Category Archives: Education
Through their website, Envision Lehigh Valley received a total of 1,118 completed surveys as well as feedback from 47 public meetings that were held through the fall. The breakdown of the participants represented an accurate cross section of our regional population on the characteristics of race, age, income and location.
In the 47 focus groups that were held during the public meetings, Lehigh Valley residents appeared to be most interested in discussing economic development, which they saw as a positive thing for the region.
They mentioned large projects currently being undertaken across the Lehigh Valley. Participants discussed projects such as the hockey arena, casino, and ArtsQuest. Projects involving specific companies, including Ocean Spray, and the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion, were mentioned as well as more generic business expansions like the Allentown waterfront project, the P&P Mill, and new hotels and retail space in various locations.
Focus group participants were generally dissatisfied with the types of jobs available to Lehigh Valley workers and didn’t believe the job market matched the qualifications most workers have.
The groups also examined other topics; citizens talked 652 times about housing, 549 times about fresh food access, and 378 times about climate and energy.
One of the most interesting findings to come out of the focus group analysis is that the overall interests and topics of discussion varied very little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held. These commonalities suggest that quality of life factors in the Lehigh Valley are important across the valley, not just in one or two communities.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has completed a study to predict the growth of the Lehigh Valley over the next thirty years. The Reader’s Digest version would say that there are A LOT of people coming to the region. Our population is projected to add another 226,722 people by 2040. The total population will be 873,954 in the LV at that time.
Using 2010 census data, the Planning Commission is able to detect trends in the growth patterns of Lehigh and Northampton counties and is able to break them down by age group to show specifically where we’ll be growing. It’s no secret that the baby boomer generation is aging, and that is shown clearly in the report. The largest growing age demographic will be the 75 and over crowd, who will add 54,265 people to their ranks. Coming second in growth rate are the 70-74 year olds, growing by 20,946.
As much as the elderly seem to love the Lehigh Valley, the young are leaving the region. One of the largest exits from the area is from 20-24 year old males with college degrees who lived here when they were pursuing their education and then moved away for jobs or other opportunities upon graduation.
Countering this trend is the influx of those in their later twenties, who often move to the region when they begin to start a family. As far as starting families goes, birth rates in Northampton County are expected to top the state average for every 5 year range that was studied. Lehigh County’s will stay closer to the state average or below.
Northampton County will also grow at a higher rate of 11.9 percent compared to Lehigh County’s 11.5 percent. The Planning Commission predicts that this is because of Northampton County’s proximity to New Jersey and New York as more employees from those states choose to live in Pennsylvania.
So, what do you think of all of this population growth? If you’ve got ideas or opinions on how the Lehigh Valley can better prepare or improve its existing stature, visit http://www.envisionlehighvalley.com and share your feedback or take one of the surveys about economic development, fresh food access, transportation and job/housing balance. With the massive growth in our region, we have to plan ahead so that residents, new and old, will have access to jobs, transportation, housing and food. People are flocking to the Lehigh Valley for a reason, let’s plan ahead to keep it great.
Thank you to everyone who attended the “State of the Lehigh Valley” lunch event on February 15th, and a special thanks again to our sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible: Highmark Blue Shield, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Capital Blue Cross, PPL, Air Products, Susquehanna Bank, Lehigh University’s Social Science Research Center, Just Born, Inc., Spillman Farmer Architects, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley!
With President Obama recently delivering his State of the Union address and Governor Corbett giving us the state of the commonwealth budget, it is an appropriate time to consider the “State of the LehighValley.” (To read the report: State of the Lehigh Valley 2011.) Last year the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC) partnered with Renew LehighValley (RenewLV) to present “State of the Lehigh Valley 2010: Community Trends at a Glance” to an audience of 250 concerned LehighValley residents.
