Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of PA, issued this statement in response to Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget for education in the 2023-2024 state budget.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2023
Shapiro Budget Proposal for Education Moves the Dial and Recognizes we Need to Turn Up the Volume
Harrisburg (March 7, 2023) – Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget for education moves the dial and acknowledges that the time to turn up the volume is now. The vision of students in public schools having the resources they need to succeed is there, but the funding is still inadequate.
The Governor acknowledged that the recent Commonwealth Court ruling recognized that education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution to all children and that students in low-wealth districts are currently denied that right because their districts cannot raise sufficient local resources. The court also recognized that our schools require additional state funding to meet our constitution’s mandate—a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary public education system that gives every child a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.
In his budget address, Governor Shapiro showed he is willing to work to find a comprehensive solution to the lawsuit decision, and that the proposed increases in basic and special education funding in this budget are inadequate to meet the moment. These increases keep pace with inflation–allowing districts to barely tread water when they need substantial additional state investments to meet their students’ needs.
The absence of a Level Up supplement for Pennsylvania’s 100 poorest districts is both disappointing and puzzling. Level Up has earned strong bipartisan support during the past two legislative sessions. This well-recognized supplement helps to close the funding gaps that hurt our most vulnerable students and are at the heart of Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional school funding system.
The absence of proposals for commonsense charter school funding reforms that are supported by 90% of school districts is a missed opportunity to reduce pressure on property tax increases. More closely matching tuition payments with charter schools’ actual costs will reduce overpayments to charter schools and help keep school funding in classrooms instead of siphoning it into expensive charter school advertising campaigns and private pockets.
We are also deeply disappointed and concerned by the proposed $11 million, or 2%, increase in funding for the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education (PASSHE), our system of public higher education. The commonwealth’s appalling neglect of funding for higher education leaves our college graduates with the third highest student debt in the nation. If we hope to have a strong economy in the commonwealth, we need a robust investment in public higher education so that young people can afford to attend our high-quality public universities. And if we hope to address our looming teacher shortage, college students need to be able to get a teaching degree without having to take on a mountain of debt that they will struggle to ever dig out from under.
Pennsylvania has a $5 billion rainy day fund and a $7.8 million budget surplus. Harrisburg is flush with cash and in a position to make a substantial down payment toward rectifying its unconstitutional K-12 public school funding system and to put the dream of higher education back within the reach of children from working families who will become our future teachers, nurses and other professionals that support a thriving commonwealth.
We are optimistic that this budget is a starting point and that the final state budget for the upcoming year will expand on the Governor’s proposal to provide an even larger down payment toward the public K-12 and public higher education funding that is necessary for our young people and the commonwealth to thrive.
MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Spicka, firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Don’t miss our deep dive into this proposal tomorrow!