvious we cannot let this problem prolong any further.
This isn’t the first and will not be the last audit that shows that the Commonwealth’s current charter school formula hurts already financially stressed school districts. We cannot continue to take from schools’ already declining state subsidies and leave them with nothing left to build on. More importantly, the current formula is not in the best interest of our students or Pennsylvania’s future.
I am a co-sponsor to a number of bills that would begin to address the way charter schools are funded. For starters, Pennsylvania needs to establish a baseline rate for cyber charter schools based on actual costs to operate. I will also be persistent to call on the Governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to provide ailing schools with tools to help them better face their financial realities instead of temporarily “fixing” problems with one-time solutions.
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 seniors with important information on available services and resources. Light refreshments will be also provided. I look forward to seeing you there!
Together with Representatives Dan Miller and Dan Deasy, we are hosting a Shredding Event on Saturday, September 28th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Green Tree Park’s lower parking lot, located at 895 Greentree Road. With consumer fraud and identity theft becoming an epidemic in our communities, we are hosting this event not only to raise awareness and promote prevention but also to provide individuals the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed, free of charge. You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. We will also accept CD’s, credit cards, video tapes and floppy disks.
Senator Fontana visited the Holy Family Institute in McKees Rocks on September 11th. After a tour of the facility, Senator Fontana met with Dee Dee Giovanazzi – Director of Community Services, Nicole Coleman – SNAP Supervisor, and Brandi Hudson – SNAP Program Coordinator, to gather information on their SNAP (Stop Now and Plan) Program that they have installed at Sto-Rox Elementary. The SNAP Program teaches coping skills to children and parents to improve students’ behavior and attendance in school. Senator Fontana is pictured here after the meeting with Brandi Hudson and Nicole Coleman.
Medicare & Affordable Care Act Forums
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law and the Allegheny County APPRISE Program are joining to host a Health Law Forum, Understanding Medicare and the Impact of the Affordable Care Act on the Medicare Health Care System. This forum is scheduled for September 26th in the Teplitz Court Room, located on the ground floor of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law in Oakland (3900 Forbes Avenue in Oakland), from 2 – 5 p.m.
The forum will present an overview of the Medicare system and how it functions to deliver health care coverage to over 50 million individuals. It will also cover eligibility and enrollment information and show attendees how to compare and evaluate the available options to achieve the most effective and affordable health care coverage. The forum will also discuss the impact that the federal Affordable Care Act will have on Medicare.
In the August 13th edition of my News & Views I also wrote about a Town Hall Forum being hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State Health Insurance Assistance Program (APPRISE), and the Allegheny Link to Aging and Disability Resources on October 2nd. This forum will provide an overview and the impact of the Affordable Care Act to consumers and is scheduled from 9 a.m. – noon at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Club, Ballroom B, located at 123 University Place in Oakland.
At the October 2nd Town Hall Forum, panelists, which will include health care professionals, representatives from the insurance industry and representatives from federal and state agencies, will provide an overview of the Affordable Care Act and how the federal law will impact accessing health care coverage in Pennsylvania, in particular the characteristics and function of the Health Insurance Marketplace in Pennsylvania. There will also be an open forum allowing attendees to ask specific questions to the panel.
The Health Insurance Exchanges (now officially referred to as Market Places) are scheduled to go into effect nationally on October 1st and consumers in need of health care coverage will be able to shop for coverage by visiting www.healthcare.gov. The Town Hall Forum will explore the options that will be available to consumers in Pennsylvania and address some of the frequently asked questions about the Health Insurance Exchanges. It will also address the broader implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, such as the impact of the Act’s provisions on the Medicare and Medicaid systems.
If you are interested in attending either of these events, you must RSVP in advance, as space for both is limited. To RSVP, please email McKendreeW@FSWP.org.
Fire Company/Volunteer Ambulance Grants
On September 9th, the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) announced the online grant application process for the 2013-14 Fire Company, Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program (FCVASGP) has opened. The application for eligible fire companies and volunteer ambulance services will remain open until October 24th at 4 p.m. No applications will be accepted after October 24th.
All fire companies, volunteer ambulance services, and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grant funding. Organizations may apply for grant funding for a combination of up to two projects. These projects must be for the following: construction and/or renovation of the fire company’s or ambulance service’s facility; the purchase or repair of fixtures and furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability of the company to provide services; the purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; debt reduction associated with the facility or equipment; or the training and certification of members.
Grant applications are available online by visiting the OSFC website. For organizations that submitted a grant application last year, you must create a new User ID and Password in order to access the 2013-14 grant application.
Used Book Sale in Scott Township
The Friends of the Scott Township Library is hosting its annual Used Book Sale September 26th – September 29th at the Scott Park Community Room, located above Scott Pool. From 6 – 8 p.m. on the 26th, members of the Friends of the Scott Township Library will have an opportunity to purchase books before the Used Book Sale officially opens to the public. Starting September 27th, the Sale will be open to the general public – from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on September 27th, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on September 28th and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on September 29th. Most paperback books will be priced at $0.50 with hardback book priced at $1.00. All proceeds from the Used Book Sale benefit the library. For more information, please contact Elaine at 412-429-0606.
Did You Know…
Did you know that plans for a library in Scott Township first started in 1964 before the library finally opened its doors to the public on March 26, 2001?
The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebrated the first annual Latino Day at Kennywood Park on September 14th. Senator Fontana presented Alberto Benzaquen, the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, with a Certificate of Appreciation at the event. Senator Fontana is pictured here with (left to right): La Rumba Pittsburgh Radio – Cindy Fernandez, Allegheny County Executive – Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation Executive Director – Alberto Benzaquen, Senator Fontana and Pittsburgh City Councilman – Bill Peduto.
Mt. Washington Block Party
The Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) is hosting the Mt. Washington Block Party on September 28th from 6 – 10 p.m. The Block Party is being held on the Shiloh Street Parking Deck, located in the 200 block of Shiloh Street on Mt. Washington. The event features backyard-style games, a local reggae band, photo booth, and food and beverages. The first 250 people who purchase tickets will receive a Block Party pint glass. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.mwcdc.org.
Upcoming Beechview Events
Beechview’s 4th Annual Big Flea is scheduled for September 21st from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. along Broadway Avenue’s lower business district. This annual event will feature local musicians, vendors of new merchandise, craft and “new-to-you” items. For more information on Beechview’s Big Flea please call 412-341-8768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beechview Kids Fest is scheduled for October 6th from 2 – 5 p.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Beechview and Broadway Avenues. The Kids Fest will feature food trucks, farm animals, a petting zoo, moonwalk, DJ and a plant raffle for participants from Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery. For more information, please call 412-341-8768 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brookline Business Feature
This week’s featured Brookline business is Sal’s Barber Shop, located at 712 Brookline Boulevard. Sal’s is a family-owned business that first opened along the Boulevard in 1947 by Sal Bondi and today is operated by his son Sal. They are open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Thursday. Sal’s offers haircuts for men to anyone who walks in. For more information on Sal’s Barber Shop please call them at 412-341-4313. Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:
Brookline is open for business!
Over one billion pounds of pumpkins are produced each year in the United States and Pennsylvania ranks as one of the top pumpkin producing states in the country each year. The Pennsylvania Giant Pumpkin Growers Association holds a weigh-off in early October where they seek the largest pumpkin from pumpkin growers in Pennsylvania. Last year’s winner grew a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,365 pounds.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216