We have waited four long years to hear these words. There’s no better way to start this morning than to quote Gov. Wolf himself, who put public education at the very top of his budget speech yesterday:
Let’s start with schools.
Our commitment to education is historic.
We are starting with education because, in many ways, education is at the core of everything else that we want to achieve. …
A great public education system will help Pennsylvania attract new businesses, retain talent, and grow the middle class. …
Over the past four years, Pennsylvania took a step in the wrong direction by trying to balance our state budget on the backs of our schools.
It left us with 25,000 educators out of work.
It forced 75 percent of school districts to cut academic programs.
It forced 70 percent of our school districts to increase class sizes.
It left 56 percent of Pennsylvania students with no access to a full-time librarian.
And it forced too many schools to cut art and band to pay for reading and math.
My fellow Pennsylvanians: this is not a formula for success.
We can do a lot better.
It’s just this simple: our state is never going to get stronger as long as we make our schools weaker.
And that is why the very first thing my budget does is restore the $1 billion in cuts to public education that occurred under the previous administration. [Gov. Wolf’s 2015-16 Budget Speech]
I think I hear angels singing. Or maybe that’s choirs of public school children excited to get their music programs back. With that sweet soundtrack in mind, here are the education highlights from the governor’s proposed budget (summaries from EducationVoters PA and the Education Leadership and Policy Center):
- INCREASE of $400 million for Basic Education Subsidy, the largest in Pennsylvania history according to EdVoters (up 6.98%). This combined line item includes what was for 2014-15 separate line items for Basic Subsidy, Accountability Block Grant, and Ready to Learn Block Grant.
- INCREASE of $100 million for Special Education (up 9.55%).
- INCREASE of $120 million for Early Education – Pre-K Counts and Supplemental Head Start (up 87.93%). This will increase the number of children in Pre-K Counts and state-funded Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs by 75% or more than 14,000 children!
- INCREASE of $23 million for Career and Technical Education (up 37.10%).
- INCREASE of $4.6 million for Adult and Family Literacy (up 38.10%).
- INCREASE of $15 million for Community Colleges (up 6.98%).
- INCREASE of $45.302 million to the State System of Higher Education (up 10.98% increase).
- INCREASE of $82.138 million to State-Related Universities (up 15.76%). Locally, this would include restoring $14.9 million to the University of Pittsburgh.
- INCREASE of $2 million for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) grants to arts organizations (up 23.3%).
- $9 million for Dual Enrollment requested from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
- An estimated $160 million in savings to school districts from Cyber Charter Reform, including a proposed 10% in charter reimbursement and a flat rate for cyber-charter schools.
- Governor Wolf also called for a new education funding formula by June 30th (to start in the 2016-17 school year).
What do all these numbers mean for local school districts? Pittsburgh would see an increase of 8.06% with this budget, restoring $14.9 million in combined Basic Education Funding and Special Education Funding to our schools. (See PA Dept of Ed spreadsheet for all school districts.)
As I told the Post-Gazette, this is what parents have been waiting for. This budget puts us on track to get us back to where we were before the education cuts four years ago. [Post-Gazette, 3-4-15] It’s not the end-all, be-all … but it sure is sweet music to our ears. Gov. Wolf even made public education the headline of his widely shared budget info-graphic (below). Now the legislature needs to get to work with our new governor and make it happen!