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Category Archives: Education

Career and Technical Education Needs More State Funding

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s career and technical education centers, or CTCs, need additional funding in the next state budget, according to a new report.

There are 74 CTCs in the state, preparing some 55,000 high school students to enter a variety of fields as soon as they graduate. Last year, the state boosted funding for the centers by $10 million, the first increase in nearly a decade.

Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children – the group that released the report – says raising the state subsidy was a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

“That is really about 8 percent of overall funding, and 2 percent of funding is from the federal government,” says King. “So, 90 percent of the cost to send students to CTCs falls directly on school districts.”

The report calls on state policymakers to include an additional $10 million investment in CTCs as part of the 2019-to-2020 state budget.

King points out that the demand for graduates with backgrounds in career and technical education is growing.

“It prepares students for a range of in-demand jobs that can offer pathways to careers, like new media or health care or construction, in the manufacturing sector or even in law,” says King.

Despite the demand, there are currently 13 school districts in the state that don’t offer career and technical education options.

King adds that basic education funding needs to increase by some $400 million in the coming state budget. So, increasing funding for CTCs also gives school districts more flexibility.

“It’s really relieving the burden on the back end for the school districts,” says King. “So, it frees up some money on the basic education side that they can put elsewhere in their budgets.”

Gov. Tom Wolf is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address on February 5.

Wolf Administration Preparing Pennsylvania’s Students for Success through Agricultural Education

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Administration releases ag education report; announces formation of Commission for Ag Education Excellence​

Harrisburg, PA – In recognition of the growing need for a workforce prepared to fill nearly 75,000 job vacancies in the agriculture and food industries over the next decade, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture (PDA) and Education (PDE) yesterday unveiled their comprehensive agricultural education report for schools across the commonwealth.

“The Wolf Administration believes in prioritizing jobs that pay and schools that teach, and this report represents the intersection of those two priorities,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Ensuring that Pennsylvania’s students have access to high-quality agricultural education programs that foster the skills necessary for success will lay the groundwork for a talented, well-prepared workforce in the years to come.”

The report announcement was accompanied by the creation of a 15-member Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence. The commission will operate under the concurrent authority of PDA and PDE, and is charged with assisting in the development of a statewide plan for agricultural education and coordinating the implementation of related programming with both departments.

“Farming isn’t the only agriculture-related career pathway,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “Other careers include engineering and design, law, finance, environmental planning, and sales – at its heart, agriculture education is STEM education. Promoting agriculture education is an investment in the next generation of leaders of Pennsylvania’s top industry.”

In his 2018-19 budget, Governor Wolf proposed PAsmart – a first-of-its-kind workforce development proposal to invest $50 million for STEM and computer science education, support hands-on technical education programs, and encourage employers and schools to work together to help students get the skills employers need. The proposal provides for an additional $10 million investment in career readiness programs, allowing high school students to earn both a diploma and post-secondary credentials and helping non-traditional students and workers earn post-secondary credits and credentials aligned to in-demand careers.

Agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing an aging workforce. Attrition, growing demand for certain products, and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit in a number of career paths over the next decade. Of those anticipated vacancies, the department has identified the 25 most in-demand occupations, which span sectors like production agriculture; animal health and veterinary services; landscaping; food manufacturing, forestry, lumber and wood products; and conservation and natural resources.

PA Council on the Arts and PA Turnpike Commission Unveil Student-Created Artwork at King of Prussia Turnpike Service Plaza

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King of Prussia, PA – Today, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) unveiled a new artwork, designed and created by students at Radnor High School. This is the fourth art piece created through Art Sparks, a partnership between the PCA’s Arts in education residency program and the PTC. Art Sparks was created to bring student-created artwork to service plazas across the PTC’s 550-mile system.

Coordinated through the PCA’s regional Arts in Education partner, the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, students worked with teaching artist, Baily Cypress, and art teachers, Erik Barrett and Tracey Dean, to design and create the artwork. The finished mixed media mosaic, titled “the Gateway to the Main Line,” features 17 individual mosaics. Each mosaic depicts a landmark selected by the students based on its community, historic or aesthetic merit.

“Art Sparks presents students with the rare opportunity to create permanent artwork for public display,” said Karl Blischke, PCA executive director. “Not only did this experience help you grow as artists, but you’ve commendably highlighted your community’s many assets and landmarks for Turnpike travelers. I applaud you all for bringing this impressive installation to life.”

