Opinion Columns & Blogs

Budget a win for schools across state

The 2016-17 budget provides a significant step forward for Pennsylvania schools. It will help promote student success and improve access to a high-quality education — regardless of a child’s zip code. Working with our partners in the legislature, we are moving Pennsylvania forward by investing in our children.

During the past two years, Gov. Tom Wolf has championed our schools and fought for increased education funding. As a result of his advocacy, this budget provides an additional $200 million in basic education funding, as well as a $30 million increase for early childhood education to preserve the number of slots in proven early learning programs like Pre-K Counts and Head Start, a $20 million increase for special education and a more than $10 million increase for early intervention. This funding will help restore even more districts from the deep funding reductions of 2011.

The new education funding included in this budget will be distributed using the bipartisan fair funding formula, which was signed into law in early June. Prior to the passing of this bill, Pennsylvania was one of only three states that did not have such a formula in place, contributing to massive inequities in schools and hitting the most vulnerable students the hardest.

Investing in our schools and our children is Wolf’s top priority. Working with the General Assembly, he secured historic statewide increases during the past two fiscal years, including $415 million in basic education funding, $60 million for early childhood education, $50 million for special education and $14.6 million for early intervention.

Specifically, the State College Area School District receives an additional $630,000 for basic education and more than $13,000 in increased funding for special education. Combined with the increases secured under the first 2015-16 budget, the district has received a total increase of nearly $1.2 million for basic and special education in two years — the Wolf administration will keep working to invest in State College’s future.

Additionally, this budget provides a nearly $40 million increase for higher education, which will be split among the 14 state-owned universities, the four state-related universities and the 14 community colleges — a 2.5 percent boost during the past year.

That means that in less than two years, Wolf has already achieved an overall investment of $81.4 million for PASSHE and state-related schools and $16.4 million for community colleges.

These are vital steps that will give our students the resources they need to succeed in school, and eventually, the work force. Pennsylvania has a constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education to all students, and Wolf, myself and the rest of his administration will continue to fight for positive education investments in the years to come.

Pedro A. Rivera is Pennsylvania’s secretary of education