This year’s presentation of the 2011 data focused on the livability of the LehighValley as measured by indicators like health, economics, education, environment, and quality of life standards. This year’s results suggest that the LehighValley “is in a better position economically and socially than in the recent past” even though most will agree that there are still many challenges to overcome before we can boast of regional prosperity. The luncheon was very participatory, with audience members providing their perspectives about the LehighValley’s competitiveness, public schools, disparities in access to health care, air quality, jobs, housing, and quality of life using a hand-held electronic response system, thus allowing for real time results. There were community experts in attendance to facilitate discussion based on these results.
The LehighValley is a very diverse collection of 62 municipalities and 17 public school districts within two of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, all acting independently to govern and lead in the best interest of each area’s residents. While it is the uniqueness of each area that makes it pleasing to its inhabitants, the similarities from one municipality to the other and how they assimilate to form the Lehigh Valley is a natural progression of governance and decision-making, unnoticed by most who live here.
In looking at just one section of data from the report, one sees that the Lehigh Valley’s current unemployment rate is higher than the Pennsylvania average, but lower than New Jersey and the national average, and our job growth is also below the rate of growth of Pennsylvania as a whole. On the other hand, average weekly wages in the LehighValley are higher than the state average but lower than New Jersey and the national average, and LehighValley residents as a group had higher median household incomes than the state and the nation. The report highlights how educational attainment is tied to this data. Perhaps a surprising statistic, graduation rates are not very different when economically disadvantaged student rates are compared to overall graduation rates, and in some districts the rate of graduation is higher among the economically disadvantaged students.
What does this mean? Well, 90 percent of all residents surveyed rated the LehighValley as either good or excellent with regard to living in this area. In light of the dissatisfaction with the economic situation, this is a significant statistic. It is indicative of the many great things the LehighValley offers its residents that are above and beyond dollars and cents: a relatively low crime rate, good public schools, easy access to goods and services, and a great network of hospitals and health care professionals. All of these are highlighted in the report.
I’m going to borrow a thought from this Sunday’s sermon (hope you don’t mind Father Steve) and if you have ever played sports, you will appreciate this. Were you ever a bench warmer? Did you like sitting on the bench? Or for that matter, if you were a starter, did you like coming out and watching from the sidelines? I bet the answer is no. You wanted to be involved, to make your mark, to influence the outcome of the contest, to be heard and noticed.
Well now is your chance to do that for your community, our community, the community we all call home. Whether you live in the northern-most point of the Slate Belt or the west end of Allentown, you are a LehighValley resident and the health and well-being of our residents and our cities and boroughs is your business and your voice should be heard. Time to get off the bench. Time to get involved. This is your opportunity to be in the starting five. Take it and join the discussion.
Revitalizing our urban centers and sustaining vibrant communities where people want to live and work is not possible without strong schools that offer robust curricula and are safe for children. Last year, Pennsylvanians witnessed $900 million worth of cuts in public education. As a result, local school districts have been forced to cut kindergarten classes, after-school tutoring programs, the arts, and sports. In order to pay for what the public schools have left, boards must modestly raise taxes to fill the gaps caused by the budget cuts, but this isn’t even enough. Consequently, we are seeing reductions in programs offered to the students who attend the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.
Make no mistake about it… this is not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is your issue. While the schools have been given more state testing requirements (a way to hold them accountable to the taxpayers and to the state for money spent), there has not been any meaningful review of how the schools have been funded through all these changes. The state has ordered a “costing out” study and a “school consolidation study,” neither of which have led to more streamlined or efficient school governance. It is time that we get serious about a statewide funding formula that is “aligned to learning standards, fiscally responsible, fair, and both Constitutional and ethical” according to “Education Voters.”
You have that opportunity to be heard on Monday, December 5th. Education Voters is calling on you to speak up. Go to the website (http://www.educationvoterspa.org/) and follow the easy prompts that will get you to your legislator so you can voice your opinion on public education in Pennsylvania. We must let them know what is important. Get involved in your community. After all, it is YOUR community.
There’s an interesting issue brief online from the Partnership for America’s Success, a coalition managed by the Pew Center on the States. The brief, citing an analysis by several economists and criminologists, makes the case that we should invest in healthy child development now as a way to avoid the significantly higher costs of societal problems later.