The unveiling event, which took place at the King of Prussia Service Plaza, drew individuals from the community to help celebrate, including students, families and local and state officials. “It’s amazing how art brings people together,” commented PTC CEO Mark Compton, who shared remarks at the event. “This project proves how young people can use their imaginations, work together and create something beautiful that motivates others. This piece, which now has a home at the King of Prussia Service Plaza, shows the world what this region has to offer.”

Art Sparks is a partnership between the PTC and the PCA. The program pairs K-12 art students and teaching artists from the PCA’s Arts in Education roster with the goal to install a local, student-created artwork in every service plaza, system-wide, over the next five to eight years. Schools near each respective service plaza host 20-day teaching artist residencies led by a local PCA teaching artist. Students work with the artist and members of the community to create artwork that reflects the region. For more information on Art Sparks, visit http://www.paturnpike.com/artsparks or http://www.arts.pa.gov/Pages/Art-Sparks.aspx.

Education Secretary Rivera to Serve on National Safe Schools Steering Committee

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Harrisburg, PA – Building upon the Wolf Administration’s commitment to safe schools and classrooms, Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera is joining other states’ education officials on the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) newly formed School Safety Steering Committee.

“We need to work together with a holistic approach to keep our schools safe, so children and teachers can focus on learning in the classroom,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Secretary Rivera’s service on the CCSSO steering committee will bring the Pennsylvania perspective to this national conversation on school safety”

“Not only does he bring decades of experience in classrooms and school buildings, he will share the work Pennsylvania’s Task Force has undertaken in communities across the commonwealth.”

Secretary Rivera is one of twelve members as part of a national effort to collaborate on best practices and innovative measures to work towards creating a safe and supportive learning environment for students.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring school safety, but as educators and leaders we need to take a comprehensive look at the measures schools can thoughtfully implement to improve the culture in their hallways, classrooms and athletic fields where everyone feels valued, and every student has their social and emotional needs met,” said Secretary Rivera.

The School Safety Steering Committee will determine what guidance or support CCSSO will offer to numerous states around school safety. In addition, the steering committee also will inform how CCSSO will continue to support states in efforts to prevent violence from ever taking place by fostering safe, supportive schools that address the emotional well-being of all children.

CCSSO is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education. Its mission is to create a more equitable education system for all children, and provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues.

Earlier this year, Governor Wolf launched the state School Safety Task Force that brings together government officials, statewide education organizations, law enforcement, community members, school officials to talk about ways to improve school safety and security.

Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force Calls for Strengthening Security, More Mental Health Services, Community Connections

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Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today announced the common themes that will be addressed in an upcoming report from the Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force, created by Gov. Wolf and the Auditor General in February after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. This announcement comes following the passage of Gov. Wolf’s 2018-19 bi-partisan budget, which includes $60 million for a School Safety Fund to strengthen security and mental health services in schools.

Appointed by the governor, the task force held a series of six regional roundtables at schools from April through June to listen to students, parents, school officials, school nurses and other health care professionals, law enforcement, education organizations and community members about their ideas to improve safety and security.

“I commend the work of all those who participated in the task force – especially the students – for providing their incredible perspectives,” said Governor Wolf. “It was clear in every region of the state that keeping our schools safe requires a holistic approach focused on students and our communities so that our classrooms can be focused on learning.

“While I will continue to push for progress on gun safety reform, including universal background checks and keeping guns from dangerous individuals, this work is important to ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect our students and teachers.”

“In the last few months, it’s been my privilege to travel the state meeting students who are deeply invested in each other’s safety,” said Auditor General DePasquale. “This generation of students is smart, informed, and eager to positively impact the world around them. It’s become clear to me during these discussions that each school has its own unique set of challenges – but some major themes remain consistent across the state. Our regional conversations helped identify those themes; now it’s time to take what we learned and turn it into action.”

Based on the expertise and opinions shared during the regional roundtables and hundreds of comments provided through an online feedback form, the task force identified multiple themes, including recommendations, barriers and opportunities. The overarching themes to strengthen school security heard by the task force include:

  • Improved communication and information sharing
  • Enhanced social and emotional learning
  • Increased access to mental health services, including more health professionals in schools
  • Building community connections
  • Effectively integrating law enforcement and school resource officers
  • Providing guidance on establishing priorities for schools
  • Providing schools with more resources

Read the full content of the initial findings here.

