In this Update:
Mastriano demands answers on “privilege walks” occurring at PA Elementary School
HARRISBURG – Senator Mastriano is demanding answers and accountability after hearing multiple accounts from parents at North Penn School District who say their children have been subjected to “privilege walks” as part of a broader critical race theory curriculum.
According to at least five parents of children attending AM Kulp Elementary School, the children were lined up against the wall and told to step forward for each attribute of “privilege” they possessed. According to the parents, certain students in the class were also made to feel ashamed or embarrassed for their “privilege.”
Another parent from a different school in the same district stated that one of the required assignments for his teenage daughter was to reflect on an article about “white privilege” and share what she had learned from it.
“A classroom made up of young impressionable minds is certainly not an appropriate place for fringe critical race theories, said Senator Mastriano. Any exercise that demonizes and separates certain students based on their race or privilege can have detrimental effects on a child’s mental health and lead to an increase in bullying in the classroom.
“It is only thanks to brave parents that we know what is occurring in North Penn District. They contacted me after their concerns were ignored by the school board. It makes you wonder what else is occurring in other schools around the commonwealth.
“As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I`m calling on the Superintendent of NPSD to provide answers. Are these assignments part of the approved North Penn DEI curriculum/initiative? Has any disciplinary action been taken against teachers who are forcing students to participate in these exercises? How long has the Principal of AM Kulp, the district administration, and the school board known of these activities, assignments, or classroom discussions? Have privilege walks or privilege assignments occurred at any other school within North Penn School District? Schools should be a place for education, not indoctrination.”
Senator Mastriano is a member of the Senate Education Committee which has jurisdiction over all 500 of Pennsylvania’s school districts.
Senate Set to Question Wolf Administration on Spending Plan
On Feb. 8, Gov. Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion state budget for 2022-23 that would increase spending by $4.5 billion, create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following year and produce a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
Next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee kicks off four weeks of public hearings to review the spending plan and question administration officials in preparation for developing a more responsible budget prior to the June 30 constitutional deadline.
You can find livestreams of the hearings, video of previous hearings and daily recaps here. I’ll report back each week with updates on this important process.
Keeping Track of Non-Budgeted State Tax Dollars
While the process of passing a responsible state budget gets underway, a new resource is available highlighting state spending that occurs after the budget is enacted.
A webpage recently launched by state Treasurer Stacy Garrity explains Ledger 5, which is used to account for non-budgeted expenditures incurred during a fiscal year that are legally mandated or necessary to maintain public health, safety or welfare.
Before Ledger 5 can be used, the Governor’s Office of the Budget must provide Treasury with documentation, known as an Expenditure Symbol Notification (ESN) memo, to explain and justify the expenditure. Treasury reviews the ESN memo and other expenditure documentation to ensure the payment is legal and correct. All ESN memos will be posted on the new webpage.
Help for Families Navigating the College Aid Process
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is offering several free webinars in February, March and April to help students and families plan for college and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
FAFSA Overview (Feb. 28, April 18)
Financial Aid 101 (March 7, March 28)
Financial Aid Junior Jumpstart (April 13)
Click here for times and registration.
New Helpline Available for Farmers Seeking Mental Health Services
Pennsylvania farmers and farm families seeking mental health support can now access a free helpline for assistance.
The AgriStress HelpLine for Pennsylvania is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Farmers can call 833-897-AGRI (2474) to speak to a health care professional.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, financial challenges, farm or business problems and the fear of losing the farm are top contributors to farmers’ mental health challenges. Cost, embarrassment and stigma often prevent farmers from seeking help or treatment for a mental health condition. The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee explored the topic in several public forums in recent years.
Halting the Rise in Pennsylvania Traffic Fatalities
In Pennsylvania, 2021 preliminary data shows deaths on our roadways increased by as much as 10%, including increases in fatalities in speeding crashes, distracted driving crashes, crashes involving teen drivers, as well as unrestrained fatalities.
Pennsylvania Highway Safety Law Awareness Week is next week, Feb. 20-26, and it’s an opportunity to think about the laws and driving habits that increase traffic safety.
Highway safety laws that can prevent traffic fatalities include:
You can read more about highway safety at www.PennDOT.gov/safety.
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