Things change in everyone’s life

Article posted on October 31, 2011

The redistricting commission did meet today at noon, despite numerous news stories that the meeting would be postponed. A “Preliminary Plan”, “Plan A”, was approved and will stand for comment for 30 days. A hearing will be held on the plan on November 18th, and a meeting will probably be scheduled to vote on the final plan on December 1st. After that, court challenges will probably be filed. Everything must be settled by January 24th, the first day to file nominating petitions for next year’s Primary Election. The map approved today by a 3-2 vote, took Bedford County and Menno Twp. in Mifflin County out of the 30th Senatorial District. It added a portion of Franklin County and most of Perry County. About 25% of the district changed. Provided the final plan is approved as is, I am very sorry to lose Bedford County and the people in Mifflin County I have represented for almost 5 years. I have gotten to know these folks and what issues are important to them. I feel like a good friend is moving away. I am anxious to get to know the people of Franklin and Perry Counties, however. Things change in everyone’s life. This is a change for me and for the people I work for. I can only try to do my best for the good people of whatever the 30th District entails and wish the folks I have grown to know and respect the best as they change Senators.

-John

There will be substantial changes to the existing districts

Article posted on October 30, 2011

A number of today’s newspaper stories focused on the possibilities of what might happen with redistricting. The commission making the decisions on state House and Senate seats meets tomorrow at noon. For the first time, they will be presented with newly drawn maps for approval. There will be substantial changes to the existing districts because of the population loss in western PA and the gain in the east. I have been through several versions of what the 30th District might look like. My understanding is that the plan presented tomorrow has a good chance of being approved or at least being approved with minor changes. But, there are members unhappy, various interests who will protest and a retired judge at the helm of the commission making his own decisions, so there are no guarantees. The Senate has kept the proposal confidential and so have I. I suspect that status to end tomorrow with a media frenzy all across the state. It will be an interesting day.

-John

We had a good day, especially since we won

Article posted on October 29, 2011

Who would of thought that we’d have as much snow as we got this early in the year. We tested Charlotte’s Escape in the winter weather with a drive to the Penn State game today, and what a game it was. It literally went down to the last second when Illinois missed a field goal that would have tied the game. Instead, State pulled this one out, 10 to 7. I usually get to one game a year, and this was it. We had a good day, especially since we won. I’ll have to make up for the lost work time tomorrow somehow.

-John

Reasonable people can disagree on public policy issues

Article posted on October 28, 2011

I received a lot of emails and phone calls this week about SB 1. I got quite a few notes of thanks from the general public. From public education employees, I received a mix of straightforward, polite disagreement with vicious and sometimes vulgar attacks. One man called me a “retard”, a word my friends at The Arc have worked so hard to strike from the vocabulary, and others used language I can’t even print. These people are teaching our kids. The folks who handled themselves with dignity were in the minority. The grammatical and spelling mistakes were also worth noting. But my biggest concern is the misinformation many of these people espoused and the bitterness in their words. Reasonable people can disagree on public policy issues, but it’s difficult to have a dialogue when someone writes a litany of false statements or calls and curses at a receptionist. Again, I know that there are many good, hard working people in public education. But the examples of behavior I saw this week opened my eyes to a very serious problem in our public schools. I have a hard time thinking that the teachers I respected in school would have tolerated from their colleagues the language and behavior my staff and I witnessed this week.

The spirit of the community is strong

Article posted on October 27, 2011

I started my day at Martinsburg Elementary School for the Home Run Against Drugs assembly. Sandi Smith does a wonderful job with this program to educate young students about the dangers of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. I left there to attend the dedication of a park in Altoona, at the corner of the 7th Street Bridge and 7th Avenue. The park was named after John Robertson, a man who has helped many kids get a good start in life through the Altoona Boxing Club. The park was funded by public and private money, it qualified as an Eagle Scout project, used dozens of volunteers and will be maintained by a local fraternal organization. To me, this epitomized the sense of community in the City of Altoona. Even in tough financial times, the spirit of the community is strong.

-John

We scored a tremendous victory

Article posted on October 26, 2011

We scored a tremendous victory for the students, parents and taxpayers of Pennsylvania today with the passage of Senate Bill 1. After hours of floor speeches and defeating about a half dozen amendments designed to weaken the bill, the vote of 27 to 22 was recorded. The bill goes to the House next where it is expected to pass. As big a step as this is for the future of our kids, there is much more to do. The Governor wants to begin a legitimate teacher evaluation program. Currently, just short of 100% of all staff are given a “Satisfactory” rating. This speaks to the total lack of accountability in public education. The new evaluation criteria will include student performance, which surprisingly is not considered today. Again, there is a lot to do.

-John

Senator Eichelberger to Hold Bedford County Town Hall

Article posted on October 26, 2011

** NEWS RELEASE**

Senator Eichelberger to Hold Bedford County Town Hall

Opportunity for constituents to discuss their views and concerns regarding state issues

Bedford, PA – October 25, 2011 – Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. will host the eighth of nine town hall meetings scheduled throughout the 30th Senatorial District this year.

These meetings are part of the Senator’s effort to make state government accessible for all people in his district. Town hall meetings are open to the public, providing residents with a chance to speak directly with the Senator about issues important to them.

“It is important that the citizens are involved in the process as we work to overcome the challenges of today,” said Senator Eichelberger. “I look forward to meeting with people in this open setting.”

WHO: State Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.
WHAT: Town Hall Meeting
WHEN: Tuesday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Bedford Area Senior Citizens Center
205 South Richard Street
Bedford, PA 15522

Please contact Sharon Turkovich, Legislative Aide, at 1-814-623-5004 or email sturkovich@pasen.gov for further information.

Our children deserve better

Article posted on October 25, 2011

I got some very interesting calls and emails today from public school folks. It is worth noting that many of the calls and emails came from school employees while on taxpayers time and using taxpayer funded equipment. Certainly, any citizen has the right to address their elected officials, but using public resources to advance their personal agenda is inappropriate, unethical and perhaps illegal. Many of the people who pay their salaries and bought that equipment do not share their views. The Senate Education Committee today passed Senate Bill 1 with a vote of 9 to 2, showing bi-partisan support. The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate tomorrow. Much of what I heard from public school employees today was about how well the current system works. It is important for people to understand that statewide our students come in 42nd out of the 50 states in SAT scores, we are in the bottom third in PSSA testing (perhaps as low as 45th), we are first or second in what we spend per pupil in the classroom, we lead the country in teacher strikes and pay school employees more than most any other state. The schools have received hundreds of millions of additional dollars from the state over the past eight years, they received billions in federal stimulus money, and the majority of schools continued to raise taxes on the property owners back home. The 2011 PSSA scores show that 26% of Pennsylvania’s students test at or below the basic level in reading and 23% test at or below the basic level in math. Meanwhile, over 99% of teachers and administrators receive a “satisfactory” evaluation annually. This system desperately needs to be changed. Our children deserve better.

-John

Our public education system needs changed

Article posted on October 24, 2011

We are hitting a full schedule of legislation in the time remaining this year. One of the bills on the agenda for this week is a new rewrite of SB 1, the school choice legislation. The version that should come out of the Education Committee tomorrow will include the school choice provisions, increasing the EITC limit and improving the charter school law. Of course, this has precipitated an onslaught of calls from public education employees who do not want any changes to their system. Our current system has no accountability, is one of the most expensive in the country and is one of the worst performing. Putting student’s interests at the top of the list and considering the financial burden on taxpayers is foreign to many in our public schools these days. By any objective measurement, our public education system needs changed. I hope that the transformation into a better future for our children starts this week, right here, in the PA Senate.

-John

The renovated building is beautiful and very inviting

Article posted on October 23, 2011

We had our first frost last night. I didn’t expect it and was surprised when I took out the dogs around 7:30. Time marches on. I attended the new Altoona Alliance Church this morning for their building dedication service. It was 4 1/2 years ago that fire destroyed their former building on 17th street. The church is now housed in the former Value City Department Store. The renovated building is beautiful and very inviting. They used the entire space wisely. They incorporated three non-profit Christian-based counseling centers into their campus and one for-profit business (to help pay the bills). It was one of those services with a lot of “thank yous”. Many people helped this congregation hold together over their long haul without a building. I wish them the best.

-John