PSEA president issues statement on governor’s FY 2024-25 state budget proposal

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PSEA president issues statement on governor’s FY 2024-25 state budget proposal

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HARRISBURG, PA (Feb. 6, 2024) – PSEA President Aaron Chapin issued the following statement on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed FY 2024-25 state budget.

Basic education funding

Shapiro’s proposed budget increases basic education funding by nearly $1.1 billion and includes several of the reforms the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended in its Jan. 11 majority report.

“The governor’s budget proposal is a historic first step toward delivering what our public schools need to provide the public education that our constitution requires,” said PSEA President Aaron Chapin. “This is a solid beginning to a multiyear process, and we’re very pleased that this is one of Gov. Shapiro’s top priorities. We absolutely must make these critical investments in our public schools, students, educators, and support staff, and we can’t allow anything to distract us from doing it.”

School staff shortages

Shapiro’s proposed budget increases annual funding for the student teacher stipends provided through the PA Student Teacher Support Program by $5 million.

“We appreciate the governor’s commitment to investing in the stipend program for student teachers so that they can make ends meet while they are student teaching for 12 weeks,” Chapin said. “This is a priority for PSEA, and this program will help remove a significant barrier to becoming an educator and ease staff shortages in the years ahead.

“This is part of a larger conversation about paying school staff more competitively, especially our education support professionals. Too many paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, and other support staff are barely making ends meet. They should be paid a living wage of at least $20 an hour. We also need to keep competitive with our neighboring states by increasing minimum educator salaries to $60,000 a year.”

School buildings and facilities

Shapiro’s proposed budget allocates $300 million to address school building and facility repair needs. This builds upon the good bipartisan work in December 2023 with Act 34.

“Students should learn, and educators and support professionals should work in safe and healthy environments,” Chapin said. “Investing in our school buildings and facilities is an essential component of remedying funding inequities.”

Higher education

Shapiro outlined a “higher education blueprint” that would combine State System of Higher Education universities and community colleges into a unified governance system and ultimately ensure that students from families earning up to the median family income would pay no more than $1,000 per semester in tuition. The proposed budget would increase funding for state system universities and community colleges by $125 million in FY 2024-25.

“This is a good starting point for conversations about how we can make a college education more affordable and accessible to Pennsylvania’s students,” Chapin said. “PSEA looks forward to learning more about this plan and working with all the stakeholders involved.”

Private school scholarships

Chapin expressed disappointment in the governor’s mention of reviving his plan to authorize taxpayer-funded private and religious school scholarships.

“The Basic Education Funding Commission has said that Pennsylvania needs to provide public schools with an additional $9.5 billion over seven years to make our public education system constitutional,” Chapin said. “We absolutely must make these critical investments in the public schools that educate more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s students, and we can’t allow anything to distract us from doing it.

“Policymakers shouldn’t even think about funding scholarships for private and religious schools. Our public school funding system is so broken that it is unconstitutional. Fixing it to provide a thorough and efficient system of public education needs to be our highest priority.”

Looking ahead

Chapin said PSEA looks forward to engaging with elected leaders from both parties as they work toward a final budget.

“Pennsylvania’s students have waited decades for policymakers to take bold action to address the significant needs in their schools,” Chapin said. “More than a year has passed since the Commonwealth Court ruled that our public school funding system is unconstitutional. Fixing this problem is not an option. It is required by our state constitution, and we look forward to working with our elected leaders to get it done.”

Chapin is a Stroudsburg Area middle school teacher and president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 177,000 active and retired educators and school employees, aspiring educators, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.