Posts by kate atkins

PA School Leaders Come to Harrisburg

Ron Williams, Pottstown School BoardSchool district and county officials from across Pennsylvania came to Harrisburg Tuesday with a message for state lawmakers: prioritize investments in our schools, county health services, and infrastructure over new tax cuts.

On Tax Day, a Call to Close Loopholes

I joined several volunteers around lunchtime Monday outside the Harrisburg Post Office to talk to people heading to mail their tax returns about the need for real tax reform in Pennsylvania that includes closing loopholes and improving accountability.

Loopholes and special tax breaks shift the cost of public services to families and other businesses. This approach costs all of us. When companies don’t pay, the rest of us pay more in the form of higher property taxes, underfunded schools, mounting college tuition and a weakened economy.

On Monday, we gathered a number of signatures for a petition calling on state policymakers to close loopholes. Check out the slideshow with some of the highlights.

Proposed Budget Does Little to Reverse Education Cuts

Total Pre-K-12 education funding in Pennsylvania will reach $10 billion under the Governor's proposed 2013-14 budget. Classroom funding inched up slightly from 2012-13 but remains well below 2010-11 funding levels.

Higher education funding is flat funded, locking in cuts made to public colleges and universities in 2011.

Click on the charts below to download PDF versions.

Lunch Is Served: Bucks Students Make a Tasty Case for Investing in Career Training

If the high school students were a little nervous as they prepared lunch Thursday for several Bucks County elected officials, they didn’t show it.

Not Exactly a Mahogany-paneled Corporate Boardroom

Montgomery County Budget ForumA hundred days after passage of the state budget, it is too soon to fully assess the impact of cuts to human services, Montgomery County's administrator for behavioral health and developmental disabilities told a group of 50 consumers and social service providers at a budget forum last week.

Still, Administrator Eric Goldstein told the forum at the Norristown Recovery and Education Center that he has concerns about the state's move toward block grants for human services funding. Unlike Bucks, Chester, and Delaware counties, Montgomery County did not apply to be part of this year’s new pilot block grant for the Human Services Development Fund.

Eric Goldstein was joined by speaker after speaker who testified to the importance of the modest dollars invested in prevention and community supports for people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.

The Human Cost of Eliminating General Assistance

Since the Great Depression, Pennsylvania has had a General Assistance (GA) program — a small cash benefit that serves as a bridge to self-sufficiency for the temporarily disabled and for victims of domestic violence and addicts seeking help to turn their lives around.

Since the Great Depression. Until this past weekend.

This year’s budget ended Pennsylvania’s modest benefit for 68,000 people, effective August 1. At $205 per month, nobody was getting rich from the program. Here is a sample of who is using General Assistance and why:

Don't Want to Give Gas Drillers a Free Pass? Sign Our Letter to Lawmakers

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Any doubt about the level of public concern over Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania should be put to rest by the turnout at a series of citizens hearings over the past six weeks. Hundreds came out to testify about the impacts of drilling in their communities at hearings held by the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission in Williamsport, Towanda, Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

Umbrellas on a Sunny Day

On a recent sunny lunch hour, several dozen advocates for children and working families opened umbrellas overhead as they gathered outside Philadelphia City Hall. Not because of anything in the weather forecast, but to send a message to lawmakers in Harrisburg that when it comes to the state's finances, it is still raining in Pennsylvania.

Advocates Call for Better Budget at Reading Rally

About 100 Reading area residents rallied outside the Berks County Services Center Wednesday to call on lawmakers to close tax loopholes and end special tax breaks before making deep cuts to schools, colleges, and services for people with disabilities.

The event, sponsored by Better Choices for Pennsylvania and the CLEAR Coalition, featured Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress as emcee. Keystone Progress put together a short video to highlight the best parts of the event.

In DelCo, a Success Story that Raises Big Questions About Budget Priorities

Advocates, educators and parents delivered a message to Harrisburg Wednesday from the steps of the Delaware County Courthouse some 95 miles away: Don’t enact a state budget that will do real harm to working people and families in our communities.

Halfway through the press conference, a tall, broad-shouldered man named Wilson Bryant, who had been standing all the way in the back, head and shoulders above the crowd, walked to the front.  He said he didn’t have a speech prepared but wanted to testify about his personal story.  He had become seriously ill, he said, and, without health insurance, had lost his home and with it his sense of hope.