Tuesday, March 15, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 15: Districts consider closing schools as money runs out

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 15, 2016:
Districts consider closing schools as money runs out

“The Community School Strategy is not a silver bullet. Good teachers and school leadership, adequate instructional materials, decent facilities and quality early childhood programs are essential. Nevertheless, a school can have these other characteristics and still fail to help its students thrive.  Children cannot learn if they are hungry, have aching teeth, can’t see clearly, have no place to do their homework, feel unsafe in their community or at home or lack the cultural, social and physical enrichment opportunities after school and on weekends.”
A comprehensive strategy for community schools made a big difference in Baltimore
The notebook by David Hornbeck March 14, 2016 — 4:45pm
David Hornbeck was the superintendent of schools in Philadelphia from 1994 to 2000.
Fifty years of experience as an organizer, advocate, and educator at the local, state and national levels has convinced me that a school serving students and families who live in concentrated poverty cannot be successful unless it uses the Community School Strategy…period…full stop.
A Community School:
  • Is a place where strategic partnerships among the school and community resources support student achievement, positive conditions for learning, and the well-being of families and communities;
  • Maintains a core focus on children while recognizing that they are part of a family and their families are part of unique communities;
  • Builds an integrated strategy that enhances academics and student well-being through enrichment, health and social supports, family engagement, and youth and community development;
  • Is anchored by the work of a full-time site coordinator and expanded school hours; and
  • Provides a base for parent and community advocacy on behalf of their children.
The Community School Strategy is NOT another program alongside other programs. It is a way of thinking about school, students, families, and the wider community that harnesses the assets of each, in a classic sense making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. The full-time coordinator is a vital part of the school leadership team, the equivalent of a vice-principal. Everyone understands that the strategy is essential if their students are to learn to read and do math competently. It’s not another thing for the principal to do but something she or he must understand and embrace to do everything else.

Districts consider closing schools as money runs out
Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER Published: March 15, 2016
Area school districts are preparing plans to address running out of money and could close schools in May, weeks before most are scheduled to close for the summer.  State funds due to school districts have not been released because of the ongoing state budget impasse.  Last Thursday, the Greater Nanticoke and Hanover area school boards voted to give administrators the authority to take action in response to the state’s failure to adopt a budget for the fiscal year that began last July.  The Wyoming Valley West School Board could vote today to give employees 60 days notice that schools will close. The Pittston Area School Board is expected to address the budget crisis at tonight’s meeting.  Informational meetings for taxpayers and parents are scheduled to take place in the Wyoming Valley West School District at 7 p.m. tonight and in the Wyoming Area School District at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Superintendent Michael Bjalobok and school board President Debbie Beale were part of a Highlands contingent that attended an Allegheny Intermediate Unit session Thursday with five state Senate and House members. The five told the educators that nothing looks to be done to solve the state budget impasse until at least after the April 26 primary election.”
Budget impasse leaves Highlands shortfall of $7.5M
Trib Live BY GEORGE GUIDO | Monday, March 14, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
While Highlands officials said their school district is in better financial shape than others, this year's budget could face a shortfall if the state doesn't come up with a budget to cover the remainder of this school year, let alone the next school year.  Highlands has a budget for the 2015-16 school year of $42.9 million. The proposed allotment for Highlands from the state legislature was $11.7 million. Thus far, Highlands has received just $4.7 million with the money Gov. Tom Wolf released in late December.  All other revenue, such as real estate and wage taxes, is coming into the school district on schedule. That would total $35.4 million, leaving the school district $7.5 million short. 

“While the state is currently sitting on over $3 billion in collected revenue, many PA school districts have borrowed a total of $1 billion to get themselves to June 30th.”
Impact of Leadership Crisis in Harrisburg
Quakertown School District Superintendent’s Blog Posted by Bill Harner at 3/14/2016
In my twelve years as a superintendent, I have never seen such a solvable financial situation impact a school district.  I have previously had to lead a district through a market down turn – like the bursting of the Tech Bubble, 9/11, and the Great Recession, but never before because of a lack of leadership and irresponsible governance by elected officials in state government.  In those previous experiences with a shortage of funding, the cause was external and driven by the economy.  This time, it’s not the market – the money is there!  Tax revenue is freely flowing into the PA Comptroller’s Office.  State Senator Mensch told me on Thursday that they expect higher state revenue than last year.  Education funding, however, is not flowing out.  All sides in Harrisburg believe they are right and that the stalemate is the other side’s fault.  This intransigence is impeding academic progress in our district, which will come to a virtual halt AND set us up to potentially lose programs that will take many years to restore.  
How serious is it?  Very!

