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Gov. Wolf Supports Budget with Largest Education Funding Increase in State History

06/25/2021

Harrisburg, PA - With Pennsylvania on the comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf today announced his support for the state budget that invests in the future of our children with the largest public school funding increase in state history. This budget also takes major steps to stabilize child care to help working parents as they return to the workforce.

“Our economy has weathered the pandemic, and now is roaring forward. We are a commonwealth on the comeback,” said Gov. Wolf. “This budget will help our state move forward and rebuild a strong, equitable economy that works for Pennsylvanians. It provides the largest education funding increase in state history so our students can get the education and training they need for good jobs and to enjoy a successful life in Pennsylvania. And it isn’t any ordinary increase in funding – it is new funding specifically and equitably targeted at the most underfunded districts that disproportionately serve students of color, students in poverty, students with disabilities and English learners. 

“The budget also helps stabilize child care so working parents can return to the workforce, provides for their families and grows the economy. We are addressing the housing crisis, so homeowners and renters will have a roof over their head and a safe place to live. This is a budget that invests in Pennsylvanians.”

The governor will sign the budget next week.

Historic $416 Million Increase in Public Education Funding
Over the past six years, Gov. Wolf has reversed historic cuts to public education and increased annual funding by $1.4 billion. This budget builds on that success with an additional $416 million, the largest single-year education funding increase in state history, raising the increase in annual education funding during Gov. Wolf’s term to more than $1.8 billion.

The $416 million education funding increase includes:

  • $200 million increase to the fair funding formula, for a total of nearly $900 million, so all school districts have the resources to provide a high-quality education that prepares students for success. Gov. Wolf signed the fair funding formula into law in 2016.
  • $100 million for Level Up, a new initiative providing more equitable funding to the 100 most underfunded districts and the students they serve. 
  • $20 million for Ready to Learn.
  • $50 million increase for special education.
  • $30 million increase for early education, including $25 million to expand Pre-K Counts and $5 million to expand Head Start.
  • $11 million for preschool Early Intervention.
  • Nearly $5 million for community colleges.

Additionally, the budget invests $350 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for schools to address learning loss and provide summer enrichment and after school programs to help students with academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.

This budget also provides $50 million in ARP funding for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to support the redesign and growth of the system to make a college education more affordable and accessible for students. The investment is part of a commitment totaling $200 million over four years for PASSHE.

“This budget makes a historic investment in education so our students get the knowledge and skills they deserve,” said Gov. Wolf. “Pennsylvania provides almost $2 billion more a year for education than when I took office. Students now have access to better technology, resources and opportunities and we are providing more help to distressed school districts.

“There is much to be proud of in this budget, but I am disappointed that we could not find agreement with Republicans to direct all school funding through the bipartisan fair funding formula to help growing rural, suburban and urban school districts. The Level Up initiative is a down payment in this fight which provides critical annual funding increases for the districts that need it most – but it is far from enough. This is a bold first step to ensure equitable school funding, and we are going to fight to make sure that every student has the resources they need to succeed regardless of their zip code.

“In addition, I won’t rest until we fix the broken charter school law to save nearly $400 million a year by making charter school companies focus on education rather than maximizing profits at taxpayers’ expense. This may have been a missed opportunity, but it’s not the only opportunity, and we will continue to fight to ensure that every dollar spent on education goes to students rather than corporate profits.” 

Even with the new investments, Pennsylvania’s school funding remains unfair to many rural, suburban and urban school districts. The state’s fair funding formula only applies to new investments since 2016, meaning about 85% of basic education funding is still distributed using student enrollment from 1992, without considering shifts in student population or school districts’ costs.

The governor also continues to believe the state must protect taxpayers from being overcharged by charter schools. The governor’s plan would fix the broken charter school law to base spending on costs, saving school districts $400 million a year and making charter school companies focus on education quality and ensure transparency in how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Helping Working Parents Return to Work
This budget continues the governor’s efforts to make high-quality child care available to parents, with $728.9 million in ARP funding to help stabilize the child care industry as it recovers from the pandemic. This investment will help the industry and employees to safely open their doors so parents can return to the workforce with the confidence their children are receiving high-quality care.

“Even before the pandemic, many parents were dealing with the frustration and stress of struggling to find good child care for their children, and the pandemic made it worse,” said Gov. Wolf. “This investment will allow parents to return to work with the comfort of knowing their young children are in safe and nurturing child care. This crucial support will help families and employers.”

Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe
This budget increases funding to help Pennsylvanians struggling with rent and mortgage payments to remain in their homes and invests in affordable housing and safety. Among other investments, the budget provides the following:

  • $450 million in ARP funding for rental assistance, building on the dollars appropriated in Act 1 of 2021. 
  • $350 million in ARP funding for homeowner mortgage assistance.
  • $36 million in ARP funding to help pay water bills.
  • $282 million in ARP funding to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities to recover from the pandemic and improve patient safety.
  • $30 million in new state dollars for violence intervention and prevention by local communities and local organizations. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Lyndsay Kensinger - ra-gvgovpress@pa.gov

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