The researchers identify several negative outcomes of failure to invest early, and note the potential price tags:
- Child Abuse: Societal costs for medical and mental health care and services such as foster care total more than $30,000 for a child who is abused.
- Teen Parenthood: When a teenager has a child, the nation pays $120,000 for expenses including medical care, social assistance programs and efforts to deal with higher rates of abuse and neglect among these young parents.
- High School Dropout: A dropout costs society $250,000 through lower earnings and benefits.
- Illegal Drug Abuse: Treatment, medical care and other societal costs caused by a drug abuser amount to $250,000.
- Alcohol abuse: Societal costs for an alcoholic, such as medical problems, car crashes and lost productivity at work, add up to $230,000.
The brief goes on to compare some of the costs of early investment against the price tag of later problems. For example, the cost of “quality pre-kindergarten programs” which reduce the frequency of high-school dropouts, is around $10,000. On the other hand “a high school dropout’s lower earnings create costs for public assistance programs and efforts to offset the dropout’s reduced contribution to society.” These costs can total $250,000.
The issue brief focuses on the long-term savings of prevention; in this case, prevention of the effects of poor childhood development. Public health programs have the same goal — to prevent diseases and other health problems as a way to save money on treatment. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So what would you prefer? To invest now and gain a higher return in the form of significant savings, or to wait until a problem comes up, and find yourself shouldering higher costs?
In its landmark study on boosting Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness (Back to Prosperity), the Brookings Institution highlighted the importance of providing educational opportunities that lay the groundwork for innovation and entrepreneurship. Creating a culture of entrepreneurship is key to helping revitalize older core communities in the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania. Further, creating an economic culture in which new ideas and firms can flourish would help Pennsylvania reverse the “brain drain” that sees many younger, educated workers leave the state.
For RenewLV’s next brown-bag session, we’re pleased to be partnering with the Allentown Economic Development Corporation to hold a panel discussion on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and its importance for cultivating innovation, entrepreneurship and a vibrant regional economy. The expert panel includes:
Steve Melnick, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation
Kelly Rosario, STEM Director, Allentown School District
Troy Thrash, Executive Director and CEO, DaVinci Science Center
Todd Watkins, Director, Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, Lehigh University
This session will feature brief presentations from each of the panelists, followed by time for Q&A and discussion.
Please join us on Friday, November 19, from 12:00 to 1:30pm at AEDC’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, 905 Harrison Street in Allentown. Please note that a light lunch will be provided, thanks to support provided by the Enterprise Zone Program of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
I hope to see you on the 19th at Bridgeworks. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by emailing email@example.com or calling 484-893-1060.
Moravian College will be hosting Dr. Vandana Shiva on Tuesday, October 12th at 7:30 in Prosser Auditorium. Shiva’s educational history and awards are numerous, but suffice it to say that she’s a world-renowned activist for environmental issues, especially those centering around climate change and the developing world.
I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Shiva speak a few times at last year’s Conference of the Parties on climate change and, while the conference overall was a massive letdown, Shiva was one of the more interesting highlights of the trip. She’s can be very radical in her approach at times so it will be interesting to see what she discusses at this event.
As far as getting there, Prosser Auditorium is located in the Haupert Union Building(HUB) just off of Main St. in Bethlehem.
Address to get there: 1200 Main St. Bethlehem, PA 18018.
Second Harvest of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania’s summer nutrition education pilot program, Food for Thought, is one of 15 featured ideas on the Shoprite and Pepsi Refresh Everything Project. The top five vote-getting food banks will each receive $10,000 to support their project. Voting is open to anyone 13 years of age or older until August 16 (and you can vote daily).
