Jun. 27, 2024

Finding New Ways to Deliver Education

Henry Ford coined the phrase “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” 

He was likely discussing innovations in the automotive industry, but his logic can apply to just about every aspect of life. It has specific meaning in Pennsylvania laws, particularly in how education is delivered to our young people. Sometimes, the General Assembly needs to make certain that current policies nurture innovation.

This is why I voted in favor of House Bill 2386, which reinstates and modernizes an existing grant program available for shared services to also include instructional programs.

There are 500 school districts across Pennsylvania, and for the most part they each operate independently of each other.

Consider a school district that has growing interest in offering additional Advanced Placement, or AP, classes. Perhaps the high school only offers AP biology, but more and more students have a desire to take AP chemistry. However, the existing class load amongst science teachers is already stretched thin.

It pains me to think of a young person having a sincere desire to expand their knowledge but be held back by bureaucracy. What if there was a way to make AP chemistry available without overburdening current operations?

Current law allows for school districts to seek state grants to examine whether a partnership would work with a nearby school district for administrative resources and personnel. House Bill 2386 expands the scope of these shared services to also include instructional partnerships. 

In the above example, two or more school districts could seek a grant to begin planning a shared AP class schedule, each providing learning opportunities to students from other districts.

This is obviously an important bill for rural school districts, whose student population sizes don’t always warrant an expansive list of elective course offerings despite student interest or how a course may address a workforce need. 

The bill goes one step further by also making grants available for school districts to study the feasibility of consolidation or mergers. Often, schools that are experiencing a population decline need to downsize, but the upfront costs and barriers of even exploring consolidation or merging prohibits them from doing so. While the bill in no way mandates consolidations, it gives schools the tools and resources to explore the options available to them if they choose. 

House Bill 2386 was approved unanimously by the House Education Committee and, as of submission of this article, is awaiting action by the full House.

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Upgraded PA ABLE Website Highlights Program for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities- The Pennsylvania Treasury recently launched its redesigned PA ABLE Savings Program website

PA ABLE gives individuals with qualifying disabilities a tax-free way to save and invest without impacting important benefits. All federal benefits are protected, including Medical Assistance (Medicaid) and, with some limitations, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, as are many Pennsylvania state benefits.

The new website makes it easier for individuals to learn about the many benefits of PA ABLE, open a new account and access their existing PA ABLE account. It streamlines navigation and content, integrates frequently asked questions within relevant pages, and includes changes that make it easier and more convenient for account owners and prospective account owners to find the information they need about PA ABLE.

More than 9,000 PA ABLE accounts are currently open with over $120 million in assets.

To learn more, visit paable.gov or call 855-529-2253.

Happy Independence Day!! - Many of us enjoy celebrating our nation’s independence by watching public displays of fireworks, or by setting off our own. 

If you choose to set off your own fireworks, be smart, be careful and be considerate of your neighbors. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission offers the following safety tips for using fireworks

   • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
   • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, even sparklers.
   • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly. 
   • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
   • Never pick up or try to relight fireworks that have not fully ignited. 
   • Never use fireworks after consuming alcohol or other substances that impair judgement or the ability to act quickly. 

For details about the state’s fireworks laws, visit here.

PennDOT will close its driver license service centers on Thursday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website.    

Fish for Free on Independence Day! - On Thursday, July 4, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will host a Fish for Free day to allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on all Pennsylvania waterways. No license is required, but all other fishing regulations still apply. This is a great way to expose the next generation of anglers to the outdoors! More information about fishing in Pennsylvania is available at fishandboat.com.

PGC Invites Feedback from License-Buyers - The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is asking hunters to provide feedback on their antlerless deer license buying experience this summer.

License sales got underway this week, starting with three high-demand Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), including 2G, which has already sold out. As of Thursday, licenses are available in the remaining WMUs, but only for Pennsylvania residents. The goal of the change, according to PGC officials, was to reduce wait times for all license buyers.

To share your license-buying experience with the PGC, go to pgc.pa.gov and click on the red “Provide feedback on your antlerless deer license-buying experience” button. Hunters will be asked to respond to a few questions and will be offered the opportunity to provide any additional comments. Participation is confidential, as no identifying questions will be asked.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper