Editorial2

 

 

A full-time worker earning minimum wage in Pennsylvania grosses $15,000 a year.

That’s poverty for any employee supporting more than just themselves.

For individuals, the $7.25 minimum hourly pay barely lifts them out of the ranks of the officially impoverished.

In any discussion of raising the minimum wage, at least one opponent argues these workers aren’t family bread-winners – they’re high-schoolers and college students trying to make a few extra bucks.

To which we say: If someone is working a full-time job for $7.25 an hour, they’re doing it because they have to.

They’re not doing it for pocket change, although that’s what they’re bringing home.

In 2013, about 42 percent of all minimum wage-earners in Pennsylvania were age 25 or older. Nearly 18 percent were married, and 19 percent were parents.

Pennsylvania last raised its minimum wage in 2009, when it matched the new, $7.25 federal minimum, and it’s time to do it again.

We support a state bill, endorsed by Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday, to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over two years.

That’s where President Obama wants to see the federal minimum wage – he used his executive authority last year to pay new federal contract workers that rate – but he faces a tough sell in Congress.

Other states aren’t waiting for the feds to force their hands and are taking it upon themselves to see that their residents earn a living wage.

Twenty-nine states – including all of our neighbors – have minimum wages higher than the national minimum.

Wolf actually pledged to make raising the minimum wage a priority this legislative session, but he, too, needs the support of a Republican-controlled legislature to make that happen.

There are signs, though, the two sides can find common ground.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Twp., late last month offered his own, more modest proposal.

Under his plan, the minimum wage would increase 50 cents each year over three years until it reaches $8.75 an hour. He would carve out an exception for minimum wage workers 18 and younger, who would continue to earn $7.25 a hour.

Wagner was criticized by some, who said his plan was nothing more than an attempt to undermine efforts to raise the rate to $10.10 an hour.

We would much rather see the higher figure become the standard and believe it would provide more help to more people.

But the fact is – whatever one imagines Wagner’s motives to be – he is bringing something to the table.

And that’s better than an empty chair for proponents of a minimum wage hike.

– The York Dispatch

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AT LONG LAST, RIGHT MOVE ON MEDICAID

Ideology can be expensive. The Corbett administration’s refusal to expand the state Medicaid program because of its political opposition to Obamacare already has cost the state and the state government about $1 billion, while needlessly funneling public money to private insurers, complicating the process and diminishing access to health care. Only about a quarter of eligible Pennsylvanians have enrolled in the alternative program.

Gov. Tom Wolf was entirely on the mark Monday in announcing the end of former Gov. Tom Corbett’s alternative, HealthyPA, and moving to implement the Medicaid expansion that was the better option from the outset.

One of the principal ways that Obamacare sought to expand coverage of the uninsured was to expand Medicaid – the federal/state program that already provides coverage for the nation’s lowest-income residents. The feds offered a great deal. Washington would pay for the entire expansion for the first three years and for 90 percent thereafter, leaving the states with only a 10 percent contribution.

But many states with Republican governors and legislatures chose not to participate, leaving their citizens to help fund the program in other states, but not at home.

Expanding Medicaid will be good for up to 600,000 eligible Pennsylvanians. It also will improve the health of the state budget, now more than $2 billion in the red, by creating a net gain of about $420 million relative to Medicaid.

The state health care economy will benefit because the program significantly will reduce the amount of uncompensated care by health care providers, which was about $1 billion last year. That money eventually is covered by other consumers through higher premiums, including governments that buy health insurance for workers and pass the costs to taxpayers.

The expansion is expected to create between 30,000 and 40,000 new jobs in the industry, which in turn will stimulate economic activity and increase state tax revenue.

Anyone who signed up for coverage under HealthyPa will be covered as the administration works on implementing the new plan, which will take effect this fall.

In the long term, the decision is good for individuals and public health, the health care industry, the general economy and the state government.

– The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

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The MEDICAID EXPANSION RUSE

Tom Wolf’s penchant for generalities and faux benefits in pursuit of supposed “progress” will come back to slap him and Pennsylvania’s poor.

The governor announced Monday the beginning of the expected transition away from former Gov. Tom Corbett’s HealthyPA program, an eminently workable hybrid effort to avoid the potholes of ObamaCare’s expanded Medicaid program, in favor of the Nanny State’s full monty.

Today is the first step toward simplifying a complicated process and ensuring hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have better access to the health insurance they need,” Mr. Wolf said.

Health insurance, perhaps, but not necessarily health care, given that fewer and fewer physicians are accepting Medicaid patients and the shocking lack of quality care indigenous to Medicaid.

And details-schmetails, the Wolf administration doesn’t have much in the way of cost projections – costs will be outrageous after the feds leave the states holding more and more of the bag in outlier years, far beyond the advertised 10 percent ceiling – but you can bet the cost of scrapping the innovative HealthyPA program will not come cheap.

True to form, Senate Democrats oddly lauded Wolf’s move as “a defining moment” that will quell the mythical “chaos” of HealthyPA. The Republican Party countered with a sobering dose of reality in noting how full Medicaid expansion is just another “step on the road to a complete government takeover of our healthcare system.”

Indeed it’s a sad time for Pennsylvania’s less fortunate.

– Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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TROUBLE SPOTTERS: PENNSYLVANIA’S NEW CHILD ABUSE REPORTERS NEED TRAINING

New laws meant to protect Pennsylvania’s children from abuse have had immediate effects, but not the ones intended.

In addition to spurring more calls to the state’s child-abuse hotline, they’ve caused longer days for overwhelmed workers and created a backlog for a group that trains workers charged with reporting abuse. The crunch created by more than 20 new laws is a problem that must be swiftly addressed by the lawmakers who inadvertently caused it.

“To say our resources are stressed is an understatement,” says Angela Liddle, president of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a nonprofit that does much of the state’s training of mandated reporters.

Mandated reporters are the front line of child-abuse prevention. Traditionally, they have been doctors, nurses and teachers, but their ranks also include foster parents and massage therapists. Now, not just professionals but also volunteers who work with children must report suspected abuse. They all need training on how to discern abuse, and what transpires after they report it.

The change means that thousands of people who volunteer as church, sports or Scout leaders must have training. But the free seminars the Family Support Alliance provides are booked through the fall, and the group has to charge groups who can’t wait until then or offer them online training. That’s not good enough, especially for volunteer soccer coaches whose calls might result in children being removed from their homes – and church volunteers who might get subpoenas.

Nor is it acceptable for workers who answer calls on the 24-hour ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) – essentially a 911 for suspected child abuse – to be working 13-hour days. Or worse, for calls to go unanswered, or ring busy.

The Legislature should act quickly to ensure that the Family Support Alliance and the state’s Department of Human Services have sufficient resources to meet the demands of Pennsylvania’s new laws. The stakes are too high, the work too important.

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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CHARTER SCHOOLS: IT’S NOT JUST THE MONEY

The Philadelphia School Partnership, which began about four years ago with the mission of raising private money for public schools, hasn’t tried to hide its preference for charters. It’s not an infatuation: High-quality charter schools have proven their academic effectiveness with motivated students who have escaped from chronically bad traditional public schools.

To open charters’ doors to more students, the PSP has offered the School District $25 million to end its moratorium on expanding the number and size of charters in the city, plus another $10 million to help turn around failing traditional schools. Charters are primarily funded with public money taken from the district’s budget, and the district has authority over their creation and growth.

The district was right not to pounce on the PSP offer. It’s inadequate. In fact, the School District believes it would need about 20 times as much to cover the cost of creating 15,000 new charter seats over six years. The district would still have to fund the schools the students left, paying for utilities, transportation, and maybe even the same number of teachers.

Acknowledging the discrepancy in calculations, PSP executive director Mark Gleason said his organization’s offer was never meant to cover all of the district’s so-called “stranded costs.” Rather, he said, the group wants to help the district expand charters now while it waits for the state to develop a new school funding formula that would eventually fill any budget gaps.

Gleason is asking the School District to act on faith. That would be risky, even with a new governor who says he wants to give Pennsylvania schools more money.

But Gleason is right to point to the state as the key to charter expansion not just in Philadelphia, but in other districts as well. Harrisburg could start by restoring the more than $200 million a year used to reimburse districts for charter schools before then-Gov. Tom Corbett cut it from the budget in 2011.

But it’s not just the money. Oversight of Philadelphia’s charters has been spotty at best. Some city charters are excellent, but too many that seemed like good ideas when they were licensed are no better academically than the worst district schools. Others seem more focused on padding their operators’ pocketbooks than on educating children.

There should be more opportunities for Philadelphia children to attend good charter schools. It’s been seven years since a charter has opened in the city. But licensing more charter schools requires more than the PSP’s cash. It requires the governor and Legislature to make it a priority to address the funding and regulation problems that justifiably limit charter expansion.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer

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SAVING THE MONARCHS, AND MORE

The federal government announced Monday that it would set aside $3.2 million to help protect the monarch butterfly, the seemingly fragile insect that somehow manages to migrate thousands of miles from the United States into Mexico. That $3.2 million is a drop in the bucket of the federal budget, and the effort may not accomplish much unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classifies the monarch as a threatened species, as it deserves. But the funding at least shines the light on species preservation and its attendant challenges in a world whose human population is fast edging out other species.

Scientists blame changes in the natural habitat for the monarch’s rapid decline: as much as a 90 percent drop in numbers in recent years. Monarchs lay their eggs only on the milkweed plant, and milkweed is an important food source, too. As more prairie is converted into cropland, monarchs find fewer places to lay their eggs and less to eat.

Fish and Wildlife will use $2 million to restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat and the remaining funds to create a conservation fund to help farmers and other landowners conserve monarch habitat. The designated areas, from Minnesota to Texas, lie under the monarch’s migration path.

Monarchs – big, bright orange and brown butterflies – make an ideal poster insect for campaigns to support dwindling species. Many an American school kid remembers a monarch cocoon being brought into the classroom and watching with fascination as the butterfly finally emerged, gradually spread and dried its fragile wings, and began to flutter. Like the panda and the polar bear, monarchs are instantly identifiable and thus easily garner attention and support for efforts to save them from disappearing.

Yet this iconic insect is really no more important than many more obscure species of plants and animals that are disappearing with alarming rapidity. Last September the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London reported that half the world’s wild animals have disappeared over the past 40 years. In December the journal Nature reported that 95 percent of Earth’s species over the millennia have died off. The growing human population is likely to continue taking a toll on other species.

With plant and animal species disappearing constantly, why worry? You might ask. Yet Mother Nature is a complex web, humans only a part of it. Each species plays a unique role, and the fewer species that survive the more humans will rely on them for their own survival.

Habitat protection will help the monarch, but the species would also benefit from the legal protection of being classified as threatened. Meantime, human residents of the worldwide “natural” web should consider their own role on Planet Earth, and tread lightly.

– Pocono Record

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COACHING OUR COACHES TO MAKE BETTER MEN

Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County is looking for a few – perhaps quite a few – good youth coaches.

We don’t think that will be a particular challenge. We’re certain there are any number of them volunteering their time with children throughout the Lebanon Valley.

DVI is seeking coaches’ participation in an upcoming clinic, “Coaching Boys into Men,” which will be offered for free on Feb. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fort Indiantown Gap Community Club.

The need for such a program is readily apparent. Sports fans are aware of the negative headlines some of its stars have generated because of their activities off the field of play. Even most nonfans know of the abuse allegations against former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Race and the murder allegations against former New England Patriot Aaron Fernandez.

The best coaches – regardless of the age level of their charges – are also mentors who can provide vital guidance in the development of their athletes. Athletes of a young age can particularly benefit from the role model a good coach provides and from the advice that coach can instill. And we don’t just mean the best way to make a form tackle or field a baseball or shoot a foul shot.

The program has existed for about a decade, and it’s received the endorsement of such luminaries as Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll.

The effort is being organized locally by DVI’s director of public education, Mike Ritter.

Ritter has spent the past several months contacting schools, recreational leagues and other sports programs to spread the word about the clinic. So far reaction has been lukewarm, Ritter said in an article that appeared in Sunday’s Daily News.

A lack of time has been cited as the most common concern.

We understand the challenges these volunteers face. There are often strong demands made by parents; there are new changes in state child abuse laws that will require coaches to undergo background checks – likely at their own expense; and there are the needs of the individuals themselves – their own jobs, families and other concerns.

But we would urge those coaches to give serious consideration to participating in the program. Coaches, we would ask that you consider this. There are methods that are used to teach your young players the mechanics of the game and engender an interest and love of it that can last a lifetime – perhaps even enough to one day become coaches themselves.

There are, likewise, methods that can be developed to make these young players better men, which is of even greater importance. The DVI-offered program can coach coaches in those.

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Lebanon Daily News

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