In this Update:
Report Details Plan to Maintain and Support PA’s Education System
The Basic Education Funding Commission, which was charged with reviewing the distribution of state funding to Pennsylvania school districts, issued a report last week providing recommendations for updating the commonwealth’s funding formula for K-12 education as required by law.
The plan outlined in the report would provide greater budget stability for school districts, ensure students will receive at least the same amount as the current year’s historic budget allocations and seek to institute increased accountability for hard-earned tax dollars paying for public education.
The commission gathered testimony from more than 90 individuals at 14 public hearings and received more than 1,000 comments through the public website. All recommendations contained in the report require legislation to be passed by the General Assembly and the Governor.
Attracting and Retaining the Best Teachers
As Senate Republicans work to ensure all students have the opportunity to receive a quality education that sets them up for future success, one focus is attracting and retaining great teachers.
In addition to a high rate of teachers retiring or switching professions, fewer students are training to become teachers. To fight that concerning trend, we created a teacher stipend program. Through the program, a $10,000 stipend is available for individuals to complete their student teaching requirement. Students may claim an additional $5,000 stipend if they complete their student teaching in schools that don’t traditionally have student teachers and schools with high teacher vacancies.
Another new law reduces barriers for teachers moving to Pennsylvania by entering the state into the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact. Teachers with eligible certification in other compact states would not be required to complete additional materials, exams or coursework when applying for certification in Pennsylvania. They would still be required to complete background checks and other security clearances.
Denied a Health Care Claim? Request a Review
Because of legislation passed late in 2022, Pennsylvanians who believe their insurer has wrongly denied a health insurance claim can now request a review of the decision to be completed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
The denial can be for a service, treatment or item. An independent group of experienced doctors and health care professionals will review the case. If the review determines the request should have been covered, your health plan must do so. Independent review decisions are final and binding.
Act 46 of 2022 also streamlined the prior authorization – when physicians and other health care providers must obtain advance approval from a health plan before services and treatment are rendered – and step therapy processes for medical treatment.
2023 Accomplishments: Healthy and Safe Communities
Ensuring healthy and safe communities has been a top policy initiative of Senate Republicans.
In 2023, we passed a key health care measure that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. We also addressed crucial public health needs for emergency medical services, hospitals and nursing homes and ensured Pennsylvanians continue to receive access to needed health care services.
Other new laws provide critical nourishment for medically fragile babies and increase access to licensed addiction treatment programs for people facing substance use disorder.
Fishing and Boating Grants Available Now
Organizations that provide hands-on education for the recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) of anglers and boaters in Pennsylvania have until March 1 to apply for grants.
Education programs play a role in R3 by providing experiences that increase fishing and boating knowledge and skills, facilitate social support, and provide information on fishing and boating opportunities close to home.
The funding must be used for eligible expenses for projects running approximately July 1 through June 30, 2025. Grants require at least a 25% match of total project costs.
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month
In recognition of January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Senate Majority Policy Committee recently held a hearing to help raise awareness about the complexities of human trafficking crime and to discuss strategies for prevention, victim support and the prosecution of traffickers. Law enforcement, policymakers and people on the front lines of raising awareness about and helping victims of human trafficking joined the conversation.
The Senate also passed legislation to ensure sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims have full access to appropriate services and support. Act 39 of 2023 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to services, and Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.
By way of force, fraud and coercion, human traffickers push their victims into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. In 2021, 315 victims were identified in Pennsylvania. If you suspect human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
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