Smart Talk Thursday; Pennsylvania was ‘ground-zero’ in the fight for disability rights

The opportunity to work, buy things for yourself, participate in community; to enjoy daily life in mainstream America is something that most people take for granted.

For Americans living with a disability, their right to live a free and open life was never actually guaranteed until thirty years ago.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, to prevent discrimination against the disabled. The ADA was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be an “equal opportunity” law for people with any kind of physical or cognitive disability.

Pennsylvania, in many ways, was central to the debate advocating for the deinstitutionalization of people living with disabilities, particularly individuals with cognitive impairment. Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Eastern Pennsylvania was one of nearly 300-like institutions in the United States but it became a symbol for the disability civil rights movement.

I go home chronicles the role institutionalization played in the life of people with intellectual disabilities in 1960s America and shines a light on life at the Pennhurst State School and Hospital. The WITF Original Production I go home broadcasts Sunday at noon on WITF TV.

Two authors join Smart Talk Thursday to share the details of a book they co-authored and edited, Pennhurst and the Struggle for Disability Rights.

Author Dennis Downey, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of History, Millersville University, and co-author Jim Conroy, Ph.D., a social science researcher and Co-President of the Pennhurst Memorial Alliance appear on Smart Talk, along with Debbie Robinson, a self-advocate and the Executive Director of Speaking for Ourselves. Robinson was present at the signing of the ADA of 1990 and will share her observations.

Smart Talk Wednesday: Opening schools, the debate continues

It has become apparent that there are many questions about reopening schools this fall. While the number of COVID-19 cases increase in some parts of the country and even some places in Pennsylvania, how students will be educated in a safe environment is of major concern for parents, teachers and administrators.

Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts are devising plans that include in-person classroom instruction, classes on-line, or a hybrid of the two. Schools are planning social distancing for students and students wearing masks. They’re also considering holding in-person classes only two days a week. Buses, cafeterias, gym classes and recess are all challenges for schools.

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss how schools may reopen are John Callahan, Chief Advocacy Officer with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Rich Askey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Damaris Rau, Ph.D., School District of Lancaster Superintendent, and Adrian Allan, Head of School, Harrisburg Academy.

Smart Talk Tuesday; Pediatricians and school nurses weigh-in on reopening schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocate for a return to in-school classes but warn that re-opening schools must be done safely and based on solid health guidelines, not on politics.

It is not surprising that kids perform best when they are in school learning, but they also benefit in other ways.

Children learn social and emotional skills at school and take advantage of healthy meals and personal health support. Access to teachers and adult advocates also plays a role in keeping kids safe from abuse, as evidenced by the significant drop in abuse reports the past five months.

As important as in-school learning is to kids, there are additional health issues that medical professionals say must be evaluated before opening schools.

Joining Smart Talk to explore these topics, as well as the safe return to school are Dr. William Keough, MD, Pediatric physician and Member of the Pennsylvania Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and Co-chair of the Chapter’s Advocacy Committee and Lori Kelley, RN, President, Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners.

Smart Talk Monday: Expansion of broadband during pandemic; Should students pay full tuition of college courses on line?

With so many Pennsylvanians working from home, students taking their classes on-line and doctors communicating with patients through telemedicine — reliable, broadband internet has taken on more urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Broadband has become an essential part of the infrastructure during the pandemic, but many areas of Pennsylvania – especially rural, but not limited to rural areas – don’t have access to the speeds and capacities needed.

There is near universal agreement that broadband should be more widely available but the cost has always been a hurdle.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss the renewed push for broadband are Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene).

Also, there are many college students who don’t think they should have to pay full tuition if their classes are not being conducted in person. We’ll hear from one who started an online petition that is getting a lot of attention. Millersville University senior Michael Kleine appears on Smart Talk.

Smart Talk Thursday; With evictions and foreclosures delayed, landlords and tenants bear the burden

The Wolf administration imposed stricter limitations on bars, restaurants and businesses yesterday in response to a reported rise in coronavirus cases state-wide. Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis reported on this new development and she joins Smart Talk to share the details.

Governor Tom Wolf also enacted a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures at the beginning of the pandemic, expressing concern about a possible wave of evictions and homelessness. That deferment was set to expire in July until the administration continued it until August 31.

The extension offers tenants more breathing room, but what about landlords and property owners?

According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of one owner’s association, the moratorium has put them in a very difficult financial position and that tenants aren’t the only ones feeling the strain.

Joining Smart Talk Thursday to discuss assistance for renters and homeowners are representatives of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency: Lori Toia director of the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program and Bryce Maretzki, director of strategic planning and policy. For phone assistance with the PHFA call 1-855-827-3466.

Also joining Smart Talk to discuss the impact the pandemic has on landlords and property owners are Marlynn Orlando, CEO, Pennsylvania Apartment Association and Leah Sailhamer, Vice President of Government Affairs, Pennsylvania Apartment Association.



Smart Talk Tuesday: What plans are schools making for classes this fall?

With the scheduled start of K-12 classes just over a month away, Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are working on plans to educate their students in environments that are safe from contracting or spreading COVID-19, while attempting to maximize learning. However, schools face significant challenges.

Gov. Tom Wolf wants a return to education this fall after shutting down schools when the pandemic hit Pennsylvania last March. President Trump all but demanded last week that students return to school.

It’s up to local districts to decide how that can happen, under the guidelines established by the state.