State budget impasse will not close Dallas School District
Times Leader By Eileen Godin egodin@timesleader.com Posted: 11:19 pm - March 14th, 2016
DALLAS TWP. — Dallas School District is not in danger of closing due to the lack of state funding, district Business Manager Grant Palfey said Monday.  At least not yet.
Palfey assured a standing room only audience that the district is working to be proactive in addressing the expectation state legislators will not be able to pass a 2016-17 state budget which will push school districts statewide into the red.  “I received a lot of text about the possibility of other area school districts closing,” he said. “We are not in that camp.”  Dallas School District will finish the 2015-16 school year, Palfey said.  But the district’s $38.3 million proposed 2016-17 budget is being re-examined to find any way of cutting back expenses to alleviate a $1.1 million deficit.  “Refinancing loans and ‘pay to play’ are some of the ideas being tossed around,” Palfey said. “We are also reaching out to all of (the Dallas School District’s) third party providers to renegotiate contracts,” Palfey said.

Spring-Ford School Board leads march on Harrisburg seeking end to budget impasse
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 03/14/16, 4:39 PM EDT | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
Harrisburg >> Filling the staircase inside the Capitol Rotunda, more than 150 students, parents, school board members and concerned citizens travelled from across the state to send a message to lawmakers Monday morning — pass a budget.  Spring-Ford Area School Board President Tom DiBello, Vice President Joe Ciresi and members Dawn Heine and Colleen Zasowski led representatives from Upper Moreland and Methacton school districts, Masterly Charter School in Philadelphia, and other districts from the western portion of the state in a call to end to the state’s nearly 10-month-long budget impasse and pass a fair funding formula for districts.  “We’re standing together to say we need change, we need a budget,” Ciresi said. “Wealthier district or poorer … it’s hurting constituents, it’s hurting the state.”

Erie schools superintendent meets with governor
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News March 15, 2016 12:02 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said he feels Gov. Tom Wolf has a better sense of the Erie School District's precarious financial position after a Monday meeting that also included Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.  The meeting, which also included some members of the local legislative delegation, was yet another of many recently in which Badams and district Chief Financial Officer Brian Polito have pleaded their case for a fair funding formula for school districts. They also shared an analysis that they say shows the district has been chronically underfunded by the state.  "The solution to our problem lies in Harrisburg," Badams said after the meeting.  "Our best hope now is that when the detailed appropriation bills start to be generated as a result of whatever budget agreements we end up with, Erie will at least have a fair shake in the process," Badams said. "If there's any discretion at all in the budget process, we need to be represented there when those discussions are taking place."

School boards, state residents fed up there's no state budget
Bucks County Courier Times By George Mattar and Joan Hellyer, staff writers Posted: Monday, March 14, 2016 4:30 am
More and more, Pennsylvania school districts are feeling the impact of the ongoing state budget impasse and are sharing their horror stories online.  Many districts, including the Allentown city school system, have had to borrow money to cover operating expenses. Other districts have delayed needed facility repairs, put a freeze on making purchases and are considering potential staffing cuts if the impasse continues.  "All of this is being done while still providing the highest quality of education for Pennsylvania’s most important asset — its students," Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said in a statement. "We are asking legislators and the governor to find a compromise and pass a state budget."  PSBA is charting the budget standoff’s impact on individual districts at www.psba.org/issue/budget-impasse-stories. As of Friday afternoon, no districts from Bucks or Eastern Montgomery counties were highlighted on the site, but that could change if the impasse continues, local officials said.

School taxes, programs impacted by budget impasse
Lebanon Daily News by  Daniel Walmer, danielwalmer@ldnews.com11:02 a.m. EST March 12, 2016
Districts use guesswork, reserves in lieu of state funding
The almost 9-month-old state budget impasse might seem like old news, but the possibility of public schools shutting their doors before the end of the school year due to lack of funds is a brand new phenomenon.  With 2015-16 funding only partially restored and the state’s 2016-17 budget process showing signs of continued acrimony, the Pennsylvania Department of Education recently responded to requests from districts by releasing a memo on how they can shut down early if necessary.  “You’re not going to get that time back,” lamented Cornwall-Lebanon Superintendent Philip Domencic.  No Lebanon County school districts have said they may close, and officials at Lebanon and Cornwall-Lebanon praised their business managers for planning reserves into their budgets that are helping to alleviate the current crisis. But as districts enter their 2016-17 budget season, Lebanon County residents may start to feel the impact of the impasse on their pocketbooks.  A recent statewide survey by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association found that an unusually high 87 percent of districts plan to hike millage rates this year, something spokesman Steve Robinson said is likely due to in part to funding uncertainty

$20 million line of credit proposed to carry Norwin School District through state budget impasse
Trib Live BY JOE NAPSHA | Monday, March 14, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
The state's failure to pass a budget to fully fund public schools this year and uncertainty over the budget for next school year has Norwin School District officials considering a $20 million line of credit to cover expenses for the next several months.  John Wilson, Norwin's director of business affairs, said at the board's workshop meeting Monday that the line of credit would carry the district through the remainder of this school year and the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, when state funding is typically slow to reach schools.

