By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Last year’s state budget increased funding for career and technical schools in Pennsylvania for the first time in a decade, but education advocates say there’s still a long way to go.
That extra $10 million in the current state budget for schools that provide hands-on training and experience for high school students was a much-needed boost, but Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, said local school districts still are paying 90 percent of the cost of those schools out of their overall budgets.
“We see students who apply to these programs and they can’t get in, because there aren’t enough slots,” she said. “We would have more slots available to students if the school districts had enough money to send more students.”
Spicka called on Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers to commit an additional $10 million to career and technical education, and to increase Basic Education Funding by $400 million. She said failure to fund technical schools also hinders growth of the state economy by leaving employers unable to find skilled workers to fill vacancies.
“There are good jobs that can give students a pathway to a good, middle-class life even without going to college,” she said, “but these jobs are vacant, because students aren’t graduating from high school with the skills and the training that they need.”
About 55,000 students are enrolled in career and technical schools across the state.
Spicka said the low level of state funding for education has the greatest impact on lower-income school districts, which have to depend on local property taxes to fund their schools.
“As long as the Legislature continues to refuse to adequately fund education,” she said, “we’re going to have students in school districts that don’t have strong tax bases unable to access career and technical education opportunities.”
The state budget process will get under way next week when Wolf unveils his proposed budget for the coming year.
More information is online at paschoolswork.org.