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HARRISBURG (Feb. 7, 2017) –Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, issued the following statement today after Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a proposed FY 2017-18 state budget that continues funding increases for public education, makes a key investment in school breakfast programs for needy students, and increases funding for state universities.
Funding For Public Schools
Gov. Wolf proposed a $100 million increase in basic education funding and a $25 million increase in special education funding. With the passage of Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget, he will have increased basic education funding by $500 million since he took office, nearly enough to erase the $860 million in school funding cuts approved in 2011.
“Gov. Wolf inherited a school funding crisis, and he’s made it a top priority to fix it. If this budget becomes law, he will have increased basic education funding by $500 million since he became governor. Thanks to his leadership, we’re close to reversing the massive 2011 school funding cuts that led to program cuts, increased property taxes, and 27,000 lost education jobs.
“I commend the governor on his leadership and his commitment to kids, and I encourage lawmakers to approve the school funding increases he’s proposed.”
School Breakfast Initiative
Gov. Wolf proposed a $2 million appropriation for school breakfast programs that, if enacted, will draw down tens of millions in federal funds. The funding will allow school districts to offer breakfast during homeroom or first period to students eligible for free and reduced lunch. Currently, only 50 percent of eligible Pennsylvania students receive breakfast.
“Kids need to be fed, healthy, and focused if they’re going to learn, and breakfast is an extremely important part of that equation. The governor’s school breakfast proposal is a smart investment. It will help kids who need breakfast, and it will draw down significant federal dollars to do it.
“For $2 million in state money, this is an excellent plan. Students who eat breakfast miss fewer school days and show better results in their classrooms. I urge lawmakers to help make this plan a reality.”
Gov. Wolf proposed a $8.9 million increase for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in order to continue to provide the state resources necessary to fund high-quality, affordable state universities.
“The State System of Higher Education is a key part of our education system. These universities provide an excellent, cost-effective access point for a college education to more than 100,000 students. Making sure that they are adequately funded is absolutely essential to our students and our commonwealth’s future.”
Oleksiak is a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 180,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.