In this Update:
Governor Shapiro Fails to Deliver on Promises
After Senate Republicans worked diligently to pass a bipartisan state budget, Gov. Josh Shapiro went back on one of his priority campaign commitments to provide school choice opportunities. He now says he will veto that provision within the budget we worked to pass. The governor has decided to betray the good faith agreement reached with legislative leaders, leaving an estimated quarter-million children in failing schools across Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) scholarship program would offer grants to low-income families with children in schools ranked in the bottom 15% for test scores and academic performance. Parents could use the funds for private school tuition, tutoring and other services.
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves the opportunity for a quality education, which is why the budget plan passed by the Senate last week expanded educational programs and fully funded the governor’s requested amount for basic education for school districts at historic levels.
The Senate will continue working on finalizing components of the budget that more closely resemble the deal Governor Shapiro originally agreed to and helped craft. My full statement on the current state of the budget is available here.
Senate Works to Reunite Missing Children with Their Families
Last week, the Senate approved legislation I authored with my colleague Senator Camera Bartolotta to provide parents and law enforcement with a new tool to help identify and return missing children.
Senate Bill 460, also known as the Child Reunification Act, would provide parents and guardians with free identification kits that include fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and other information to help identify the child in case of an emergency.
The bill would require school districts to distribute the kits to all first graders at no cost to parents. To protect the personal information of children and families, the information would be stored securely by parents and would not be entered into any state or national database. More information about our bill is available here.
Bill to Expand College, Job Training Opportunities Passes Senate
Each year, billions in available student financial aid goes unclaimed. Last week, the Senate approved a bill I sponsored to help more state residents make informed decisions about pursuing college and job training programs.
Senate Bill 750 would require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal, state and school financial aid programs. Families who choose not to complete the application could opt out on a form provided to parents or guardians.
This important measure will help to train more young Pennsylvanians for family-sustaining careers that will anchor them in the commonwealth. When they put their roots down here, our state will benefit economically and attract more employers drawn by the skilled workforce. It furthers the Senate Republican priority of empowering Pennsylvania families through education empowerment and access. More details about my bill are available here.
Helping Children of National Guard and Reserve Members Adjust to New Schools
Legislation that will reduce the educational challenges faced by children of National Guard and Reserve members was unanimously approved by the Senate.
Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states. Senate Bill 209 would give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact.
The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities, facilitating enrollment and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.
Senate Protects Sexually Exploited Children, Human Trafficking Victims
The Senate approved legislation to ensure that sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims always have full access to appropriate services and support.
Under current Pennsylvania law, any minor who is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking, unless their purchaser is charged as a trafficker.
Senate Bill 44 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to victim services. Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.
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