Food for Thought: Healthy Meals for Families, a pilot program co-sponsored by Second Harvest and Community Services for Children (CSC), consists of 6 cooking classes covering a range of topics, from general nutrition, to basic cooking skills, to meal planning and budgeting, to the importance of eating together as a family. Kati Fosselius, a dietitian with the Allentown Health Bureau, and Todd Saylor, Executive Chef at Sodexo, have volunteered to teach the program. Participants also receive information about the many food assistance programs available to low-income people and can sign up for those programs for which they are eligible. The program is offered to women and families who are currently enrolled in Community Services for Children’s Early Head Start Program, a free educational program for low-income pregnant women and families with children from birth to three years of age.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring a large corporate grant for an important Lehigh Valley program, but we need strong community participation to bring this program into the top 5. Personally, I think the Lehigh Valley’s committed residents can push this to the number 1 spot.
Yesterday, Governor Rendell signed the $28 Billion 2010-2011 state budget. With all sorts of media coverage on the budget process and implications, it can be challenging to keep it all straight. Here is a brief overview of some of the information that is out there. If you have additional links, feel free to post them below.
KDKA- The local ‘CBS 2’ news station out of Pittsburgh provides a short and to-the-point overview of the budget.
• About 1% increase over last year’s budget
• No income or sales tax increase
• No increase in cigarette tax
• No new tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco
• New severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling
• Government operating costs 14% lower than in Rendell’s first year in office
• Basic education subsidy to school districts will increase 4.5% ($250M)
Morning Call- The Morning Call briefly discusses the budget’s increase in education support and the cut funding to libraries, state parks/forests, and environmental protection efforts. Mostly, the MC focuses on the two construction projects approved for honoring Senators Spector and Murtha. Critics argue that now is a bad time to spend state funds on such projects while the Governor contends that the money is “bond money” (which cannot be used for operating expenses) and will generate jobs.
Philadelphia Inquirer- The Inquirer outlines the discussion that has broken out following the signed budget. The article focuses on the $20 million allotted for new construction honoring Senators Murtha and Spector, and $141 million for projects in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. All $161 million of this money comes from the $600 million pot of bond money, of which the Governor decides how to spend half. All $161 million of budgeted spending has also been criticized by those who feel that construction of such projects is untimely or not appropriately detailed. The article also provides a succinct overview of some of the key budget details:
The $28 billion state budget that Rendell signed Tuesday holds the line on spending, adds no new taxes, makes cuts across most state agencies, and anticipates layoffs of about 1,000 state workers. It also relies on $850 million in additional federal Medicaid funding that has not yet been approved by Congress and faces an uphill battle when members return to work later this month.
Patriot News- In this article, the Patriot-News Editorial Board lays out some next steps for PA legislators following the completion of the budget. Included in the discussion are transportation concerns, juvenile justice, and texting bans.
PR Newswire- “Governor Rendell Signs Jobs Bill to Spur $1.2 Billion Investment in PA’s Economy, Create 18,000 Jobs” PR Newswire details a bill signed as a part of the 2010-2011 budget package authorizing funding through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The Governor claims that this program will have a positive impact on every region of the commonwealth.
This only covers some of what is being said. If you have seen other coverage that does a great job of articulating the details of the budget or highlights the implications of certain content, please post it as a comment below.
As Crossroads recently touched on, Good Schools Pennsylvania is joining with 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania and a number of other partners across the Commonwealth in holding the Building One PA Summit on Friday, July 16, in Lancaster. The purpose of the summit is to build a statewide movement in support of state and federal policies that advance regional equity and foster investment in Pennsylvania’s cities and boroughs. The featured speaker will be Myron Orfield, one the nation’s leading thinkers on regional planning, smart growth and urban revitalization.
The latest word from those convening the summit is that there are already more than 125 organizations that will represented at the event, including urban school districts, foundations, city and county governments, economic development organizations, community- and faith-based organizations, colleges and universities, regional planning organizations, unions, think tanks, and others.
In light of the Lehigh Valley’s strong culture of regional thinking–as well as the major role that our three cities play in the region’s economic and cultural life–it makes sense for the Lehigh Valley to have a strong showing in Lancaster. Interested in attending? You can register online (it’s $15, and that includes lunch).