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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Survey Finds that Cuts in Education Funding Lead to Economic Decline

During difficult fiscal times, leaders often look at where they can cut services and resources.  However, the problem isn’t always the initial reduction because some can make do with their more limited resources.  The dilemma lies in the continuation of cuts year after year. Unfortunately, this is the current situation for Pennsylvania, especially when it comes to education funding.  The Commonwealth is now facing a spillover effect as our economy continues to lag behind neighboring states. As budget season approaches, one thing is clear:  Pennsylvania taxpayers see a direct correlation between the lack of proper education funding and economic growth and development.

EducationRecently, a poll was released that demonstrates that the majority of Pennsylvania’s registered voters feel that funding for education has a direct effect on the economy.  The poll also found that voters think the state’s investment in public schools should be larger and have a fairer distribution of funds.  Conducted in mid-February, the poll involved telephone interviews with 800 registered adult voters.  More importantly, it reflects the opinions of both Democrats and Republicans who encompass every region of the state. 

Specifically, the poll found that among those surveyed:

  • More than 8 in 10 Pennsylvanians (84%) said they believe public schools have a “very strong” or “some” effect on economic development;

  • Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvanians (71%) said they believe the state investment in public schools needs to be “much larger” or “somewhat larger”;

  • More than two-thirds of Commonwealth residents (67%) said schools with greater number of students in poverty should “definitely” or “probably” receive more state funding;

  • Almost three-quarters of Pennsylvanians (72%) said they “strongly favor” or “somewhat favor” using a school funding formula to ensure fair distribution of funding.

Joining in support of this poll were representatives from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and Central Pennsylvania Education Coalition (CPEC). 

Since Governor Corbett has taken office, Pennsylvania’s contribution to public education funding has consistently fell below the national average.  We also need to factor in that this administration’s failed policies have put the Commonwealth nearly last in the country in new job creation.  In other words, a significant investment in public education is also a significant investment in local economies. 

Without proper funding, schools’ integrity are challenged because they are forced to make choices between curriculum, teaching resources, extracurricular programs and activities, and infrastructure upgrades and repair which ultimately have had a negative effect on our state’s economic prosperity.  This poll demonstrates that no matter what a person’s gender or political background is, we have overwhelming support for one issue which is a very rare occurrence.  Education funding should be a top priority during this budget cycle because the more we invest in our students, the stronger the investment in Pennsylvania’s economic future. 

For more information about the poll, please click here.

Pennsylvania State Grant Application Deadline

As Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), I want to remind students and families that the deadline to file an application for the 2014-15 Pennsylvania State Grant Program is May 1st.  The deadline applies to all renewal and first-time applicants planning to enroll in colleges, universities, or a college transfer program at two-year public (except community colleges) or junior colleges.

Before applying for a 2014-15 Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2014-15 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  As I’ve written about in past editions, the FAFSA is the federal form that all students must submit to determine eligibility for most forms of need-based financial assistance.  The FAFSA can be accessed online at www.fafsa.gov.  Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.

PHEAA PHEAA In addition to completing the FAFSA, first-time Pennsylvania State Grant applicants must also submit a completed Pennsylvania State Grant Form (SGF).  First-time applicants who submit the FAFSA online will be automatically redirected to the SGF by following the designated prompts on the FAFSA confirmation page.  First-time applicants who have already submitted their FAFSA but have not completed the SGF should visit www.pheaa.org for instructions on completing the application process.

First-time Pennsylvania State Grant applicants planning to enroll in a community college, business, trade or technical school, a hospital school of nursing, or a non-transferable two-year degree program at a community, junior or four-year college have until August 1st to complete their Pennsylvania State Grant application.

Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 1-800-692-7392 for assistance.

Did You Know…

Did you know that during the 2013-14 school year nearly 3,000 students residing in the 42nd Senatorial District participated in the Pennsylvania State Grant Program and received over $7.6 million in grants to assist with their post-secondary education?

Sewage Facilities Program

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) is accepting applications through July 21st for the Sewage Facilities Program.  This program was established through Act 13 of 2012 which created the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the CFA for statewide initiatives for complying with the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act.

Grants of up to $100,000 can be awarded to eligible applicants.  Municipalities, Councils of Governments, Authorized Organizations, Institutions of Higher Education, Watershed Organizations, and For-Profit Businesses are considered eligible to apply.  For more information on the grant program, please visit the Sewage Facilities Program page on the Department of Community and Economic Development site at www.newpa.com.

Absentee Ballot Deadline

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the May 20th Primary Election is May 13th.  All completed absentee ballot applications must be received by the Allegheny County Division of Elections Office no later than 5 p.m.  The Elections Office is located in the County Office Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh:

542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601
Pittsburgh, PA  15219

Vote PA Vote PA You may apply for an absentee ballot in person at the above address.  When applying in person, once the ballots are printed and as long as you are properly registered, you will be given an absentee ballot on the spot and will be able to cast your vote right there.  You may also visit any of my district offices to receive an absentee ballot application or go to the Resource Center page at www.votespa.com to download one.

If you have already applied for and received your absentee ballot, please know all voted absentee ballots must be received in the Elections office no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, May 16th in order to be counted.  If you have any questions or need any additional information, please visit the Absentee Ballot page on the Allegheny County website or call 412-350-4520.

