Focus on the Future: Early Childhood Education Roundtable in Harrisburg
As more of Pennsylvania’s children head back to school, on Friday, I travelled to Harrisburg to continue my conversations with state and local leaders about early learning opportunities in Pennsylvania to understand how we can ensure more of our youngest citizens get off to a good start in school and in life.
Whereas the week before I held a roundtable with leaders in Pottstown involved in the district’s pre-k readiness initiative (PEAK), this past Friday I met with leaders from across the state who are involved in implementing, overseeing and supporting early learning programs in the Commonwealth, including Head Start, Pre-K Counts, and Keystone Stars.
As was the case in Pottstown, leaders in Harrisburg voiced tremendous support for the programs and talked about the many ways that families and children have been helped by Pennsylvania’s investment in early learning. They emphasized that investments in early education and child care offer great value for the workforce of today, as well as the workforce of tomorrow, and that even in the face of tight budgets for families and the Commonwealth, they should be sustained. They also noted the need to support not just low-income families, but middle class families who also struggle to afford quality care and education for their young children.
An Afternoon in Tionesta
Monday afternoon I visited Tionesta to meet with the Commissioners and other local representatives about The Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act and Marcellus Shale.
I explained that although Marcellus Shale has the potential to create many jobs for our state, our history shows that we must proceed properly and ensure that appropriate safety and environmental concerns are addressed. I currently have two bills that address these concerns, and will introduce a third this September.
The citizens of Tionesta also expressed how important Secure Rural School funding is to Forest County. Almost half of Forest County is covered by the Allegheny National Forest which means they have a very small amount of taxable land. This has created a challenge for Forest County, and rural school districts across the County, in generating the appropriate level of revenue to fund their schools. The Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act works to address this problem by creating county payments to offset these shortfalls. I hope to address their concerns when the act comes up for re-authorization in 2012.
Two Days in Lawrence County
Earlier this week, I spent some time in Lawrence County. On Monday evening I wrapped up my day by joining local farmers and constituents at the Lawrence County Fair. As I walked through the fair, I was able to meet many of the dedicated farmers and youth involved in this annual summer tradition. I saw firsthand the variety of exhibits that showcase the ingenuity and ongoing growth of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. I was particularly impressed with the Mobile Ag Education Science Lab. This lab travels to schools across the state, educating students on the agriculture industry. By providing a hands on experience, children are making the important connection between agriculture and the food on their table.
On Tuesday, I visited Ellwood City to see the work they are doing with Appalachian Lighting Systems Inc. Appalachian Lighting is a local manufacturer of high-efficiency LED fixtures. Through the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ellwood City was able to increase their orders through Appalachian Lighting resulting in significant energy efficiency improvements for the Borough. This partnership is an impressive example of how these funds can be utilized to stimulate business, encourage cost saving improvements, and foster economic growth. My father visited Ellwood City often, and I know he too would be proud of Ellwood City and the great work they are doing.