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HARRISBURG, PA (May 28, 2020) – Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, commended Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers for adopting a 2020-21 education budget that makes education funding a top priority and helps provide stability for school districts at a difficult time.
The budget, approved by the Legislature this week and awaiting the governor’s signature, includes no cuts to basic and special education, Ready to Learn block grants, and Pre-K Counts. Funding levels for community colleges and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education also remain the same.
“Gov. Wolf and the Legislature continue to make public education a top priority even as our schools face unprecedented challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Askey said. “This commitment from our state leaders will help districts keep educators and support staff on the job meeting the needs of students when schools reopen and keeping everyone in them learning, healthy, and safe.”
Askey noted that it is important to recognize that school districts are facing serious local revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials estimates that declines in earned income tax and other local revenue could leave K-12 school districts with a combined deficit of as much as $1 billion in 2020-21.
Askey emphasized that school districts are looking to Congress to provide funds to help fill this local revenue gap.
“For schools to reopen safely, we will need enough teachers to avoid overcrowded classrooms, custodians to sanitize and maintain school buildings, and paraprofessionals to help kids learn,” Askey said. “We will need school nurses to manage student health, and counselors, psychologists, and social workers to provide mental health services. In fact, we need every single staff member in our public schools to collaborate with one another and ensure that our students have access to all of the services and supports they need. We cannot do that with $1 billion in funding cuts.
“The state has clearly made education a top priority in an extraordinarily tough budget year. Now, it’s up to Congress to step up and help bridge this funding gap, so that our schools are able to reopen safely. I hope that state lawmakers will join with us in urging our U.S. senators and representatives to act on a federal emergency aid bill.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.