SCRANTON, May 27, 2015 – State Senator John Blake today hosted 11 high school seniors from 7 local school districts for a legislative competition as the final chapter of this year’s Student Ambassador Program.
The Student Ambassador Program gives high school seniors from each high school in the 22nd Senate District an opportunity to represent their school in a number of meetings, tours and government networking events designed to help participants gain a better understanding of all levels of government and to develop critical thinking and leadership skills with an emphasis on public service.
“The Student Ambassador Program provides a great opportunity for local high school seniors to gain a better understanding of local, state and federal government operations. The student ambassadors also benefit from invaluable field experience in our public sector through our five-month program,” Blake said. “As we saw here today with the very thoughtful and professional presentations offered by our graduating seniors, the future of our region, our state and our country will be in good hands as these students of today become leaders of tomorrow.”
Today’s event, held at Marywood University, gave the student ambassadors an opportunity to make a legislative presentation to a panel of judges that included Sen. Blake, state Representative Eddie Day Pashinski and two legislative staffers.
For the presentation, the student ambassadors were tasked with putting themselves in the shoes of a state senator and proposing a new law of interest to them regarding transportation, education, emergency preparedness, environmental protection or human services. Each presentation was scored by the four judges on the substance of the proposal as well as on the strength of the argument. Senator Blake will be awarding the top four presenters scholarship assistance for their post secondary academic pursuits.
The students scoring the highest in this year’s competition were Matthew Klucher from Abington Heights School District; Brian Swatt from Lakeland School District; Cassandra Semyon from Riverside School District; and Alexander Fried from Abington Heights School District.
Students interested in participating in Senator Blake’s Student Ambassador Program next year can begin applying in September. All information related to the application can be obtained at their schools. Student ambassadors are nominated and recommended for participation in the program through an interview process with their school administrators, teachers or guidance counselors.
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Harrisburg, April 17, 2013 – Senate Democrats’ 2013-14 budget priorities are heavily weighted toward job creation, education investments, strengthening the social-services safety net, modernizing liquor sales and refocusing Pennsylvania’s business tax menu to help small businesses, they announced today at a Capitol news conference.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said that Senate Democrats will go into this year’s budget negotiations with a clear purpose and “are resolved that the state’s economy must be jump-started. New jobs must be created and we have to reverse the negative course that the Corbett administration has plotted for Pennsylvania on education and protecting our most vulnerable.”
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“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to seek new investments and use resources that are available to change policy direction during this year’s budget negotiations.”
Costa said Senate Democrats believe that more than 120,000 jobs can be created quickly by enacting a responsible transportation plan, expanding Medicaid and using economic development policies outlined in their PA Works plan.
Costa was joined by a host of Senate Democrats in making today’s announcement.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, who serves as the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that by taking action now on key economic initiatives then restoring job creation and community programs to their past luster — before Corbett budgets sliced them to the core — is an excellent starting point.
“We need to start creating jobs right now and we can do that by working on transportation and Medicaid expansion,” Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said. “These initiatives coupled with rebuilding water and sewer systems, investing in schools and new technologies will create economic growth immediately.
“In addition, by investing in programs such as Main Street, Elm Street and international business we can help small business here while they market their products abroad.,”
Democratic Whip Sen. Tony Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) said that the caucus was turning up the heat on the Corbett administration on jobs, health care, education and social safety net issues because the governor has failed to lead.
“We’ve outlined reasonable strategic policy alternatives that will reverse direction and provide a new path and we’ve identified revenues that will pay for the proposed expenditures,” Williams said. “Pennsylvania is rudderless on job creation and our economic numbers and business indicators under this administration illustrate the problem.
“Our most vulnerable can also not withstand another senseless round of Corbett cuts and we have to restore programs that promote help for those in need.”
Williams said that Pennsylvania is now 43rd in job creation, falling from eighth place among all states under Gov. Ed Rendell’s leadership. Plus, he said, last month’s unemployment claims fell nationally to below 350,000 but, because of Corbett policy short-sightedness, Pennsylvania led the country in new unemployment claims.
Senate Democrats said that they have laid out specific plans to achieve results in the 2013-14 budget in five areas. These include: strategic investments to create jobs; improving education; repositioning business taxes while closing business tax loopholes; modernizing the wine and spirits stores; and repairing and protecting social safety net programs.
The caucus leaders said that they’ve noted at least $750 million in annual savings, plus another $150 million in one-time revenues. They also said that we need to find resources to pay for specific new expenditures including $225 million for basic education, $50 million to aid distressed cities and communities, $40 million for transitional housing and homeownership among other items, and funds for new tax credits for a variety of areas including film production.
Democrats said that priority details include a three-year phase in of new monies to restore education dollars and key student-performance based initiatives that were cut by the Corbett administration in the last two budgets.
They also said that they would emphasize rebuilding struggling communities through their Growth, Progress and Sustainability (GPS) plan; seek new funds for transitional housing and new homeownership opportunities; and push for modernizing the wine and spirits stores rather than the opt for the risky privatization scheme that has been sought by the Corbett administration.
The Democrats indicated that they expected the negotiations to become more focused once the Senate returns to session in late April.
SCRANTON, April 16, 2012 – – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today reminded college-bound students and their families that the deadline to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year is May 1.
