October 25, 2019
Exploring New Ways to Tackle the Student Debt Crisis
The cost of higher education is creating severe financial challenges for an entire generation of students, and solving this crisis will be one of the biggest challenges we face in the years to come. As a member of the Higher Education Funding Commission, I am dedicated to exploring new ways that we can help more students advance their education and prepare for the careers of today and tomorrow without risking financial ruin.
This week, I circulated a memo to my colleagues seeking their support for a bill that would authorize and direct a study of the desirability and feasibility of using Income Share Agreements (ISA) to finance a portion of the cost to attend college. I am also seeking support for the creation of a student loan debt refinancing program for students who have already graduated.
I am hopeful that these and other measures can address some of the most serious challenges facing Pennsylvania students and graduates and help build an opportunity society where all residents have a chance to experience earned success and upward economic mobility.
I recently wrote an op-ed that touches on many aspects of the problem, as well as other potential remedies. Video of the op-ed is available below.
ICYMI: Talking Teacher Evaluation and More with LNP, Face the State
I appreciated the chance to discuss my legislation to improve Pennsylvania’s teacher evaluation system and other state issues with the LNP editorial board last week, and as a guest on the “Face the State” TV program on CBS this past weekend.
LNP wrote a terrific editorial about the entire process of identifying the flaws in the current teacher evaluation process, as well as the importance of all stakeholders working together to find workable solutions. In case you missed it, the editorial is available here. (subscription required)
I also discussed this proposal and a wide range of other state issues on “Face the State” with Robb Hanrahan, Charlie Gerow and Mark Singel on Sunday. The full segment is available here.
Next Telephone Town Hall Scheduled for November 12
Community residents are invited to share their thoughts and questions about the most important issues facing Pennsylvania and our region during my next telephone town hall on November 12 at 6:30 p.m.
You can sign up to participate by leaving your name, phone number and email address here. A live audio stream is also available on the webpage for individuals who want to listen to the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you!
Mount Joy Train Station Reopens
Local, state and federal officials recently celebrated the reopening of the Mount Joy Train Station, including the addition of a number of features to improve accessibility and accommodations for passengers.
The project includes the addition of both long-term and short-term parking spaces, a covered walkway, landscaping, elevators, platforms, canopies and a number of improvements to accessibility for passengers who have disabilities. More information about the project is available here.
It was a pleasure to speak with pastors and community faith leaders during a legislative breakfast I hosted recently in Ephrata.
New Law Restricts Robocalls in Pennsylvania
Governor Wolf recently signed a bill into law that would limit the amount of nuisance robocalls that Pennsylvania residents receive. The new law, which I supported, will allow state residents to remain on the do-not-call list on a permanent basis instead of having to renew their listing every five years.
The new law also prohibits telemarketing on legal holidays and provides new options for consumers to opt-out of receiving future calls from businesses. Consumers can verify whether their number is included on the do-not-call list and learn more about how to eliminate nuisance calls at the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website here.
Statewide Video Competition Challenges Students to Share Ideas on Farming
Pennsylvania has a rich heritage of farming that dates back centuries, and agriculture remains the state’s top industry today. However, that heritage is threatened by difficult market conditions and an aging population of farmers.
The third annual “Talk To Your State Senator” statewide video competition challenges middle and high school students to share their ideas about how Pennsylvania can reverse these trends and ensure the agriculture industry will have a bright future in our Commonwealth.
The contest, which is sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania and Rutter’s, is open to students in grades 6 through 12, including all public school, private school and home school students. Participants are encouraged to submit video entries of no longer than three minutes that promote the future of farming in Pennsylvania.
A total of $10,000 in prizes will be awarded through the PA 529 college savings program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury. Contest entries must be submitted by January 31, 2020.
More information on the contest is available online at www.legis.state.pa.us/talk-to-your-state-senator/.
I had the privilege of working with an outstanding team while serving lunch to students at Hempfield High School! I was at Hempfield to celebrate National School Lunch Week.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month
Bullying affects approximately one out of every four students in the U.S., and this behavior can have long-lasting negative impacts on children. October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month in order to raise awareness of ways to keep children safe.
Additional information about how to stop bullying is available here.
Grants Available to Improve Efficiency of Farms, Small Businesses
The Department of Environmental Protection is urging farmers and small business owners to learn more about the Small Business Advantage Grant program. The application period for the program is open now, and grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
The program provides matching grants of up to $7,000 toward energy efficiency improvements on systems such as lighting, heating, cooling, as well as building insulation projects.
The program also provides assistance for projects on farms to reduce pollution and preserve our natural resources. Applications and more information are available here.