PSEA president says Gov. Shapiro’s state budget proposal makes public education a top priority

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PSEA president says Gov. Shapiro’s state budget proposal makes public education a top priority

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HARRISBURG, PA (March 7, 2023) — Responding to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s state budget address today, PSEA President Rich Askey called the education funding components of his spending proposal an example of the governor’s strong support for public education.

“As a candidate, Josh Shapiro promised to make public education a priority. Now, Gov. Shapiro is clearly focused on delivering on those promises,” Askey said. “The governor’s budget proposal puts public education at the very top of his priority list. Public school students, parents, educators, and support professionals need his support to address the challenges they face. His budget plan shows that they have it.”

Shapiro proposed a $570 million increase in basic education funding and a $100 million increase in special education funding. He also proposed creating a $100 million matching grant program to help repair public school buildings and plans to continue the $100 million school safety grant initiative.

Askey pointed out that Shapiro’s plan to increase basic and special education funding by $670 million is a significant down payment on long-term investments the commonwealth will need to make to ensure that its school funding system is constitutional, providing access to a high-quality education for every Pennsylvania student.

“Gov. Shapiro is right to say that we need to be thoughtful and deliberative about this but aggressive at the same time,” Askey said. “We’ve been grappling with problems related to Pennsylvania’s school funding system for a generation. We’re not going to solve this problem overnight, but we must solve it. We need to do it soon, but we also need to do it right.”

Askey said that Shapiro’s plan to create a $100 million block grant program to help schools hire school counselors, social workers, and psychologists or contract with community and non-profit groups to provide these services is a much-needed investment in the well-being of Pennsylvania’s students.

“Students today are struggling with anxiety and depression more than ever before,” Askey said. “Having qualified, caring professionals in their schools is a critical need.”

Askey noted that PSEA would need time to review the details of Shapiro’s plan to provide tax credits to new teachers, nurses, and first responders, saying that it is well-intentioned and could be one part of a larger solution to address the school staffing crisis.

“We really believe that we need to focus on a state-funded effort to increase minimum salaries for education professionals, including educators, school counselors, and nurses, to $60,000 annually within five years and to set a minimum wage of $20 an hour for education support professionals, such as paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.

“We also need to focus on creating a scholarship program for aspiring educators, paying student teachers, investing in ‘grow your own’ programs that help paraprofessionals and other school support staff go back to college to earn their teaching credentials, and hiring more school nurses, counselors, and other mental health providers.

“We look forward to working with the governor and lawmakers to get this done.”

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.