PA Women Veterans Symposium

Women Veterans SymposiumI want to remind all Pennsylvania female service members and veterans of all military branches and components that May 19th is the deadline to register for the 2014 PA Women Veterans Symposium.  The Symposium is scheduled for June 6th – June 8th at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh and will feature informative general and breakout sessions and a health and wellness fair while providing an opportunity to meet with fellow female veterans from across Pennsylvania.

Registration opens at 3 p.m. on June 6th and will be followed by an evening reception.  June 7th will feature a day of keynote speakers and informative breakout sessions before wrapping up on June 8th with a breakfast, closing sessions and discussions and additional activities.  The Symposium also provides the chance to visit with vendors and exhibitors who will be on hand offering a variety of valuable resources.

Space is limited and registrations must be received by May 19th.  For more information on the 2014 Women and Veterans Symposium, please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website.  You may also download a registration form by clicking here.

Affordable Housing Program

FHL Bank PittsburghThe Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and Webinars FHL Bank Pittsburgh are holding one competitive application round for its Affordable Housing Program (AHP) this year.  AHP supports projects that provide affordable housing to individuals and families whose incomes are at or below 80 percent of the area’s median.  The bank is making available approximately $15 million for AHP funding this year with maximum grant awards set at $500,000 per project.

Two webinars will be presented to review the application process and provide a high-level discussion of key scoring and feasibility criteria.  The webinars will be on April 30th and May 6th from 10 – 11:30 a.m.  To register for one of the webinars, please click here.

For more information on the program please visit www.fhlb-pgh.com.

SMC Business Councils Event

SMC Business Councils is hosting a roundtable with Brian Castro, the National Ombudsman on May 14th at the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Township from 2 – 4 p.m. during National Small Business Week.  SMC Business CouncilsAll small business owners are invited to this free event. 

The Office of the National Ombudsman assists small businesses and acts as a troubleshooter between small businesses and federal agencies regarding federal regulatory enforcement or compliance assistance.  The National Ombudsman also rates federal agencies on their responsiveness to small businesses and reports their findings to Congress and ensures that federal regulatory enforcement is effective and not excessive.

Any small business owners wishing to attend this event can register by clicking here.  A Meet and Greet Reception will follow the roundtable.

Kids in Nature

Kids in NatureThe Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has launched a new website in an effort to reconnect children to nature.  The site, www.PaNatureKids.org, will serve as a source of information for parents and teachers on where kids and families can go throughout the Commonwealth to enjoy outdoor activities.  Whether it’s a day trip, an overnight trip, trails, water activities, or sightseeing, this site serves as a resource to assist in educating children on nature and providing a listing of opportunities and scheduled events that are available for children and families in the outdoors.

Mentored Youth Fishing Days

MentoredI want to remind everyone the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) is hosting its annual Mentored Youth Fishing Day on Saturday, May 10th.  Originally, two Mentored Youth Fishing Days were scheduled for March 22nd and April 5th but because most of the waters where the events will be held had remained covered in ice and weren’t expected to thaw in time, the event was re-scheduled into a one-day event on May 10th.

The Mentored Youth Fishing program was designed to encourage adults to spend a day taking kids fishing.  All of the originally scheduled waters will be available on May 10th.  For a full listing of locations for the Mentored Youth Fishing Day, please click here.

To participate in the program, adult anglers (16 years or older) must have a valid fishing license and trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth.  Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit or a voluntary youth fishing license.  Both are available at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the Commonwealth.  For more information on the Mentored Youth Fishing program, please visit www.GoneFishingPA.com.

National Jazz Appreciation Month

jazzAs April is National Jazz Appreciation Month, many people do not realize what a rich history Pittsburgh has and how strong a presence this city had in the development of jazz during the last century.  The number of Pittsburgh jazz musicians who made their mark on the jazz industry and who played a significant role in making Pittsburgh a destination place for jazz music is too large to list. 

During the 1920’s while places like New Orleans, New York, and Chicago  were hosting some of the country’s finest jazz musicians, Pittsburgh was developing its own stars, many of whom would go on to become instrumental in the international music industry.  By the 1930’s Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood played home to dozens of nightclubs and venues becoming a vibrant jazz community.  National performers traveling to and through Pittsburgh routinely played at these clubs, including the Crawford Grill, and many Pittsburgh-based musicians got their starts in the clubs.

In 1969, Nathan Davis founded the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh, becoming only the third such program at that time to be offered at a major university in the United States joining Howard University and Indiana University.

Today, Pittsburgh’s contribution to the jazz industry is visible.  The Crawford Grill is marked with a state historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  Last year, a mural honoring Pittsburgh jazz legends was painted in the Strip District, on the side of Art’s Tavern.   The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood promotes jazz through its MCG Jazz program.  Educational programs allow students to attend jazz concerts at low or no cost and jazz artists are available for master classes.  Students are also exposed to opportunities for internships in production and marketing.  The Heinz History Center’s Long-Term Exhibit offers a chance for visitors to enjoy music from some of history’s most renowned jazz stars in a Crawford Grill-like setting. These are just a few of the many ways Pittsburghers can celebrate our city's rich jazz history.

Fontana Fact

While we honor workers’ contributions each year in September on Labor Day, many countries around the world celebrate labor on May 1st.  International Workers’ Day, or May Day, while not as widely celebrated in the United States, originated here in the late 1800’s as workers then fought to secure the eight-hour work day.

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
Mentored Youth Fishing Day Kids in Nature SMC Business Councils FHL Bank Pittsburgh