Plymouth Meeting, PA, February 8, 2022—On behalf of its 36,000 members and 64 locals, AFT Pennsylvania President Arthur G. Steinberg on Tuesday released a statement on Governor Wolf’s proposed 2022-2023 budget:
“Once again, Governor Wolf has shown that he is serious about fully and fairly funding public education in Pennsylvania, and we applaud his proposals for his final year in office. Substantial increases in funding are needed for basic and higher education in our commonwealth, and the Governor’s budget makes huge investments toward those goals.
“With potentially once-in-a-lifetime funding available from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Governor Wolf has proposed responsible investments in the future of Pennsylvania’s students, educators, and families. Over a billion-dollar-increase to basic education funding is an historic investment and a massive leap toward closing the education adequacy gap in spending across districts.
“By increasing the minimum teacher salary to a livable wage, our educators will be able to focus on developing the minds of our young people, rather than worrying about paying their own families’ bills.
“The social and emotional impact of the uncertainty and trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected all students, and acutely affected students learning English, students experiencing poverty, and students with disabilities. The funding proposed in this budget, including an additional $200 million for special education funding, will be invaluable in helping our young people access the resources and services they need and deserve.
“For preparing and developing Pennsylvania’s workforce, as well as making long overdue investments, we wholeheartedly support Governor Wolf’s proposed increases in higher education funding. Adding $200 million to the Nelly Bly tuition program for state schools and community colleges will greatly increase access to those for whom college is often just out of reach.
“While we await the outcome of the fair funding lawsuit, an increase in Level Up funding will provide for our 100 poorest school districts, but we hope to see the number increase to include districts like Pittsburgh, which is just outside the threshold. And, though the recently passed federal infrastructure law provides some assistance for school facilities investment, we hope to see Pennsylvania specifically fund facilities.
“Given the history this Republican legislature has with Governor Wolf, we know that they will be the first to say that will not support these increases to public education funding or the proposed reforms to unaccountable charter schools. In doing so, they will show their constituents once again how much or how little they care about educating the future of our commonwealth. We urge our members to pay close attention to who supports them and who does not throughout this budget process.”
Today, Governor Tom Wolf gave his final budget speech to a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. In his proposed 2022-2023 budget, Governor Wolf highlighted many items that concern our members.
For our K-12 Education System, Governor Wolf proposed the following:
- Increasing funding for the Basic Education Fair Funding Formula by $1.25 billion
- $300 million in Level Up funding for the 100 School Districts with the greatest financial need
- $200 million increase in Special Education Funding
- $5 million increase for CTE
- Reforms the Charter School Law to save school districts $373 million by applying the Special Education Formula to all public schools ($174 million) and establishing a Statewide Cyber Charter Tuition Rate ($199 million annually). Also includes improvements to the redirection process
- Lowers the maximum administrative set-aside for scholarship organizations participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit or Education Improvement Tax Credit programs from 20 percent to 5 percent, allowing up to $41 million in additional scholarships without increasing taxpayer aid. Scholarship organizations will be required to report more information on the students and families that receive scholarships and their educational outcomes, assuring taxpayers that their tax dollars are directed to students with the greatest need and that participating students receive a high-quality education.
- Proposes increasing the minimum teacher salary to $45,000 per year to ensure the commonwealth can attract the highest quality educational talent
For Early Education, the Governor proposed:
- $20 Million increase to PA Smart
- $60 Million increase for PreK Counts that will add 2,300 new slots in the program
- $10 Million increase to the Commonwealths portion to the Head Start Program
For our institutions of Public Higher Education, Governor Wolf has proposed the following:
- To invest $200 million in the Nellie Bly Tuition Program, which provides financial assistance for PASSHE and community college students whose focus involves programs in high-need sectors of the commonwealth such as healthcare, education, and public service. In previous years this was just for PASSHE schools to entice PA students and out-of-state students to attend and live in PA for a set period after graduation to have the loan turn into a grant where no payment back to the Commonwealth would occur.
- Invests an additional $125 million for higher education institutions, including a $75 million increase for PASSHE. This is a 5% increase for state-related institutions.
- Community Colleges and Capital Fund – $14.9 million
- Penn State University – $12.1 million
- Pennsylvania College of Technology – $1.3 million
- Transfer to Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund – $2.7 million
- University of Pittsburgh (including Rural Education Outreach) – $7.7 million
- Temple University – $7.9 million
- Lincoln University – $758,000
- Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology – $935,000
- Establishes a grant program to support the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative which addresses college hunger by investing $1 million to combat food insecurity
- Invests an additional $500,000 in the “It’s On Us PA” initiative to better protect students from sexual violence
- Proposes a $500,000 investment in Adult Education and Family Literacy program to provide support for adult learners and increase access to education and career pathways
Other Items of Interest Proposed
- Increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour effective July 1, 2022, with an annual increase of $0.50 per hour until all minimum wage employees earn $15 per hour
- Invests $30 million for two new childcare options for commonwealth employees
- Creates a new statewide data system linking information across childcare, education, and workforce continuum to assist with future data-driven programming decisions by investing $3.2 million