Education

New PA School Safety Funding On Track For March 2019

Aug 16, 2018
Dana DiFilippo / WHYY

Pennsylvania state lawmakers say they’re awaiting feedback from the state’s 500 school districts and 300 private school entities before they can disburse the first wave of funding to improve school safety. They expect to distribute the money by March 2019.

The funds are part of Act 44, a bipartisan bill signed into law in the months after the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 people.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Wolf administration is touting a new approach to coordinating with schools on the district level around the state.

Schell Games

High school chemistry lab can be a dangerous place. There’s potential for spilled chemicals, fires and broken glass. A Pittsburgh-developed virtual reality game aims to bring chemistry to life in a safer way.

 

HoloLAB Champions is set up as a vibrant, animated game show. Using two handheld controls, players pour liquid, scoop powder and read measurements – skills useful in a real chemistry lab.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The head of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will also lead a group within the agency that will administer $60 million for school safety funded in a new state budget package.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday tapped commission chairman Charles Ramsey to head up the new School Safety and Security Committee.

The panel is being asked to develop ways to protect teachers and students and will distribute the grants to districts and other entities.

Both photos by Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP challenger Scott Wagner have spent much of this month trying to paint one another as supporters of school funding cuts.

And both say the other camp is being misleading.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Mike McGrenehan thought he was headed for a life in the suburbs.

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, not far from the city limits, McGrenehan always figured he’d marry, have kids, and ship off to the open spaces of suburbia. The “McMansion push,” he called it.

He moved to Montgomery County when he and his wife first married, but it never quite felt like home.

“When we left, we were out on an island,” he said.

After a few years, they moved back to Northeast Philly, had three kids, but reached another turning point when their oldest turned five.

Gov. Wolf Calls For Drastic School Funding Shake-Up In Surprise Announcement

Jul 2, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf called for a major change to the way Pennsylvania funds schools Friday, advocating for the state to distribute its largest pot of school money in a way that would benefit the majority of students in the state, but would likely cause deep cuts in many districts.

During questions at a press conference in Philadelphia, Wolf said the state should push all basic education money through the formula it adopted two years ago.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Bill Strickland stepped down July 1 from his role as the CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation 50 years after he founded the craftsmen’s guild.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The annual report Kids Count shows the Commonwealth fares better than most by making gains in education, but continues to show poor numbers in economic well-being.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania is starting a program proposed by state Treasurer Joe Torsella to provide college savings accounts for newborns, beginning with a $100 grant.

Torsella said Monday the program will be open to any child starting next year who is a Pennsylvania resident at birth or adopted by a Pennsylvania family. Parents will be notified about the account set up for them.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the program into law Friday.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Woodland Hills School District has ranked among the top 10 districts nationwide for elementary school suspensions. Two years ago, several district and school leaders were sued by former students for incidents of alleged abuse at the hands of a former school police officer and a former high school principal.

Jakob Lazzaro / 90.5 WESA

An American flag education center is opening in downtown Pittsburgh. 

Matt Rourke / AP

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives didn't look very far to find a new member of the board for the system of state-owned universities: he appointed himself.

Speaker Mike Turzai said Monday that he was honored to join the 20-member Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors.

The Allegheny County Republican says he wants to help ensure the schools are preparing students for jobs that are available and to help resist proposals to increase tuition, room or board.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

President Donald Trump rescinded his invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles this week after reports suggested only about 10 players of the 90-member, Super Bowl-winning squad were planning to attend. The President tied the decision to past criticism of players who protested police brutality and harsh treatment of African Americans by kneeling during the "National Anthem."

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Pennsylvania high school students may soon be facing a new test on civics knowledge, but they won't have to pass it in order to graduate.

The House on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly for a bill that mandates a locally developed test of U.S. history, government and civics.

Those who get a perfect score will qualify for a certificate developed by the state Education Department.

Schools will have to report how many students were deemed to have passed the test.

Supporters say there's an alarming lack of civics knowledge among American adults.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the commonwealth’s budget deadline a month away, negotiations haven’t begun in earnest.

But talks are ongoing behind the scenes—and that means a familiar tug-of-war between Democrats trying to bolster state programs, and Republicans determined to limit spending.

Centerpieces of Gov. Tom Wolf’s February budget proposal included funding hikes for education and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, plus new cash from a natural gas severance tax and fees for state police coverage.

AP

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is digging into its reserves to keep money flowing into a grant program for Pennsylvania college students in the coming fiscal year.

However, they’re warning this could mean little or no money for the effort the following year.

PHEAA manages hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and commercial student loans, and pumps some of the revenue from it into the grant program.

But money is tight right now, so the group had planned to cut its $100 million contribution in half.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Members of a group working to address challenges faced by black girls told the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education that sexual harassment is a pervasive issue within the district.

Ted S. Warren / AP

A director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been chosen as the new chancellor of Pennsylvania's 14 state universities.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education announced Monday that Daniel Greenstein will assume leadership of the system on Sept. 4.

Greenstein has worked with the Gates Foundation for the past six years and was previously a top administrator in the University of California system.

Provided Photo / Literacy Pittsburgh

Next week, Nate Bashioum will make a long-awaited walk across a stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from Carlow University.

Katie Meyer / AP

After commissioning an independent study on how to fix Pennsylvania’s higher education system, House and Senate lawmakers held a joint hearing Monday to debate which solutions are actually viable.

Fundamental differences remain.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

During the school week, Fox Chapel High School sophomore Ben Peterson is usually the first in his family to wake up. By 6:15 a.m., the 16-year-old is downstairs pouring a bowl of cereal. He sits in the dark at the breakfast nook checking soccer scores on his cellphone.

Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ

Robots designed by teams of teens from 53 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania will compete in a two-day, gladiator-style tournament starting Friday.

The aim of the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ competition, which is being hosted at California University of Pennsylvania, is to get high schoolers to think creatively and collaboratively, while also exposing them to careers in manufacturing.

BotsIQ executive director Michel Conklin said the robots are judged on a variety of criteria.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Remake Learning began in Pittsburgh 10 years ago to help adults understand how the digital age has changed education and how to best prepare kids for the future.

Courtesy Photo

Several Fayette County students are in Washington D.C. this week to showcase projects they have been working on in their school’s “Fab Lab.”

PA District Arms Teachers With Rocks In Case Of School Shooter

Mar 24, 2018
Google Maps

A rural school district in eastern Pennsylvania is arming teachers and students with buckets of rocks as a last resort should an armed intruder burst in, the superintendent said Friday.

Every classroom in the district about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia has a 5-gallon bucket of river stones, said Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel.

"We always strive to find new ways to keep our students safe," Helsel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, adding that the rocks are one small part of the district's overall security plan.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Shouts of surprise and joy erupted Friday at noon from graduating students at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

Mike Stewart / AP

The National Rifle Association has awarded more than $237,000 in grants to 25 Pennsylvania schools in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The NRA Foundation grants went to school programs including the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and rifle teams. More than 80 percent of the grants were provided as equipment rather than cash.

Only a fraction of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts received awards between 2010 and 2016.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Evergreens, hemlocks and lush rhododendrons make the grounds around Fallingwater a remarkable setting even in the depths of winter. Located in the Laurel Highlands and suspended over a waterfall, it’s one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most recognizable structures.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers and support staff are reviewing a summary of proposed changes to their collective bargaining contract including pay raises, new health care benefits, changes to teacher scheduling and sick leave. 

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