At this point, it appears schools can opt for all students returning to the classroom physically — with precautions and alterations to school buildings being made — a combination of in-person classes and virtual learning or all classes being taught on line.

Other issues will have to addressed as well like transportation, food service and sports.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss how schools re-open are John Callahan, Chief Advocacy Officer with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and Rich Askey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. David Christopher, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools, Cumberland Valley School District and Michael G. Leichliter, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools, Penn Manor School District, join us, as well.


Smart Talk Monday: A historic Supreme Court term ends; July tax day questions

As the final arbiter of the nation’s laws, any decision made by <a href=””>the U.S. Supreme Court</a> can be considered historic. <a href=”″>However, some rulings are more significant than others.</a> Under that premise, the Supreme Court term that ended last week was one for the history books.

The Court’s decisions also weren’t as predictable, as many expected them to be based on the justices’ political philosophies.

The Court ruled it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee based on that employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity, struck down Louisiana’s law that would have required doctors who performed abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital, and upheld the Trump administration rule that exempts employers who cite religious or moral objections from part of the Affordable Care Act that requires providing no-cost contraceptives to employees.

<a href=””>Widener University Commonwealth Law School</a> <a href=””>Professor of Law Michael Dimino</a> is on Monday’s <em><strong>Smart Talk</strong></em> to provide context to the Supreme Court rulings.

Also, <a href=”,file%20as%20quickly%20as%20possible.”>the extended tax deadline, due to the coronavirus pandemic, is Wednesday, July 15.</a>

Michael G. Radich, CPA, is the chairman of the federal tax committee of the <a href=””>Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants</a> and <a href=””>Founding Shareholder &amp; President at MGR CPA &amp; Consultants</a> and he join <em><strong>Smart Talk</strong></em> to answer tax questions. Radich is also going to spotlight other tax issues that business owners should understand, especially if they have taken advantage of <a href=””>CARES Act</a> assistance from the federal government.

Smart Talk Thursday: A life-line needed for childcare centers and friends find inspiration by helping fellow graduates

Moving the US economy forward and getting people back to work will depend a great deal on the availability of affordable, quality childcare.

Early in 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation partnered with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission to quantify the lack of childcare in cost to Pennsylvania. Their report found the loss to the state due to lack of sufficient childcare exceeded $3 billion. 

Then came the pandemic and childcare centers had to apply for an exemption to the state-wide closure order issued by Governor Wolf in March, but only if they served families of essential personnel. Without an exemption they closed their doors.

Joining Smart Talk on Thursday to discuss the economic impact of insufficient childcare and the impact of the loss of this essential service to the state is Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Department of Human Services, along with s

A group of friends from the Harrisburg area have a big vision for a former Harrisburg area school.

Four members of the group are former athletes and graduates of the Milton Hershey School who observed that some alumni, or “Milt” brothers and sisters, struggle after graduating. What began as a brainstorming session on ideas to help fellow grads developed into a business idea – The Bridge Eco-Village.

The pandemic hasn’t slowed the pace of the project that started last year. In fact, they say it has made them more productive and focused, and they point out that the project is uniquely suited to impact many of the social and racial inequities being reflected upon today.

Appearing on Smart Talk Thursday to talk about moving The Bridge Eco-Village from a concept to reality are Corey Dupree, Chief Operations Officer, Jordan Hill, Chief Community Officer and Garry Gilliam, Jr., Founder and CEO.

Smart Talk Wednesday: Are the polls accurate?; Industry ups and downs during pandemic

The presidential election is four months away, and it seems there is a new poll every day with a snapshot of how much support President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden have.

Most polls across the country from the last two weeks show Biden leading Trump, especially in what are considered key states to winning the election like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida.

However, many polls didn’t show Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016 either which may make some question today’s poll results.

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the accuracy of polls and what’s different in 2020 with Berwood Yost, Director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been called an accelerator by different industries. Some industries like business technology, policy and practices have grown but the pandemic has resulted a steep financial decline of other industries.

Before the pandemic, the travel industry was one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy. No longer, as COVID-19 applied the emergency brakes to any near-term tourism growth.

There have been some surprises along with way, too. Alcohol and cigarette sales in the U.S. are on the rise, as are outdoor recreation products like RV’s and bicycles.

Joining us on Smart Talk Wednesday to look at how different industries have fared during the pandemic is Ben Levisohn, managing editor for markets at Barron’s, an investing publication of the Dow Jones & Company.

US Senator Casey; predicting COVID-19 spread based on where you live

While state governments lead the COVID-19 pandemic response throughout the country, the federal government continues work to support their efforts.

Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey recently introduced a bill to reshape Medicaid funding, which has the potential for significantly increasing Medicaid resources in the state.

Senator Casey joins Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss this bill, along with the outlook for another federal stimulus plan.

Where you live may play a role in predicting future COVID-19 disease spread. Not only because of how government agencies are responding to the crisis but based on the likelihood people living there will follow the health guidelines that have been put in place.

A recent Penn State College of Medicine study found that several U.S. cities may be at an increased risk of surges because their residents seem unwilling to follow certain mitigation practices.

Dr. Robert Lennon, MD, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, joins Smart Talk along with Dr. Lauren Van Scoy, MD, co-director of the Qualitative Mixed Methods Core at the College of Medicine, to offer research survey findings.

The survey (link here) was created in collaboration with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) to determine whether people were willing to follow key recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in preventing the spread of COVID-19.