Lawmakers to schools: Budget possible in 30 days
York Daily Record by Angie Masonamason@ydr.com4:21 p.m. EST March 11, 2016
York County superintendents met with several state legislators Friday to push for an end to the state budget impasse
Several state legislators told a group of York County superintendents Friday that the state budget impasse could be resolved in 30 days.  The York County Chief School Administrators -- a group of school superintendents that meets regularly -- invited all of the county's state delegates to a closed-door meeting Friday morning at the Yorktowne Hotel to push for an end to the state budget impasse. Republican state Reps. Keith Gillespie, Stan Saylor, Kristin Phillips-Hill and Kate Klunk attended, as did a representative of Sen. Scott Wagner's office.

“The budget proposal is expected to include a $150 million increase in basic education funding for school districts above the $5.5 billion they received in 2014-15, the sources said. That is $50 million more than was included in the December budget Wolf partially vetoed.…. This budget proposal also is expected to include no funding for school construction, banking instead on the GOP-supported plan to borrow money to fund the state share of school construction projects, sources said. The Wolf Administration has argued against that plan, saying the state's downgraded credit worthiness will make borrowing too expensive.”
Could this be the week Pennsylvania finally finishes up work on a 2015-16 budget?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 14, 2016 at 10:07 PM, updated March 14, 2016 at 10:52 PM
With only three months left in the 2015-16 fiscal year, state lawmakers this week are planning to take another stab at finalizing a state budget to alleviate financial concerns that are keeping school officials up late at night.   The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday is expected to consider amending a House bill to provide for a $30 billion state spending plan that requires no tax increases, according to sources close to House and Senate leadership.  The plan, which is expected to get a vote by the Senate and House yet this week, came together without any input from Gov. Tom Wolf.  Whether the financial dire straits that schools are now facing would result in a different fate for this full budget plan than the ones that the Legislature sent to Wolf in December and June remains to be seen.

“That position is based on the notion that public schools, for example, are effectively three-quarters of the way through their academic years.  That means that, programmatically, school leaders can't spend much of the increased funding Wolf has been seeking, the Republicans say. No administrator, for example, is likely to hire a new teacher to open a new classroom for the last quarter of the year.”
Gov. Tom Wolf says he's keeping door open to other 2015-16 budget ideas, but only if the math works
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 14, 2016 at 1:05 PM, updated March 14, 2016 at 1:29 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he is open to hearing about state budget solutions for 2015-16 that don't require a mid-budget year tax increase, but will accept them only if he is convinced the math works.  Wolf's comments came after a morning speech before a state meeting of county commissioners in Harrisburg.  Some leaders of the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have said they think spending lines can now be completed for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30, without any broad-based tax increases. 

GOP preps new bill in Pennsylvania's partisan budget fight
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Republican lawmakers say they'll advance budget legislation this week that they hope will end Pennsylvania's eight-month-old partisan gridlock.  Lawmakers said they'll unveil details Tuesday and expect to put a bill on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk Wednesday.  Billions of dollars remain in limbo, as schools borrow to stay open and Penn State threatens to shut down agricultural extension offices.  A bipartisan deal collapsed in December, after House GOP leaders pulled support. That deal involved a $1 billion-plus tax increase that Wolf had sought to narrow a deficit and begin wiping out funding cuts to public schools in 2011.  Republicans say their bill doesn't require a tax increase to balance, and will deliver half the public school increase, $200 million, that Wolf had sought. Wolf's office calls it "irresponsible and unbalanced."

Budget work continues, but strategies remain disjointed
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, March 14, 2016
After three weeks of budget hearings and with lawmakers now working on the budgets—or parts of budgets—for two fiscal years simultaneously, the strategies to bring the current year’s budget to completion while also getting the FY 2016-2017 budget to the finish line remain disjointed.  On the one hand, House Appropriations Majority Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) used the opportunity at the end of budget hearings last week to call for a five-party budget meeting to try and find a way to bring the current year’s budgetary process to a close.  “I’m asking for meetings, publicly, and pushing the button. We need to move along and we need to have meetings, because I don’t want what has to be done not done because we’re not meeting," he said last Thursday.  On Monday, he said no formal sit-down to discuss the budget has been arranged.  “Based upon what we’ve heard over the last three weeks, I think it’s very critical that we sit down and talk about it,” he told The PLS Reporter Monday afternoon.

