Budget Briefing: Schools that Teach
February 09, 2016
Pennsylvania is at a crossroads. We can fund our schools and fix our deficit or we will be faced with an additional $1 billion in cuts to education funding. Governor Wolf is fighting to restore the cuts made by the previous administration, but inaction by the Republican-controlled legislature has left us with underfunded schools and a ballooning deficit. If we build on a bipartisan budget agreement by increasing school funding we can take on the status quo and finally give our students the resources they need to succeed. If we fail to invest in our schools, we will see larger class sizes, teacher layoffs, and skyrocketing property taxes.
FAILURE TO ACT
It is time for the legislature to recognize the fiscal problem facing Pennsylvania and work with Governor Wolf to honestly eliminate the deficit. A failure to acknowledge our fiscal crisis will result in an additional $1 billion cut to education:
Thousands of Teacher Layoffs
Thousands of teachers, guidance counselors, and career counselors will be laid off if the legislature fails to honestly address our deficit. In all, more than 23,000 education professionals could be forced out of Pennsylvania schools unless we take real steps to fix our unbalanced budget.
Increasingly Crowded Classrooms
Across Pennsylvania, already strained classrooms will become even more crowded. Class sizes will balloon by 30 percent as a result of teacher layoffs. Worse, the consequences will not be evenly distributed – classroom crowding will be most severe in the schools that can least afford it. But all across our commonwealth, our children will receive less attention, less instructional time, and less opportunity to gain the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.
Technical education programs, special education programs, and Head Start programs will all face cuts if we fail to address Pennsylvania’s fiscal crisis.
Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania children will lose access to pre-kindergarten, depriving them of early childhood education that we know is key to their future success.
CHOOSING A RESPONSIBLE PATH
Governor Wolf’s 2016-2017 Budget presents a responsible path forward that will eliminate our deficit and fund our schools. We can choose this path that addresses our deficit to avoid critical program cuts and teacher layoffs and makes smart investments in schools to make sure our children are receiving the education they deserve.
Significant Investments in Education
Governor Wolf’s 2016-2017 Budget proposes that the state take its rightful share of the responsibility for funding our schools with real sources of revenue. Governor Wolf’s 2016-2017 Budget provides for:
- A $200 million (3.3 percent) increase in the Basic Education Subsidy. This increase above the assumed $377 million increase in 2015-16, will be distributed using the Fair Funding Formula that was created and unanimously adopted by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission in June 2015. The formula provides sufficient, predictable and equitable funding for school districts across the commonwealth, and includes student-based factors like the number of children in the district who live in poverty or who are enrolled in charter schools, as well as district-based factors such as the wealth of the district, the district’s current tax effort and the ability of the district to raise revenue.
- A $50 million (4.6 percent) increase in the Special Education Subsidy. This increase, in addition to the assumed $50 million increase in 2015-16, will continue Pennsylvania’s transition to the funding formula enacted in 2015 to reflect the work of the bipartisan Special Education Funding Commission.
- A $60 million (30.5 percent) increase in high-quality early childhood education. This funding increase builds upon the assumed $60 million investment in 2015-16 to enroll about 14,000 children in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. In 2003, Pennsylvania joined the ranks of states that offer full-day prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year olds. Currently, only 30 percent of Pennsylvania children in families earning up to three times the federal poverty level – or $72,750 for a family of four – are enrolled in high quality pre-k programs.
Building a Bridge from High School to College and Careers
Preparation for high-skill careers must start long before most students even begin to think about college and careers. Fewer than half of Pennsylvania’s citizens have a college degree or industry-recognized certification. By 2025, roughly 60 percent of good-paying, reliable jobs in the state will require these credentials. Across the nation, employers report difficulty finding qualified applicants and incur training costs for workers who lack necessary skills. To ensure that the next generation of Pennsylvanians ̶ those currently in middle school and high school – are prepared for the jobs of the future, we must begin to close the gap today.
Over the next decade, Pennsylvania will seek to make a college degree or high-value industry-recognized certification available to at least 650,000 additional commonwealth residents. The 2016-17 Budget invests in programs that continue to modernize Career and Technical Education in Pennsylvania.
The 2016-17 Budget provides:
- $15 million in additional support for the establishment and expansion of high-quality Career and Technical Education programs to prepare students for success in today’s economy. School districts, Career and Technology Centers, higher education institutions, employers and labor organizations can work together through public-private partnerships to train students for high priority occupations that pay a living wage and offer a career ladder for growth opportunities.
- Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit and industry credentials while participating in work-based learning.
- $5 million for Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants to support updating or purchasing new equipment used in the training of students. Priority will be given to Career and Technical Education grant applicants that show an in kind or monetary contribution from employers or other partners.
- $8 million to help school districts offer college and career counseling in middle and high schools to develop pathways to higher education and high-skill careers.
Reinvesting in Pennsylvania’s Institutions of Higher Learning
The 2016-17 Budget reinvests in higher education by continuing Governor Wolf’s commitment to a four-year restoration of the damaging cuts to our colleges and universities. In addition, the budget supports programs that help to achieve the goal of 60 percent of Pennsylvanians with a degree or high-value certificate by 2025.
The combined funding increases in 2015-16 and 2016-17 for our higher education delivery system are as follows:
- Community Colleges. A $22.1 million increase for Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges to achieve the degree, certificate or certification goals.
- PASSHE. A $42.3 million increase for the 14 universities that are part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
- State-Related Universities. A $59.7 million increase for Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University. These resources will encourage innovation by helping the four public universities translate research into job creation.
Read more posts about Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 budget.
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