Report: Local Workers Benefit from Tight Labor Market

October 13, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

The latest research on the “State of Working Pennsylvania” says a tight labor market and new levels of union organizing are offering new opportunities for workers.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in August was the lowest since June 2000, at 4.2% — and more than six million Pennsylvanians are either working or looking for jobs.

Stephen Herzenberg – executive director of Keystone Research Center and co-author of the report – said with smart and worker-friendly policies, the next several years should see a sense of possibility for those workers.

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Increased Security in Wake of Kennywood Shooting

September 28, 2022 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News, State & Region

The suspect wanted in connection with a shooting at Kennywood on Saturday night that injured three people remains at large, Allegheny County police said.

In the meantime, officials at the landmark amusement park in West Mifflin have announced enhanced security measures for when the park reopens, including a requirement that all guests age 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult age 21 years or older, and that their chaperones must have valid ID.

Details of the new security policies are posted on Kennywood’s website.

Three people, including two teen-agers, were wounded by gunshots after a suspect described as a Black teen-ager wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a face mask opened fire near the Musik Express ride.

The park was open Saturday night for its annual Halloween-themed “Phantom Fall Fest” celebration.

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They’re Here: Lanternflies Pestering Local Residents

September 22, 2022 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: State & Region

They may seem pretty at first — but spotted lanternflies could cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to crops and timber in Pennsylvania every year. The invasive pests have arrived in the Mon-Yough area and are widespread. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

The invasive spotted lanternfly is spreading through the Mon Valley. Residents report noticing a few lanternflies in their yards or neighborhoods and others are seeing swarms of them.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the spotted lanternfly, or SLF, is an invasive plant-hopper native to Asia. It was first discovered in 2014 in Berks County and since then has spread to multiple counties, as well as to Ohio, Virginia and Maryland.

“We’re coming up on the time when SLF lay egg masses from September to November and this is a great time to continue to control the spread,” said Tim Byan, Whetzel Land Steward for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

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Report: Lack of Juvenile Detention is a ‘Crisis’

September 05, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

One goal of youth and family support services is to keep kids out of juvenile detention, but for those who are accused of serious crimes, Pennsylvania doesn't have enough space in its detention centers, and it is being described as a crisis.

A report by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission outlined the effects of facility closures on accessibility to services. Since 2006, some 15 juvenile detention centers have closed in the state, including Allegheny County’s Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, which had its license revoked in 2021.

There are now 14 facilities providing secure detention services across the state, and 61 of 67 counties must vie for beds at just seven of them. The report indicated staff shortages mean not all the beds can be used.

The closest juvenile detention facilities to Allegheny County are in Erie, Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

Abigail Wilson, director of child welfare, juvenile justice and education services for the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth, and Family Services, said a few factors are contributing to the lack of available beds.

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School Funding Lawsuit Still Unresolved

August 16, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

School buses sit in a garage during the summer vacation. (File photo by Jason Morrison via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-2.0.)

After eight years, the Pennsylvania school-funding lawsuit is in the hands of a judge, creating a waiting game heading into the new school year.

Oral argument ended in July.

In 2014, six Pennsylvania school districts sued state legislative officials, state education officials and Gov. Tom Wolf, alleging that the state’s school funding system violates the clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution that promises to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education.

The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP-Pennsylvania State Conference and a group of public school parents are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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Pipeline Co. Convicted of Criminal Charges

August 05, 2022 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

The companies behind the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline that crosses through the Mon-Yough area have been convicted of criminal charges related to the project.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Sunoco Pipeline LP and ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC have pleaded no contest to charges related to contamination of lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater during the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The Mariner East 2 pipeline, which goes through 17 southern Pennsylvania counties, crosses Forward Twp. and passes near communities such as Sutersville, West Newton and Finleyville. It parallels an older gasoline pipeline built in the 1930s.

Homeowners who live in the pipeline’s path and want to have their water tested have until Aug. 19 to file a request.

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PA Court: ‘No-Excuse’ Mail Voting Can Continue

August 05, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: Politics & Elections, State & Region

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this week that so-called “no excuse” mail-in voting in the state is constitutional.

The ruling is seen as a setback to 14 Republican lawmakers who challenged the expansion of absentee ballots in court.

Meg Pierce, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said mail-in ballots are important to ensure elections are accessible to everyone.

“Voting by mail is convenient and secure, and has resulted in an incredible boost in voter turnout in Pennsylvania's recent election,” Pierce said. “About 170,000 (additional) registered voters voted in Pennsylvania elections when they were allowed to vote by mail.”

Until 2019, Pennsylvania voters could only use an absentee ballot under certain conditions, such as illness, disability or being out of town on Election Day. That year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to implement “no excuse” mail-in ballots for anyone who requests them.

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Report: Pa. Funding for Disabled Students Lacking

June 06, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

As the number of Pennsylvania students with disabilities rises, a new report says the share of state education funding has declined. Education advocates say state lawmakers can use this year’s budget surplus to support the students.

In 2008, Pennsylvania contributed close to one-third of the total cost of special education, but by 2020 that amount dropped to 22 percent.

And meanwhile, costs have gone up for every school district, according to Sharon Ward, senior policy advisor with the Education Law Center, which published the report.

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Charter School Tuition Gets Statewide Attention

May 31, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, State & Region

With charter school tuition payments rising faster than enrollments, public school districts are asking the Pennsylvania state legislature for relief.

According to Pennsylvania’s quarter-century-old law, charter schools do not charge students tuition. Instead, the majority of charter school funding comes from each student’s district of residence.

But local charter school officials said that their facilities serve poor students and fill vital educational needs in the communities where they operate. One local charter administrator who asked not to be identified by name said their school and others like it are getting “a bad rap.”

McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. is one of the local officials who have been calling attention to the expense that public school systems incur from charters.

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Advocates Urge Family, Friends: ‘Be There’ for Vets

May 25, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

May marks both Mental Health Awareness Month and Military Appreciation Month. In Pennsylvania, officials want to ensure that veterans know mental-health and substance-use resources are available.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 800,000 military veterans, the fourth-largest veteran population in the country.

Rick Hamp, special assistant to the deputy adjutant general for veteran affairs at the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, leads military suicide-prevention efforts in the state.

He said veterans sometimes can face stigma if they speak openly about struggles with anxiety or depression. Knowing a loved one supports them can help, Hamp said.

“Always be there for your family members and for those around you,” he said. “You know what’s normal for a person, and if they don’t look normal, don’t be afraid to ask the question, ‘Are you OK?’ That is the start of helping a person. And be ready when they reply, ‘No, I’m not.’”

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