Other members of the task force included vice-chairs Derin Myers, Acting Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency; Mark DiRocco, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Bonita Allen, President of the Pennsylvania Parent Teacher Association; Judy Morgitan, Immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners; and Dolores McCracken, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Each meeting included over 40 community participants invited by the vice-chairs to create a discussion focused on the needs of that region.

Several members of the Wolf Administration provided support to the task force, including Homeland Security Director Marcus Brown, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, Acting State Police Commissioner Colonel Robert Evanchick, and Human Services, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Deputy Secretary Lynn Kovich.

The task force plans to release its final report before the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The 2018-19 budget, which the governor signed last week, includes the newly created School Safety Fund, a $60 million investment to help individual school districts meet their local needs by funding a wide variety of programs aimed to keep students and teachers safe.

The funding will be awarded to schools in the form of grants to cover numerous expenses and programs, including physical building upgrades, security equipment, violence prevention education programs, teacher training, alternative education programs, and special and individualized mentoring programs.

Also included is a new program that will allow the Pennsylvania State Police to create three regional Risk and Vulnerability Teams to help schools undergo security and safety assessments.

And, the state will be creating a confidential, statewide tip line that will allow students and teachers to anonymously report potentially dangerous situations or individuals that involve schools.

“This new money aligns with the themes we heard during the task force and will help address the needs of school districts by providing an immediate infusion of funds, so our schools can increase security while creating programs that meet the safety needs of their schools and communities,” Gov. Wolf said.

Education Secretary: State Budget Continues Strong Investments in Students, Job Training

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Harrisburg, PA – State Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera today outlined the investments in education championed by Governor Tom Wolf in the 2018-19 budget and over the last four years that are helping Pennsylvania’s students by restoring education funding, increasing enrollment in kindergarten and pre-k, bolstering graduation rates, and training more students for careers.
“Over the past four years, Governor Wolf has fought hard to reinvest in Pennsylvania’s schools,” Rivera said. “With this increased support, students across Pennsylvania are now learning in smaller classes, with more teachers, and from new and innovative programs developed by their schools.”
Rivera noted that in this year’s budget, Governor Wolf secured an additional $100 million in basic education funding, bringing the total increase over four years to more than $538 million that will be distributed using the fair funding formula enacted by the Wolf Administration in 2016. The formula provides for equitable funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.
Secretary Rivera added that the 2018-19 budget also lays out a plan to re-imagine how the commonwealth provides workforce training, as well as advancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
The budget strengthens the state’s investment in workforce development and job training with a $10 million increase for secondary CTE programs and $30 million to launch the governor’s PAsmart initiative. PAsmart is a first-of-its-kind investment to align and strengthen workforce efforts at multiple state agencies by providing $20 for the fast-growing fields of STEM and computer science education and $10 million to expand apprenticeships and job training.
“By connecting business and industry leaders with educators in our classrooms we ensure our students are learning the skills that are in demand by Pennsylvania employers, specifically STEM and computer science professions,” said Rivera. “In today’s job market, it is more critical than ever that students leave high school with strong academic and technical skills that prepare them for success in college, career and community.”
Pennsylvania has more than 16,000 approved career and technical education programs, and over the past three years the number of CTE students earning industry-recognized credentials has increased by 32.2 percent and the number of credentials earned by students enrolled in CTE programs has increased by 28.4 percent.
The demand for STEM-trained workers also continues to grow, including an estimated 300,000 STEM related jobs available in Pennsylvania in 2018. The commonwealth is a national leader in STEM education, producing the fifth highest number of STEM graduates and is home to second highest number of nationally-recognized STEM ecosystems.
In addition to the PAsmart initiative, the 2018-19 budget includes increases of:
·         $42.5 million for higher education;
·         $15 million for special education;
·         $25 million for pre-school and Head Start programs; and
·         $21.6 million to support early intervention services.
Since Governor Wolf took office, $115 million has been invested in the Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs.
The budget also maintains $1 million in grant funding for It’s on Us PA, launched by the Wolf Administration in 2016, to combat campus sexual violence.
The budget also invests more than $61.4 million for school and community safety, including a $1.4 million increase for the Safe Schools Initiative, which provides grants to schools, police departments, and municipalities to support safer schools.
“This year’s investments further demonstrate the Wolf Administration’s commitment to investing in Pennsylvania’s schools and ensuring students are college and career ready when they graduate,” he added.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs please visit the Department of Education’s website at www.education.pa.gov