BLOG: Funding Our Schools Is Good For Everyone

By: Sarah Galbally, Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning

November 24, 2015

As the details of the state budget are ironed out, Governor Wolf is continuing to fight for historic increases to basic and special education funding, along with pre-k. He understands the plight of school districts that have struggled to make ends meet while they await crucial state funding, and that it is time to end this five-month budget impasse. He understands the importance of compromise, offering several concessions over the last few months to issues like pensions and liquor, but throughout this entire process, he has stayed true to his most important goal: funding our schools.

Restoring the devastating cuts made to our schools over the last four years is Governor Wolf’s number one priority. The additional funding will allow Pennsylvania to turn the page on an ugly chapter of history that expanded class sizes, cut vital programs, and caused massive teacher furloughs and layoffs. Pennsylvania’s children have been paying a hefty price ever since.

In March, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera sent a letter to the 500 superintendents across Pennsylvania asking them to submit plans for how their districts would responsibly and appropriately invest the additional funding into the classroom. He, the governor, and other members of the administration have visited dozens of schools across the commonwealth and experienced firsthand how the cuts of the last four years have hurt them, and heard how an increase in state aid would directly benefit students through expanded summer school programs, class size reduction, art and music restoration, and early childhood education. The response, received from nearly all 500 districts, was overwhelming.

Governor Wolf with Stonehurst Hills Elementary School students
During an elementary school visit, Upper Darby School District superintendent Dr. Richard Dunlap told the governor:

“When this district had the proper resources and funding, we were improving the academic standing of our students, which, in turn, had a positive impact on the morale of the district and community. We are confident that our current focus on our k-12 literacy program and instructional practices will improve our student achievement scores and also, potentially, limit future special education costs.”

governor-shaking-hands
Dr. Elizabeth Robison of Pocono Mountain School District praised Governor Wolf’s commitment to funding education during a junior high school visit:

“If additional state funding is made available, the district plans to add four instructional technology coaches — two to work with students in grades K to 5 and two to work with students in grades 7 to 12 — to provide direct instruction to students on the use of technology. The district believes that with additional resources and opportunities, we can work toward preparing our diverse population of learners for the 21st century. It is important for our district to increase the amount of students who are proficient in reading by third grade. Closing the achievement gap for our district is a continued goal each year. This funding opportunity will directly assist with helping to achieve this goal.”

Those are just a few of the many stories members of the administration heard during the Schools That Teach Tour, which is 76 schools strong to date!

The bottom line is that a restoration of basic and special education funding that is distributed fairly is a vital first step in moving Pennsylvania forward, but it cannot happen until Republican leaders in the Legislature get back to work and gather enough votes to pass the various proposals both sides have agreed on.

As Governor Wolf has said from the beginning, “education is at the core of everything we want to achieve,” and securing much-needed education funding as part of a balanced budget will play an integral role in accomplishing his most important goal.

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