Capitol Roundup: Wolf touts administration’s efforts on education

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Capitol Roundup -

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf this week joined the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Philadelphia to highlight Pennsylvania’s significant progress and investments in education to reverse years of cuts.

“My administration is laser-focused on improving education at all levels and investing in our schools and our children is my top priority,” Wolf said. “We have fully restored education funding cut during the previous administration, ensured students are ready for college or to start their career, and provided unprecedented support for high-quality pre-k programs so young children can start developing strong reading skills needed for success in school and beyond.”

This year, the governor secured $30 million for his first-of-its-kind workforce development initiative, PAsmart. Funded through competitive grants, PAsmart will help to increase classes in math, technology, science and information technology, as well as invest in skills training through expanded apprenticeships.

“Not every child in Pennsylvania will go to a four-year college, but every child needs the skills to compete for a good job,” Wolf said. “With PAsmart, we are investing in a well-educated, highly-trained and skilled workforce that is ready for the in-demand fields that new or expanding businesses need in Pennsylvania.”

Over the past three years, the Wolf Administration has:

• Increased the number of children able to attend pre-kindergarten by 60 percent.

• Fully restored the $1 billion education cut made in the previous administration that that led to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and program cuts.

• Enacted a fair funding formula that provides equitable, fair funding for all school districts.

• Established standards for computer science education in all Pennsylvania schools, joining fewer than a dozen states to endorse such standards.

• Advanced Pennsylvania to third in the nation in the number of nationally-recognized STEM ecosystems and made the commonwealth the fifth-largest producer of STEM graduates.

• Increased high school graduation rate to 86.1 percent, placing Pennsylvania above the national average.

• Increased the number of career and technical education (CTE) students earning industry-recognized credentials by 32.2 percent and increased the number of credentials earned by students enrolled in CTE programs by 28.4 percent.

• Expanded enrollment in AP courses by 10 percent.

• Reduced the length of PSSA tests by 20 percent, condensed the exam time frame from three weeks to two weeks and shifted it to later in the school year for students in grades three through eight.

• Created a task force to bring together officials, educators, parents, and students to talk to about ways to improve school safety and security.

Toomey meets with

SCOTUS nominee

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, this week issued a statement after meeting with Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

“Based on my review of his record and our conversation, it is clear to me that Judge Kavanaugh has the character, intellect, experience, and judicial philosophy to be an outstanding Supreme Court Justice,” Toomey said. “Judge Kavanaugh understands that the proper role of a judge is to apply neutrally the law, including the U.S. Constitution, as written, and not to decide cases based on personal or partisan policy preferences.”

Toomey went on to say he hopes his colleagues on both sides of the aisle will give Kavanaugh fair consideration so that Republicans and Democrats can work together to confirm “this highly qualified jurist.”

“I look forward to following Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and I intend to support his nomination when it comes to the Senate floor,” Toomey said.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, 53, to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

A former aide to President George W. Bush, Kavanaugh has served on the D.C. Circuit Court since 2006, bringing with him a long record of conservative jurisprudence.

Casey, Toomey urge DOD

to cut Russian energy use

A bipartisan group of senators, in a letter led by Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, and Bob Casey, D-Scranton, are urging the Department of Defense to buy less energy from Russia.

U.S. military bases in Europe currently utilize significant amounts of Russian-sourced energy, making them vulnerable to intentional supply disruptions by the Russian government. The reliance also undercuts U.S. efforts to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression in Europe.

The senators wrote as follows:

“We anticipate the Russian Federation will continue to use energy — electricity, natural gas, oil, and refined oil products — as a political weapon in Europe. Therefore, the United States must prepare to complete its various missions and deter any threats to our forces or allies irrespective of, or in opposition to, hostile Russian actions.”

The letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis follows up on a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act that required the DOD to reduce its reliance on Russian energy, and certify it can sustain operations in the event of a supply disruption. It goes on to request that Mattis provide strategic guidance as part of a long-term, comprehensive effort to accomplish these goals.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, this week also voted to ensure American troops serving in Europe are not forced to rely on Russia for their heating and energy needs. Barletta has long fought for this provision, which also gives preference to domestically-sourced fuels like coal and natural gas.

Barletta again backs

bill on tech education

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, has again supported legislation to close the skills gap and ensure Pennsylvania workers have the tools they need to fill high-skilled and in-demand jobs, a press release says.

Barletta, a long-time supporter of career and technical education (CTE) and a co-sponsor of the bill, voted for the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bill, which passed the House unanimously by voice vote, now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

“When I’m visiting with local job creators back in Pennsylvania, I always hear that they have good-paying, family-sustaining jobs available, but can’t find workers to fill them,” Barletta said in the release. “This bill will ensure Pennsylvania workers have the skills necessary to fill these jobs, support their families, and contribute to our growing economy.”

CTE programs offer students the opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to compete for jobs in a broad range of fields, such as health care and technology. However, because federal law has not been updated in more than a decade, U.S. workforce development programs no longer reflect the challenges facing students and workers. H.R. 2353 improves how government invests in the American workforce and strengthens American competitiveness.

Capitol Roundup
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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.