Rural Education in PA / Mariner East 2 Shutdown

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Titusville High School seniors scream during a spirit game at the homecoming pep rally (Kevin McCorry/Keystone Crossroads)

On the Wednesday January 10th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

Some of Pennsylvania’s rural communities are grappling with stagnant economies and declining industrial jobs, a steady drain of younger people and chronic addiction.  Many of these issues seep into their schools adversely affecting the educational development of Pennsylvania’s youth.

The current crisis of opioid addiction is having devastating consequences in the Commonwealth’s rural classrooms. Teachers and students are discussing the loss of classmates to overdoses.  Children are losing parents to addiction and incarceration while the stresses of being moved around by family members and welfare agencies create disruptions in both the student’s education and behavior.

The same issues are readily apparent in urban schools with districts channeling hundreds of millions of dollars into schools, they tend to slip off the radar in rural settings, away from the intense media coverage seen in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Keystone Crossroads reporter Kevin McCorry travelled throughout rural Pennsylvania to learn about the students, educators and families that struggle to provide a promising education for their children despite numerous obstacles.  McCorry joins us on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to share stories he heard and some of the solutions for turning around educational opportunities in our state.

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WHYY Keystone Crossroads reporter Kevin McCorry

Also, last week the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suspended all construction on Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, saying it has violated the conditions of two kinds of permits.  In particular, the 2.5 billion dollar, 350 mile pipeline has been plagued by mud spills and well water contaminations.  The pipeline will carry natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio to an export terminal near Philadelphia.


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WHYY State Impact Pennsylvania reporter Susan Phillips

State Impact Pennsylvania reporter Susan Phillips is on Smart Talk to discuss the latest iteration of the Mariner East saga, efforts to resume building and reactions from the community.


– I am a parent of two children and the wife of a teacher in Greencastle-Antrim school district. We are in the midst of a stalemate in which our teachers have been working without a contract since August.

Our district has grown rapidly and has a very good reputation. People move here for the schools. We already have a very small per student cost in running the district.

Hold Harmless has put us way behind in funding. We are struggling and trying to figure out how to keep our standards up and financially afloat.

We are one of very few districts who have a deficit in funding from Hold Harmless. Thus, our concerns fall on deaf ears. We are in desperate need of help.

Thank you for reporting on the districts and their specific needs.

Respectfully,  Mary T.      Greencastle, PA

Why aren’t more women elected in PA?

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On the Tuesday January 9th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

Of the 253 seats in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, only 45 are held by women.  Pennsylvania ranks 49th in the nation in placing female representatives in elected office, ahead of Mississippi.  In the history of the Commonwealth, there have only been seven women elected to executive positions.  The United States ranks 100th globally.

Research by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University found the women in the General Assembly pass legislation and find co-sponsors for their bills at a higher rate than male legislators.  The report characterized the female delegation in Harrisburg as “few, but mighty.”

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we’ll discuss the findings of the PCWP study with Dana Brown, executive director of the center and explore ways to encourage political engagement and participation by women in all demographics, locally and nationally.  Also joining us are Democratic Rep. Patty Kim, who represents Harrisburg and parts of Dauphin County and Republican Rep. Sheryl Delozier of Cumberland County in the State House of Representatives.

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Rep. Patty Kim, who represents Harrisburg and parts of Dauphin County and Rep. Sheryl Delozier of Cumberland County in the State House of Representatives


– I’d like to add to the conversation that I believe organized religion also has a lot to do with why Pennsylvania has fallen behind in electing women to politics. I personally know of women that participate in denominations that still believe a woman’s “place” is to support her husband, figuratively standing “behind” the male in the family. This becomes a cycle to the children in the family and so on and so forth. I don’t know how this compares to other states, but I do feel that Pennsylvania has strong organized religious ties that promote this belief.   – Emma

– Frequently, I think, if finances were equal amongst men and women, more women would consider running however women cannot pass laws to equalize income and opportunities unless they are in government.

I think women of lesser means cannot see a way to finance running for office while caring for a family and we need the women of greater means to run for office.

Women of lesser means have more needs that might inspire them to run for office, but the fear of financial failure and disaster is much greater. It seems to cost a lot to run for office and there is no promise you will win.

