With less than a week to enact a budget by the June 30th deadline, Pennsylvania House and Senate members were sent home until Monday, June 27th to give their leaders time to negotiate the details of a final budget agreement with the Wolf Administration. Presumably this proposed budget will be presented to the General Assembly for a vote early next week.
Governor Wolf has put forward his K-12 education funding priorities, which include:
- $1.25 billion Basic Education Funding increase for all 500 districts
- $200 million special education funding increase for all 500 districts
- $300 million Level Up funding increase for the poorest 100 school districts in the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth is sitting on a record surplus of funding–the state will have as much as $12 billion on hand for spending as the state enters the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The General Assembly has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make substantial investments in public education that will reduce gross, unconstitutional disparities in funding and begin to fix a school funding system that guarantees that the students who need the most in their schools have the fewest resources. They have an opportunity to lay a foundation for a brighter future for ALL Pennsylvania students and the Commonwealth as a whole. And they can help reduce the pressure on property tax increases.
Alas, lawmakers in the majority party, who wield enormous power in budget negotiations, have radically different priorities for education, which include:
- Increasing public funding for private and religious schools through a new voucher bill (House Bill 2169) and the Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs.
- Attacking vulnerable students with legislation that targets trangender students (House Bill 972), Pennsylvania’s own Don’t Say Gay bill (Senate Bill 1278), and a school censorship bill (Senate Bill 1277).
- Protecting cyber charter school profits by steadfastly REFUSING to consider legislation supported by 484 school boards that would match school district tuition payments to charters with charters’ actual costs, allowing cybers to continue to waste millions of property tax dollars on advertising, cash payments to families, parties at Dave and Busters, and paying for students’ trips and leisure activities.
- Passing a tax cut for corporations and NOT funding schools,which would *guarantee* higher property taxes for their constituents. (Click HERE to read the PA Schools Work Talking Points Memo about the proposed corporate tax cut).
And some Republican lawmakers are saying that they aren’t hearing from constituents who support public school funding as a top priority in the budget. 👀👀👀
This is a curious claim since Ed Voters was in Harrisburg when, on a single day, advocates with many different organizations made more than one hundred in-person visits and we know that other advocates have made thousands of contacts via email and phone over the past few months…..
So-what can you do to help get the best possible budget for PA public school students?
- Click HERE to find the Harrisburg phone number of your state senator and representative. Save the numbers in your cell phone contacts for easy access.
- Call your state lawmakers and tell them to support a $1.75 billion investment in public education in the 2022-2023 state budget.
Hello, this is <name>. I live at <your address> and I am a constituent of <lawmaker name>. I am calling to ask <lawmaker name> to make funding public education a top priority in the budget this year by supporting the full $1.75 billion proposed increase in funding for K-12 public schools. Pennsylvania has the money to make this investment and we are counting on you to support public school students.
Two phone calls will take less than five minutes and will keep this issue on lawmakers’ radar as we head into the final stretch of budget negotiations. I understand that a lot of us are worn out, but this one final push is important and will make a difference. And if you don’t want to talk to anyone, wait until after hours and leave a message that staff will log in the morning!
Additional information about pending legislation
House Bill 972 (Gleim) Bans trans girls and women from playing scholastic and collegiate sports.
Senate Bill 1278 (Martin) Pennsylvania’s Don’t Say Gay Bill
This bill was passed out of the Senate Education Committee by a 7-4 vote on June 21, 2022. It is unclear if the full Senate will take up the bill before lawmakers go on their summer break.
- Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity is banned from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
- School personnel can only engage in a conversation with a student who has initiated communication related to sexual orientation or gender identify if the school has received permission from the parent.
- Teachers could face legal action by parents if there is any discussion about a gay family or transgender student in the classroom.
Senate Bill 1277 (Aument)–censoring books and materials in schools
This bill was passed out of the Senate Education Committee by a7-4 vote on June 21, 2022. It is unclear if the full Senate will take up the bill before lawmakers go on their summer break.
- This bill requires school boards to develop a policy that would identify instructional materials and materials in school libraries that contain “sexually explicit” material and notify parents of specific “sexually explicit content prior to student exposure.”
- It gives individuals and small groups of parents the power to remove books that they deem objectionable.