PA budget and school code bill continue to make education a top priority

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PA budget and school code bill continue to make education a top priority

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HARRISBURG, PA (June 28, 2019) – Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, commended Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers for continuing to make public education a top priority in the 2019-20 state budget and for addressing key education policies, including important school safety measures.

State Budget

“Investing in our public schools is a top priority for all Pennsylvanians, and this budget reflects that,” Askey said. “The budget includes bigger increases for basic and special education than we saw in the previous two budgets. This demonstrates that lawmakers and the governor want public schools to remain a strong foundation of our commonwealth.”

The budget increases funding for basic education by $160 million, special education by $50 million, Pre-K Counts by $25 million, early intervention by $15 million, and Head Start by $5 million. It also provides $7 million more toward career and technical education, $3 million more for career and tech equipment grants, a nearly $5 million increase for community colleges, and a $9 million increase for the State System of Higher Education. Additionally, the budget maintains funding for school safety grants at $60 million. Since taking office, Gov. Wolf has secured nearly $1.2 billion in new education funding.

School safety

In addition to providing continued school safety grant funding in the budget, policymakers adopted two important school safety initiatives in a separate school code bill.

One initiative supporting the creation of threat assessment teams in every public school builds on the success of the Safe2Say Something program. Threat assessment teams are intended to assess problem situations in schools and take steps to prevent violence. Establishing threat assessment teams was among the school safety recommendations included in a 2018 PSEA report based on ideas shared by about 1,000 PSEA members.

“Preventing violence in schools before it starts is, by far, the best way to keep our public schools safe,” Askey said. “Establishing threat assessment teams in public schools and creating connections between those teams and the successful Safe2Say program is an excellent step in that direction.”

The other school safety initiative calls for training and professional development for educators to implement trauma-informed learning approaches in the classroom that will improve the social-emotional growth of students and the well-being of educators.

“The impact of trauma on students is a rising epidemic,” Askey said. “Many students experience traumatic events that can shape their lives forever — from bullying or neighborhood violence to an unstable home life or homelessness to the disastrous impacts of addiction. With the right supports, students can overcome these adverse childhood consequences and thrive.

“This bill provides educators with guidance, supports, and training for implementing trauma-informed approaches in their classrooms as well as supports for the impact of secondary trauma on their own lives and professional practice.”

Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.