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Category Archives: News

Workforce development news from Pennsylvania and across the U.S.

Two-thirds of Pa. high schools are falling short of state’s 2030 graduation goal


A third of Pennsylvania’s public schools that serve high school students met or exceeded the graduation rate goal that the state has set for them to achieve 12 years from now.

In the accountability plan that the state submitted to the federal government, it set a 92.4 percent as the minimum rate it wanted schools to reach by the year 2030.

Based on a review of those rates in the recently released Future Ready PA Index report, 230 of the 867 traditional public, charter and career and technical schools had four-year graduation rates that attained the state’s desired mark.

Thirty-six of the 86 high schools in eight southcentral counties – Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York – have met or exceeded that goal, a PennLive analysis of the report found.

The statewide average for that year was 86.6 percent. So how do schools of interest to you measure up? You can find out here in this searchable database that relies on graduation rate data from the state Department of Education.

Read more.

State court tentatively sets date for landmark Pa. school funding case


The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has tentatively scheduled a hearing in a landmark education funding lawsuit for the summer of 2020, according to a trial schedule released Thursday.

It took four years of legal battles for the plaintiffs to get to this point, but it appears this lawsuit will finally receive a trial on the merits.

In 2014, a group of districts and parents sued the state government, accusing it of underfunding public schools. The level of underfunding and the disparities among districts were so severe, they argued, that the legislature and the governor had violated the state constitution.

The state supreme court reversed decades of precedent in late 2017 when it declared that the courts could get involved in this issue. Through the following year, the Commonwealth Court waded through a series of preliminary objections filed by Republican legislative leaders, ultimately deciding that the case should go to a full trial.

Absent another delay or surprise dismissal, the two sides will present their cases in the summer of 2020. Even after the Commonwealth Court hands down its decision, the losing side will likely appeal to the State Supreme Court, which could stretch the case well into the early part of the next decade.

The stakes are high, though. A win by the plaintiffs could unleash more money for public schools and reshape the way Harrisburg doles out education dollars.

Republican lawmakers say they’ve addressed a lot of the equity concerns raised by the plaintiffs by enacting a new state funding formula that allocates dollars based on factors such as student poverty and […]

Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus could create hundreds of jobs


Hundreds of new jobs could be coming to a vacant swath of land next to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Calling the land “one of Pennsylvania’s marquee development sites,” airport officials stood alongside other local leaders during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning for the development, called the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus.

The land, nestled between Interstate 376 and the world headquarters for Dick’s Sporting Goods, contains 195 acres to the west of the airport terminal.

The open land, which has 1.4 million square feet ready for development, will include a mix of office space, research and development laboratories, and industrial manufacturing, as well as a “town center” that will feature restaurants, retail and other commercial businesses.

Long-range plans call for the Innovation Campus to be connected to the airport terminal.

The three-phase construction plan will include 16 pad-ready sites available by 2023, including three sites that are currently being primed for development. Those sites will come completely equipped for development, with utility hookups and permits already in place.

Full development of the site is expected to take about a decade, with construction of the first building taking place in about two to three years.

Dennis Davin, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, one of several officials to speak at the groundbreaking ceremony, called the Innovation Campus a “big, big deal” for the region.

“This is something we think, I think, can be transformational,” he said, adding that the development is “yet another signal to the domestic and international business community that Pittsburgh is open for business.”

The location of the Innovation Campus is […]

Census: More workers on food stamps despite rise in median income

From (Allentown Morning Call)

Pennsylvania has experienced a steady uptick in new jobs but the pay that comes with a lot of them hasn’t been enough to push more workers out of poverty or stop them from seeking government aid to eat. That’s according to a newly released report from the U.S. Census Bureau report that examined poverty, income and food stamp rates. The report, released Thursday, offers a socio-economic snapshot into the households of American families from 2013 to 2017.

Read more.


38 PA Career and Tech Centers Receive Funding for Equipment Upgrades

     HARRISBURG, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is awarding nearly $1.2 million in competitive grants to 38 career and technical centers and area vocational technical education schools to purchase new equipment that will give students hands-on training for careers needed by local employers.

     “There is incredible demand for skilled workers in communities throughout Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “This equipment will help students get the training they need for good jobs in their local communities. This will further strengthen our talented and educated workforce and continue to bring jobs to Pennsylvania while making our economy stronger.”

     The maximum grant allowed under the program is $50,000, and each grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar from a local source which could include local school funds or contributions from businesses and industry partners.

     “To prepare students for the 21st century jobs that are driving the Pennsylvania economy, schools need to offer students hands-on training on equipment that is consistent with industry standards,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “These grants, which require a local match, help institutions around the state train their students for the jobs that exist in their local community.”

     Investing in job training is a priority for Governor Wolf. In addition to these grants, the governor secured an additional $10 million for career and technical education in the 2018-19 state budget – the first increase in 10 years. The governor also launched PAsmart, a $30 million investment in science and technology education, apprenticeships and job training. Through competitive grants, PAsmart will help workers and students […]

PA needs to fully fund PHEAA grants (Opinion)


The Keystone State has traditionally been a strong advocate for higher education, especially in providing aid directly to students so they can choose the college or university that is the right fit for them and their education.

In my view, that has made our state more innovative and competitive, increasingly efficient, and a model for how to fuel economic and social development through support for higher education. In simpler terms, Pennsylvania is the national leader in funding higher education for students with financial need.