“As we begin the final months of state budget negotiations, the legislature must negotiate a spending plan that ensures we properly fund higher learning so a college education, which is essential to support the earnings potential of our future workforce, is not out of reach for thousands of Pennsylvania students and their families,” Blake said. “Further, as tuition costs rise, financial aid becomes that much more important for all Pennsylvania families with college students and it is imperative that these families are aware of the upcoming FAFSA deadlines.”
Blake said that in the 22nd Senatorial District alone, 4,639 students receive scholarship grant aid valued at $13.2 million. The average grant award in the 22nd Senatorial District is $3,240.
All first-time applicants for state scholarship aid, including students who plan to enroll in degree programs or college transfer programs at junior colleges or other colleges or universities, and students seeking to renew their state grant aid, must file their FAFSA by the May 1 deadline.
The application deadline for non-renewal students enrolling in community colleges, business or trade schools, nursing schools, or two-year programs that are not transferrable to another institution is August 1.
The FAFSA is used to determine if students qualify for almost all forms of need-based financial aid, including the Pennsylvania State Grant, federal Pell Grant, many scholarships and institutional awards and low-cost student loans.
Families can access the 2012-13 FAFSA and seek assistance completing the FAFSA online by visiting the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) website, www.pheaa.org or by calling Sen. Blake’s district office at (570) 207-2881.
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HARRISBURG, September 23, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today announced that he will partner with the Pennsylvania Treasury to host an informational “Saving for College with the PA 529 College Savings Program” webinar on Tuesday, September 27 at 6 p.m.
“A college education has become a prerequisite of sorts for employment and the PA 529 College Savings Program is a fantastic way for families to begin saving,” Blake said. “The webinar will hopefully answer many of the questions you have about this program and about planning for the future of your children and their higher education aspirations.”
The webinar will give participants an opportunity to Learn about 529 plan basics, including the tax benefits, financial aid impact, and setting savings goals and have your questions answered by a program specialist.
For more information and to sign up for the webinar, visit www.senatorblake.com
The Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program offers two plans and many investment options that have helped over 150,000 families of all income levels answer one of their biggest financial concerns – how to afford college.
HARRISBURG, June 28, 2011 – – Calling the Republican passed $27.15 billion state budget a short-sighted solution that creates bigger problems, state Sen. John P. Blake today criticized the drastic cuts to local school districts, hospitals and other key state investments.
The budget, passed by a 30-20 party-line vote, cuts more than $1.1 billion in state funding to public schools and 18 state-supported universities; including $51.5 million from Northeastern Pennsylvania school districts.
It is unfortunate for the residents of Pennsylvania that the deliberations for this state budget were not only ideologically driven, but they were focused on short term spending decisions and not on the long term impact of state investment, Blake said. The final budget document reveals a retreat from the commitments most Pennsylvanians hold as our states top priorities – – education, adequate health care, and job creation.
Education funding, an investment in the future of Pennsylvania and the future of our children, was cut by more than $1 billion and will cause a ripple effect of teacher and support staff layoffs and probable local real estate tax hikes, Blake continued. The only silver lining in this otherwise slash and burn budget is that we were able to restore at least some funding to The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) and our Regional Cancer Center.
Blake said that TCMC will receive a $2 million appropriation under the Department of Public Welfares medical assistance program for state-related academic medical centers — a 50% cut from last year. It is hoped that TCMC will be able draw down an additional $2 million in federal funds as a result of the state commitment made in this budget. The states four regional cancer centers will receive $450,000 under the final budget, representing a $542,000 cut.
The lack of funding available to TCMC had already caused a national accreditation body to place the states newest medical college on probation, Blake added. If the preliminary budget completely eliminating state funding to TCMC was passed, it would have put the future operations at TCMC in grave danger.
Blake also expressed dissatisfaction with the cuts to the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) and the Human Services Development Fund. HEMAP, which provides emergency mortgage assistance to struggling homeowners and helps keep them in their homes while they get back on sound financial footing, received only $2 million in this budget, an $8.4 million cut from last year. The Human Services Development Fund, which provides funding to county human service organizations, received $15 million, an $8.5 million cut.
The final budget ignored savings that could have prevented the depth of the cuts rendered by the Corbett Administration and Republican leadership in the House and Senate, Blake said. In addition, over $500 million in state revenue above estimate in this fiscal year is being held in reserve and the legislature again failed to enact a reasonable fee on the Marcellus shale industry — a fee they pay in every other state where they operate.
Blake said that many cost savings that Senate Democrats have discussed over the past few months were largely ignored in the final budget document. Specifically savings through alternative sentencing and treatment courts to reduce Corrections expenditures; procurement reform as recommended by the Auditor General; and the possibility of expanding managed care in counties where it has not been implemented and which could save the state millions of dollars.
It is clear that the Governor and the General Assembly had to be fiscally responsible when crafting a state budget to deal with a $4 billion deficit. As Pennsylvania continues to struggle to exit the recession, making deep and, in fact, unnecessary cuts to education, human services and proven state job creation and job retention programs is anything but responsible budgeting, Blake said. This budget was, unfortunately, negotiated in a very partisan manner and without the transparency that would have resulted in a more balanced and appropriate plan for our state.
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