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HARRISBURG, PA (December 14, 2023) – PSEA President Aaron Chapin issued the following statement on the General Assembly’s final approval of School Code bills that will authorize key education spending initiatives in the 2023-24 state budget.
“PSEA members are breathing a sigh of relief today,” Chapin said. “House Bill 301 ensures that $261 million in overdue funding gets to Pennsylvania’s community colleges, dedicates $75 million to a new School Environmental Repairs Program, and releases $100 million to support student mental health needs. The bill also helps address ever-worsening educator and substitute teacher shortages.
“For community colleges, the School Code legislation comes just in time as college leaders were confronting the need to borrow money at high interest rates just to keep their doors open. Community colleges educate and serve more first-in-their-family and low-income students than any other sector of higher learning. Our community colleges are vital to the future of our commonwealth.
“The new School Environmental Repairs Program will provide needed resources to remediate toxic environmental hazards in our schools. This is a very important investment that will help make our schools healthier and safer places for students to learn and educators to work.
“The bill takes the next step to tackle our educator shortage by authorizing stipends for aspiring educators while they complete their 12 weeks of student teaching. Many aspiring educators have to give up part-time jobs to complete their student teaching and struggle just to afford the commute, which can be an hour or more each way. Paying student teachers a modest stipend will remove a heavy financial burden on the way to becoming a teacher.
“This bill extends substitute teacher flexibility that expired on July 1. This flexibility will enable school districts to cast a wider net when recruiting substitute teachers, easing the burden on teachers and support professionals particularly in districts with substitute shortages.
“Finally, this bill releases $100 million in state funding to expand mental health services in public schools and improve the well-being of students. At a time when many young people are experiencing mental health crises, the commonwealth’s continued investment in mental health is needed now more than ever.”
Chapin is a Stroudsburg Area middle school teacher. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 177,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.