Fifty-five years ago, Pennsylvania’s executive and legislative branches created the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) as a vehicle to administer grant support to students with demonstrated financial need based on family income. From the beginning, students were able to choose whether to use the grant at a community college, a public four-year college, or a private higher education institution. Extending the aid to private institutions – which award 49 percent of college degrees in the state while receiving only 10 percent of state funding – is certainly an efficient use of resources as it limits the need for more funding at state universities. We have more than 90 private institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania to complement the public university system.

Another astute action was to make PHEAA a provider of student financial aid services nationally, including loan servicing and financial aid processing through American Education Services. PHEAA receives its revenues nationally, but the funds support Pennsylvania’s students after covering operating costs.

Since 2005-06, PHEAA has provided a multi-million […]

Teacher Pay: How Pennsylvania Ranks


How does teacher pay in Pennsylvania compare to salaries across the country?

Nationally, teachers were paid an average annual salary $60,483 in the 2017- 2018 school year, according to the most recent data available from the National Education Association. In Pennsylvania, the average salary was $67,398, ranking 9th among U.S. states.

In general, teachers in K-12 public schools are paid about 30 percent less than comparably educated U.S. workers, according to the Brookings Institute. Globally, U.S. teacher salaries lag far behind, even when compared to Finland, known for its meager teacher salaries. The Brookings Institute said that to match salaries in Finland would require a 10 percent raise for elementary school teachers, an 18 percent raise for middle school teachers and a 28 percent raise for high school teachers.

High-profile teacher strikes in a handful of states earlier this year could be a foreshadowing of issues in newly configured state legislatures in 2019. School funding and teacher pay drove at least 177 teachers to run for election in recent midterm elections, and at least 42 of them won, mostly in statehouse races.

While more teachers lost their elections than won, teachers still tout the impact their activism had on voters. Among those who won office was a high school social studies teacher in Oklahoma who joined his colleagues in a 10-day strike in April. The state’s average teacher pay is the third-lowest in the country, according to the NEA data.

Here’s how the states ranked:

  1. New York: $83,585
  2. California: $81,126
  3. Massachusetts: $79,710
  4. District of Columbia: $76,486
  5. Connecticut: $73,113
  6. New Jersey: $69,917
  7. Maryland: $69,761
  8. Alaska: $69,474
  9. Pennsylvania: $67,398
  10. Illinois: […]

Gov. Tom Wolf: Rising cost of turnpike tolls ‘driving business away’ from PA


The rising cost of tolls on the turnpike is “driving business away” from Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday morning.

“People using the turnpike are paying too much,” Wolf said during an appearance on KDKA Radio . “The turnpike really is driving business away.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has raised tolls 11 consecutive years . Motorists will pay about 6 percent more to drive the turnpike next year, whether they pay cash or use the E-ZPass system.

Toll rates will rise Jan. 6. Drivers paying cash and traveling between the Irwin and Pittsburgh interchanges will pay $2.25, up 15 cents, while those using E-ZPass will pay $1.38, up 8 cents.

The Turnpike Commission is expected to raise tolls rates every year until 2044 .

Under Act 44 , adopted in 2007, the Turnpike Commission is to make annual payments to PennDOT to fund non-turnpike highway and bridge projects and provide financial assistance to public transit systems. Through April, the commission has paid $6.1 billion to PennDOT.

“It turned out to be just burdensome for the turnpike and obviously for the people who use the turnpike,” Wolf said of Act 44. “It is transferring money into highways, construction outside the turnpike, which is the idea, but it’s just too expensive for the turnpike and turnpike customers.”

Gov. Rendell receives Musser Award


The Fox School of Business at Temple University always has an exciting event for its annual Musser Awards for Excellence dinner.

I remember just a few years ago when Lew Katz astounded the audience by announcing a gift of $25 million to his alma mater, the largest gift in the history of Temple. The university decided to name the medical school in Lew Katz’s honor. Unfortunately, it subsequently became in Katz’s memory, after Katz perished in a plane crash. But his name lives on in Temple history.

Warren “Pete” Musser is the founder of Safeguard Scientifics, the innovative company he founded in 1953 and led for decades, investing in technology companies.

Now not all the Musser Award winners are Temple alumni, but they are all distinguished members of the business community. And they are all leaders.

When Gov. Rendell, who served eight years as governor after having served eight years as mayor of Philadelphia, got on stage to the microphone to accept his honor, he repeated one of his favorite themes: that government cannot create jobs. But, he added, government can work with the private sector, and jobs may result.

He gave an example of something he created in the early 2000s. He gave us a history lesson, that Pennsylvania during World War II was an industrial leader. The problem was that the sites were polluted when the sites were abandoned after the war.

So when he was governor, Rendell created a fund to clean up the sites. As a result, 72,000 new jobs were created. But now, he said, we […]

Casey says he’s considering a run for president


SCRANTON, Pa. (WHTM) – Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says he’s considering a run for the White House.

Casey told Scranton television station WNEP-TV he has “an obligation to consider” a presidential run in 2020 “because of what’s at stake for our country.”

“Anyone who can win a statewide election – I’ve won three Senate races in Pennsylvania. I think I have an obligation to consider it because of those stakes,” Casey said.

“This is a critical time. We have to make sure the nominee of the Democratic party wins Pennsylvania because you cannot get elected president if you cannot win Pennsylvania. I’ve shown I can do that. I’ve won by an average of 13 points over three elections, so it’s something I’m considering.”

Casey won a third Senate term in this month’s election.

PA Workforce Development Association