State Reduces Mandated Testing for Students
In a win for Pennsylvania students, families and educators, mandated tests that are part of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) will be reduced by 20 percent for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year. This will allow teachers to better instruct their students in specific subjects rather than increasing the amount of classroom time preparing for mandated exams.
Specifically, the state Department of Education is removing two sections – one in math, one in English/language arts – and additional questions from the science section, which could eliminate up to two full testing days for some schools.
This change impacts students and teachers in grades three through eight, who will now spend an average of 20 percent less time on statewide testing.
In similar efforts, the House continues to look at all facets of education to ensure a quality, affordable education for Pennsylvania families. Within the past year, the House has spearheaded legislation to further invest in public schools, ensure greater effectiveness and accountability with the PSSA, bring needed reforms to charter schools, and enhance career and technical education.
Drug Forums Set for September
To educate parents and children about the opioid epidemic devastating communities across Columbia County, I have organized two drug forums, intended for both children and adults, to be led by medical professionals and local experts.
The forums will be held in the Berwick High School Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 6-8 p.m. and in the Bloomsburg High School Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 6-8 p.m.
The forums will provide information about drug abuse, the opioid crisis and ways to avoid drug addiction. Speakers will include Jeremy Reese, Columbia County coroner; Dr. William Rakauskas; Dr. Joseph Valdez; Jason Hoch, pharmacist with Geisinger-Bloomsburg; and a representative from a local rehabilitation facility.
The forums are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. For more information, call my district offices at (570) 759-8734 or (570) 387-0246.
Save for College with State 529 Plan
For families looking to plan for higher education, the Pennsylvania Treasury offers the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), in which growth is tied to the rate of college tuition inflation, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which offers 15 investment options by The Vanguard Group.
Contributions to PA 529 plans are deductible from Pennsylvania income taxes, grow tax free, and, when used for qualified educational expenses, are federal and state tax exempt. Both plans provide flexibility to pay for higher education expenses at most higher education institutions across the country.
The PA 529 GSP is designed to enable your savings to help keep pace with the rising costs of higher education. The PA 529 GSP contributions grow at the rate of tuition inflation but are subject to fees and premiums.
The PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) is offering free enrollment – a $50 savings – for all new accounts opened before Sept. 30, at PA529.com. Use code MILLARD or “SUMMER2017” when prompted.
Pennsylvania also offers a second 529 plan, the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options from The Vanguard Group. No enrollment fee is charged for the PA 529 IP.
Families may also enter for a chance to win $529 to get started at PA529.com/contest until Sept. 30.
$1 Fishing Licenses to be Offered on Labor Day
To encourage the love of fishing, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is offering two special fishing opportunities to fish on Labor Day, Sept. 4.
The first is a $1 license for adult residents and non-residents good for Labor Day only.
The second opportunity is the Mentored Youth Panfish Day. This provides youth anglers, who have obtained a free mentored youth permit or have purchased a voluntary youth license, an opportunity to fish on 19 Panfish Enhancement lakes. Panfish include bluegill, pumpkinseed and redear sunfish, which are collectively called sunfish; black and white crappies; and yellow perch.
The 19 lakes will be open to all anglers all day, but only mentored youth participants (adults and kids) may keep fish under the minimum size. The closest Panfish Enhancement lake is Lake Chillisquaque in Montour County. More information is available here.
To participate in the mentored youth program, adult anglers (16 years or older) must have a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and be accompanied by a youth. Accompanying youth anglers must have either a free PFBC-issued permit or a purchase a voluntary youth fishing license. Both permits and licenses can be obtained at www.GoneFishingPA.com.
Fire, EMS Grant Program to Open Sept. 6
Fire companies and ambulance services throughout Pennsylvania are encouraged to apply for this year’s grant program from the Office of State Fire Commissioner. The application period will open on Sept. 6 and close on Oct. 20.
Grants may be used for construction or renovation of a unit’s station, the purchase or repair of equipment, training or debt reduction. The maximum grant amount is $15,000 for fire companies and $10,000 for volunteer ambulance services. Career ambulance companies can apply for the grants, so long as they are designated as a municipality’s primary EMS provider.
A total of $30 million will be awarded through the program, which is funded through state gaming proceeds.
For more information about the program, click here.
PennDOT Reminds Motorists to Steer Clear
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reminds motorists when they come upon an incident along the side of the road that involves an emergency responder, to remember to steer clear.
Pennsylvania’s Steer Clear law, which went into effect Sept. 8, 2006, requires motorists to move into a lane that is not adjacent to an emergency response area. An emergency response area is an area on or near a road where services are being provided by emergency responders including law enforcement, tow truck operators, PennDOT vehicles and other emergency personnel.
If passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal, or unsafe, motorists must slow down to pass at a “careful and prudent” speed.
In cases where law enforcement may not be present, the law allows road workers and emergency responders to report violations by motorists. Law enforcement may issue citations based on these reports.
If convicted of a first offense of violating the Steer Clear law, you will be required to pay at least a fine of not more than $250. If your violation results in bodily injury to or death of an emergency service responder, you will also lose your license for six months to a year and pay a fine up to $10,000.
If you are involved in a crash that results in injury or major damage to the vehicle, contact 911 for police, and if needed, fire and ambulance response. If your vehicle becomes disabled, contact 911 for police assistance, turn on your four-way flashers or tie a flag to indicate assistance is needed.
For more information about this and other traffic safety topics, visit www.penndot.gov/safety or call 1-877-723-6830.
• The Bloomsburg Art Walk will be held on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 10 a.m.
• AGAPE Palooza will be held at Bloomsburg Town Park on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Monthly Radio Address: Thursday, Aug. 31, at 8:30 a.m. on WHLM 94.7 FM.
• Offices will be closed on Monday, Sept. 4, for Labor Day.
• A representative from the VA will be in the Bloomsburg district office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5. By appointment only. Call 570-387-0246 to make an appointment.
• A Drug Forum will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Berwick High School from 6-8 p.m.
• A Drug Forum will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Bloomsburg High School from 6-8 p.m.
• A representative from Congressman Lou Barletta’s office will be in the Bloomsburg district office on Thursday, Sept. 14, from 1-3 p.m.
• The 162nd Annual Bloomsburg Fair will be held from Friday, Sept. 22, through Saturday, Sept. 30.