Round-up: School District Officials Statewide “Elated,” “Excited,” “Optimistic” for Governor Wolf’s Pennsylvania Education Funding Plan

March 12, 2015

Harrisburg, PA – On March 4, Governor Wolf proposed his 2015-2016 state budget that makes historic investments in Pennsylvania’s education system. Governor Wolf’s budget will increase the state’s share of funding for public education to 50% for the first time in at least four decades and will cut school district property taxes by more than 50 percent for the average homeowner. Across the Commonwealth, parents, teachers, administrators, and superintendents are “optimistic,” “excited,” “pleased,” and “elated” to hear the governor’s plans for Pennsylvania’s schools. Officials at Pennsylvania’s institutes of higher learning, where significant funding increases will also occur, are “applauding” Governor Wolf for the “immeasurable help.”

Last week, top Senate Republicans sent a letter statewide to district superintendents, urging them to lower their expectations about the levels of funding to be provided by the commonwealth in the 2015-2016 budget. In spite of this letter, which the Wolf Administration immediately denounced as a “political stunt,” school district officials are pushing for their local legislators to seriously consider the governor’s proposal. Take a look at the statewide reactions to Gov. Wolf’s Pennsylvania education funding plan:

Erie Times-News: Erie school leaders like Wolf plan. 

“Erie School District administrators and school board members are holding their collective breath hoping Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget — or at least a piece of it — becomes reality. ‘From the proposed standpoint, we’re sitting in great position right now,’ district Business Administrator Rick D’Andrea said… District administration continues to work to cut costs to bridge a roughly $5 million budget gap in its preliminary 2015-16 budget, D’Andrea said. If the proposed increase makes its way into the state’s final budget, ‘then we’ll have options’… [Board member Robbie Fabrizi]  said, ‘Governor Wolf has done the right thing in funding schools the way they should be funded.’” [Erie Times-News, 3/12/15]

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: East districts support proposed education budget. 

“Some of the additional funds and changes he has proposed have resonated with local school officials concerned with balancing the budget… School officials in the east suburbs facing possible property-tax hikes and structural deficits say they would welcome the additional money… ‘We need this,’ [Plum School Board member Michelle] Stepnick said. ‘I agree with the governor. Unless we start paying for education, we will pay for it everywhere else.’”[Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/11/15]

Centre Daily Times: Wolf visits Wingate Elementary, stumps for education budget.

“[Bald Eagle Area School District] board members such as Bellefonte’s Bob Lumley-Sapanski are excited about the prospects of the governor’s proposal. ‘It’s been tight giving the kids the education they need to be successful,’he said after the tour. ‘I know this is a starting point … but I’m optimistic.’ Wingate Principal Jim Orichosky said he hopes to see the funding approved. He wants to roll the money into additional technology.” [Centre Daily Times, 3/9/15]

Herald-Standard: Area school officials embrace Wolf’s proposed education plan.

“’All districts depend on state dollars because there’s always a need in districts for textbooks, professional development, building and ground improvements, special education, security and safety. Anything districts receive is always a plus we can utilize for the necessary means of a quality education,’ said [Albert Gallatin Area School District Superintendent Carl] Bezjak. Public school administrators also acknowledge districts need reassurance from the commonwealth. ‘In regards to the proposed re-investment in education, I agree that efforts at the state level need to assure local districts that funding will be available to not only operate the schools, but to offset the many mandates required by the state. Therefore, any increase in school funding will ultimately assist in the education of our students,’ said Superintendent Jesse Wallace of the Laurel Highlands School District.” [Herald-Standard, 3/9/15]

Sunbury Daily Item: Budget reforms raise hope for end to ‘guessing game.’

“After four years of state budgets that left them short, Valley school superintendents look at Gov. Tom Wolf’s first education numbers with a lot of caution and a little hope: caution the governor’s plan makes it through the legislature and hope a reliable funding formula takes shape… ‘It’s very welcome,’ [Superintendent Mark DiRocco of the Lewisburg Area School District] said… ‘Any increase in public education funding would be welcomed by the school district,’ [Milton Area School District Superintendent Cathy Keegan] said… ‘I think his proposal is the most solid all-around way to address the multiple issues (in education funding) that I’ve heard from anybody,’[Selinsgrove Area School District Superintendent Chad] Cohrs said.” [Sunbury Daily Item, 3/7/15]

Hazleton Standard-Speaker: Budget proposal may benefit Weatherly school district.

“Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget could bring substantial monetary benefits to the Weatherly Area School District, according to David Marsiglio, business manager… The district is currently running a shortfall with a budget of $11.57 million and expenses totaling $12.08 million for the current school year. The savings would give the district revenue of over a mill in property taxes. One mill of property tax revenue for 2015-16 is equivalent to $169,000. Marsiglio expressed optimism about boosting the school district’s finances through a welcome redistribution of the savings.” [Hazleton Standard-Speaker, 3/6/15]

Pittsburgh Business Times: Western Pennsylvania schools could see $78M in additional funds under Wolf’s plan. 

“Across the state as retirement obligations at schools districts continue to climb, additional help from the state is welcomed relief, said Baldwin-Whitehall School District Superintendent Randy Lutz. ‘Our retirement costs are up, special ed costs are up, so this is a step in the right direction to have the state share the obligation of funding public education,’ he said.” [Pittsburgh Business Times, 3/5/15]

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: School officials hopeful of seeing increases in education funding under Wolf plan. 

“’We are very excited for the proposal for public education and the hope that it may be restored to levels similar to a few years ago,’ McKeesport Area spokeswoman Kristen Davis said. ‘Topics that Gov. Wolf touched upon would enable school districts to once again be on a level playing field… We look forward to following the budget process and continuing to give our students the best educational experience at McKeesport Area School District.’ … ‘Gov. Wolf’s budget is a proposal that places an important investment in public education,’ said Clairton City spokeswoman Alexis Trubiani…’The proposal addresses a new school funding formula, property tax relief, reforming cyber charter school funding and important pension reforms that should help the school district,’ Trubiani said. ‘The Clairton City School District sincerely hopes the final budget numbers that will be released in June continue to reflect a strong emphasis on providing fair and equitable funding and resources needed to help our students succeed,’ … ‘Over the last several years, the Pennsylvania budget saw deep cuts to education funding that put school districts like South Allegheny, who are very dependent on state funding, at a distinct disadvantage,’ Superintendent Wayne P. Gdovic said. ‘We are pleased to see that Gov. Wolf has proposed a restoration of education funding…We remain cautiously optimistic as the budget works its way through the Legislative approval process.’” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/5/15]

Lebanon Daily News: Local school officials pleased with proposed education budget.

“Lebanon School District Superintendent Marianne Bartley said she was pleased to see Wolf is making education a priority. ‘It’s good to see the governor putting an emphasis on public education, and it will be very helpful to us as a school district, and it will put us in a situation that the cuts that were made over the past four years can be mitigated,’ she said. ‘We really did suffer losses over the last four years, and it has taken its toll on achievement scores’… [Annville-Cleona Superintendent Steven] Houser said he is pleased that Wolf has said that the education of our children is a priority. ‘I consider the education of our children a patriotic duty as well as a priority,’ Houser said. ‘We have to prepare the future of our country. Certainly, I think he’s recognized that and has made an effort to do something with that.’” [Lebanon Daily News, 3/4/15]

Philadelphia Inquirer: It’s been a good week for Phila. schools.

“William R. Hite Jr. finds himself in an unusual spot. For the last two winters and springs, he has grappled with Philadelphia School District budget holes in the hundreds of millions. Then, on Tuesday, Gov. Wolf said he wanted $159 million more for city schools…’This is a new place for me,’ the superintendent said… ‘We’re elated, ecstatic.’” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/6/15]

Morning Call: Education a big winner under Wolf’s proposed budget.

“Under Wolf’s plan, Allentown would receive $110.3 million in basic and special education funding in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The district was already budgeting a 3 percent increase from the state, but with those numbers, that’s more than a 6 percent increase. ‘If all, or even part of these changes, are implemented, it will have a favorable impact on the Allentown School District’s budget,’ Superintendent Russ Mayo said in a statement…. [Bethlehem Area School District] Superintendent Joseph Roy said the increase in special education funding will benefit the district because costs continued to grow while funding didn’t. ‘I’m impressed with the bold plan laid out by the governor,’ he said… Hearing that community colleges will receive additional funding after years of staying flat was good news, [Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson.] said. ‘I would applaud the governor,’ Erickson said. ‘He recognizes the importance of community colleges.’” [Morning Call, 3/4/15]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane ‘pleased’ with Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal. 

“Saying she is ‘pleased’ with the proposal made by the governor Tuesday, [Pittsburgh Public School Superintendent Linda] Lane said, ‘We additionally appreciate that the governor’s proposal places value on early childhood education, which aligns to milestones in our Whole Child, Whole Community plan that prioritizes kindergarten readiness and third-grade ready.’ She also praised the proposed boost to career and technical education programs.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/4/15]

Philadelphia Inquirer: School officials pleased by Wolf budget proposal.

“Gov. Wolf’s proposal Tuesday for a historic increase in state education spending was received like a Christmas bonus in March by school officials in the region, and they said they were especially pleased about what it might mean for property owners – lower taxes… ‘If we can get adequate state funding, we can absolutely reduce the contributions that people make. . . . That’s what we’ve been saying all along,’ said Lawrence Mussoline, superintendent of the Downingtown Area School District… ‘It’s certainly a better message than we’ve heard from Harrisburg in four years, but I’m also pragmatic,’ said [Bristol Township Superintendent Sam] Lee. ‘But the fact that education is at the forefront of this conversation is really, really, truly encouraging.’ [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/5/15]

Citizens’ Voice: Educators pleased with proposal.

“Area educators are delighted with Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to boost education funding. ‘Gov. Wolf’s budget address was extremely uplifting,’ Dallas School District Superintendent Frank Galicki said. ‘For the first time in many years, we have a governor who is extremely interested in fairly funded education.’ …’The overall plan would appear to take significant steps to ease the burden on our local taxpayers,’ Hanover Area School District Superintendent Andrew Kuhl said. ‘This certainly would serve to strengthen our community and lend itself to aid in economic growth.’…’The governor’s proposal gives back hope that has been lost to public education the last few years,’ Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Bernard M. Prevuznak said. ‘His plan on injecting funding back into local school districts has been what many of us have been waiting for’…’The increased funding for public education would clearly have a positive impact on our academic programs,’ Pittston Area School District Superintendent Michael Garzella said. ‘It will allow our schools to sustain quality programming for all of our students. Districts are struggling across the commonwealth, trying to balance budgets with limited revenue sources. We cannot continue to place this burden on local property taxpayers. I applaud the governor for seeking alternative solutions for funding our schools.’ Wyoming Area Superintendent Janet Serino said it was ‘refreshing to hear about the governor’s support for a fair funding education formula.’” [Citizens’ Voice, 3/4/15]

Reading Eagle: Gov. Wolf’s state budget: A boost for higher education.

“In his 2015-16 budget, Wolf would raise spending for the 14 state-owned universities to about $458 million, an increase of 11 percent, or $45.3 million. The state-owned universities include Kutztown, Millersville, and West Chester. The state-owned universities had requested an additional $50 million. ‘The prospect of this investment would provide immeasurable help,’ State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan said in a statement.” [Reading Eagle, 3/4/15]

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Sheridan – 717.783.1116

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