Women also have more free time and greater resources as they age; in PA our population is aging and it would be great if the baby boomer generation of women would run for office. The down side of being an older woman, however, is that older women are historically perceived as less attractive than their male counterparts; this is a factor because, despite societies efforts to resist the urge, a segment of our population determines who they vote for by how people look.                                                                             – anon

Iran Protests / Former Governor Tom Corbett

On Monday’s Smart Talk, we’ll discuss the social and economic dynamics that have brought Iranians into the streets in protest and the path moving forward in Iranian/American relations with Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, professor of international affairs at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Also, it’s been just over three years since Tom Corbett became the first incumbent governor of Pennsylvania to lose a re-election bid. orbett spoke with WITF’s RadioPA news director Brad Christman in the last week of 2017 about his time as governor, including his thoughts on why he lost his re-election bid, and concerns regarding legalized gambling and the state’s tobacco fund as well as other issues confronted during his term.  Smart Talk will air portions of Christman’s interview with the former governor on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Antiques Roadshow: Harrisburg / Rescuing Dogs from Slaughter

On Friday’s Smart Talk, we speak with Antiques Roadshow appraisers Sebastian Clarke and David Rago about  the experience of shooting the show in Harrisburg.

Also, the Humane Society International rescued 170 dogs from farms in South Korea where they were being raised for their meat.  Throughout history, dog meat has been used as sustenance by humans in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe.  While the concept has become relatively taboo in the 21st century, there are still communities in China, Korea and Vietnam who view dog meat as part of their daily cuisine.

Seven of those rescued dogs have been placed with the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in Lancaster County, Smart Talk will discuss the rescue of these dogs and efforts to end consumption of dogs around the world with John Plummer, executive director of the rescue.  We will also speak with Kelly O’Meara, Senior Director of Companion Animals and Engagement for Humane Society International, the agency responsible for the dogs’ rescue.

Civic Education

On Thursday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the role educators play in cultivating politically engaged citizens with the Honorable Marjorie Rendell, President of the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.  David Trevaskis, Pro Bono Coordinator with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, will discuss the association’s efforts to connect students with civic outreach and engagement and we’ll be joined by Zara Ward, Student School Board Representative for McCaskey High School who can share what the value of civic education to her.

Changes to US Tax Code/Attica prison riot

After all the last-minute politicking and outcry over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax overhaul bill signed into law by President Donald Trump last month, it quietly went into effect earlier this week.  There still are many American asking what the tax changes will mean to them.  On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we look at a few of them.

The initial iterations of the law had many in the home buying and building industry concerned that the elimination of property tax and local and state deductions could hamper home sales.  The final wording of the bill offered some relief for both builders and buyers.  On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the impact the tax overhaul could have on regional home sales with Todd Umbenhauer, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.    We’ll also speak with Sherry Labs, president of the Pennsylvania Tax Collectors Association to clarify the rules regarding pre-payment of 2018 property taxes to deduct from 2017 taxes; what the federal, state and local laws are for people looking to squeeze one more deduction into April’s filings.

The prison riot at New York state’s Attica prison in 1971 is considered one of the nation’s worst.  Thirty-nine men, including eight hostages, were killed when state police stormed the prison to retake it from inmates.  It’s taken 46 years but Heather Ann Thompson has written the definitive account of what happened at Attica in her book Blood in the Water.

What are you talking about?

On the Tuesday January 2nd, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

On the first edition of Smart Talk in 2018, we would like to talk to you, the listeners, about the issues and discussions you want to hear this year.  Many of the topics from the past year will continue into 2018.  We are committed to shining a spotlight on the region’s opioid crisis, legislative re-districting, the impact of the state’s natural gas boom, the #MeToo sexual improprieties movement, the tenor of political and civil discourse and topics in the news in both our communities and around the world.

The year 2017 will be remembered for issues that had a great impact on the lives on Americans and Pennsylvanians.  The first year of the Trump Administration brought with it a significant change in direction for the country and its policies — changes that generated sometimes loud and passionate discussion.  Can the pace of bombshell news continue in 2018?  Already, the president has accused Pakistan of taking billions of dollars in American aid without helping in the fight against the Taliban and terrorism.

Politics will be a big part of our reporting and Smart Talks in 2018.  Pennsylvania has a gubernatorial election, Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey is up for re-election and so are all the members of Pennsylvania Congressional delegation as well as the entire state House and half the Senate.

Often the media was taken to task by President Trump and his supporters.  One of the charges was that some journalists were out of touch with news consumers.  Tuesday’s Smart Talk is the perfect opportunity to identify the issues and stories important to you.

Host Scott LaMar will be joined by WITF news director Tim Lambert to discuss both the stories on the horizon and take your phone calls and emails on what topics and stories you would like to hear on Smart Talk this year.