By: Andrea Sears
PHILADELPHIA – The state budget that passed the General Assembly last week gives some critical extra funding to education, but advocates say it’s still far short of what’s needed.
The budget passed on Friday, barely making the deadline. It increases basic education funding by $100 million, adds $25 million more for special education, $30 million for early education and $19 million for early intervention services.
Deborah Gordon Klehr, director of the Education Law Center, says that will help children across the commonwealth, but it still isn’t enough to do the job.
“We have to be clear that this budget is a drop in the bucket compared to what is truly needed for an adequately funded, statewide public education system,” she stresses.
Klehr is calling on the governor to sign the budget, but the legislature still needs to pass a bill to establish where the funds will come from to pay for the increases.
Pennsylvania still has the largest disparity in school funding between rich and poor districts of any state in the nation.
Klehr says it will take a significant investment by the state to get all children the education they deserve.
“Students need a much larger increase to meet the basic standards that the legislature itself established,” she maintains. “Others have estimated that the number is about $3 billion short.”
But larger increases may be difficult to pass. The state is struggling to close a $1.5 billion gap in the current budget, making further spending difficult.
With so much left to be done, Klehr is concerned that legislators are spending far too much time on issues that won’t improve the quality of education.
“Lawmakers should focus on full funding of education, not get sidetracked by reducing accountability for charter schools or introducing dangerous bills to arm school personnel,” she urges.
Last year the budget also passed without a revenue bill in place. Gov. Tom Wolf allowed it to lapse into law without his signature.