York City schools hit recovery milestone
York Daily Record by Angie Masonamason@ydr.com8:44 a.m. EST March 12, 2016
This time last year, the York City School District's future, once again, was waiting to be charted.  Then-freshly inaugurated Gov. Tom Wolf made it clear he didn't favor what his predecessor's administration had pushed for: converting the district's schools to charters run by an outside company. David Meckley, the chief recovery officer appointed by the previous administration, resigned March 13, and Wolf appointed a new recovery officer, Carol Saylor, who started by seeking a comprehensive review of the district.  So one year later, where do things stand?  "So many people ask me that – so are you making any progress? And the simple answer is yes," Saylor said. "When are we going to see the results of everything? Not for a while. I think when I came in, I said everyone needs to be patient. There's a lot of infrastructure work that needs to be done before we actually start building the house here."  And that's what York City School District has been working on for the past year.  The review by an education-focused nonprofit, Mass Insight, identified priorities for the district to tackle in four phases. That review has become the basis for a revised recovery plan, which the school board is expected to consider approving this week.

District attorney to review Murry emails in ongoing Manheim Township school board investigation
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer March 15, 2016
A spokesman for Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Monday the office would review new information obtained by LNP on Manheim Township school board's actions in January.  Stedman last month launched an investigation in conjunction with Manheim Township Police Department revolving around a Jan. 28 executive session held by the school board.  An audio recording of the session, delivered to LNP by an undisclosed source in early February, revealed that board conspired during the meeting to avoid public scrutiny in choosing a firm to conduct its superintendent search.  Emails recently obtained by LNP through an open records request provide further evidence of those actions. In the emails, board president William Murry describes a plan to ask board members for their votes in individual phone calls and to authorize the chosen firm to get started ahead of a public meeting where the contract would be ratified.
The state Sunshine Act requires boards to discuss and vote on such decisions in a public forum.

Most Americans Say Well-Rounded Education Includes Arts
Education Week Curriculum Matters By Jackie Zubrzycki on March 10, 2016 8:39 PM
According to a new poll from Americans for the Arts, nearly 90 percent of Americans agree that arts should be part of a well-rounded education in public schools.  But 27 percent of Americans, mostly in rural and suburban areas, say students in their areas do not currently have enough access to the arts. And nearly half of the public believes there should be more public funding for arts education.   Americans for the Arts polled 3,020 people a week after the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December. ESSA was a victory for arts education advocates, who successfully pushed to have arts included in the new federal education law's definition of a well-rounded education. That means that creative arts programs are eligible for a variety of federal funds and programs.

In bipartisan move, Senate confirms John King Jr. as U.S. Education Secretary
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 14 at 6:27 PM  
The Senate voted on Monday to confirm John King Jr. as U.S. Education Secretary, a move that shows that education has become a rare issue on which a polarized Washington can reach bipartisan compromise.  Some Republicans joined Democrats in voting 49 to 40 in favor of King’s confirmation at a time when key GOP senators are refusing to even consider an Obama nominee to the Supreme Court.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — chairman of the education committee who previously served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush — urged his colleagues to confirm King, arguing that the education department needs a leader who can be held to account as the nation implements a sweeping new education law that replaced the long-maligned No Child Left Behind.

The overselling of ed tech
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 13  
As the push for “personalized instruction” gains traction in education, the need for education technology just keeps growing. But the question remains whether the promise of ed tech — hailed by school reformers for years — has ever been borne out. Here’s a post arguing that it hasn’t. It was written by Alfie Kohn, author of 14 books on education, parenting and human behavior, including, most recently, The Myth of the Spoiled Child (Da Capo Press) andSchooling Beyond Measure (Heinemann). This first appeared onwww.alfiekohn.org. I am republishing it with permission.

High School Hazing: Where Are the Adults?
New York Times By JULIET MACUR MARCH 14, 2016
BERWYN, Pa. — On my way to Conestoga High School last week to learn about accusations of brutal hazing by the football team, I felt as if I’d been to this place before.  I hadn’t been to Chester County. That’s where Thomas P. Hogan, the district attorney, this month charged three high school seniors with crimes related to an assault inside their football team’s locker room.  But this scene, this issue, was all too familiar. Young athletes accused of behaving badly, criminally badly, because of a twisted group mentality, and a town that’s left both stunned and divided.  On my way to the prosecutor’s office, I cut through southeast Pennsylvania farmland dotted with silos and gentle hills. Then I headed to Conestoga High School, past quaint and quiet downtowns and busy strip malls. The school is about 25 miles west of Philadelphia, yet it seems a world away.

Ravitch: Help Us Raise Money to Help Our Allies
Diane Ravitch’s Blog March 6, 2016
The Network for Public Education Action Fund exists to help friends of public schools compete for election to state and local school boards, as well as other elected offices.  We can't match the spending of our adversaries, but our numbers are far greater than theirs. If we get our friends and neighbors to vote, if we get every parent and teacher to vote, we would win every  seat.
 We have the power to reclaim and rebuild our schools, making them palaces of learning rather than dreary places to take tests.

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at: www.pasa-net.org/2016edcongress.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) - Add to Calendar
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103 - View Map

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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