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Governor Corbett Budget Proposal Cuts $1.1 Billion from Basic Education
Poor Schools Hit the Hardest
The Commonwealth is facing a potential, dramatic cut to education as a result of Governor Corbett’s proposal. This proposal cuts $1.1 billion from basic education and asks for a 50 percent spending cut to our state related institutions and the State System of Higher Education.
The Pennsylvania state-related universities include Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln University and Temple University. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
The importance of funding education is not lost on the President of the United States. In early March, President Obama urged Pennsylvania lawmakers to save education. In Obama’s budget, he too makes significant spending cuts but is increasing funding that will aid education because of its invaluable investment for our future. You can find video and his remarks here: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2011/03/15/obama-urges-pa-lawmakers-to-save-education/.
Investments during the last decade have made Pennsylvania the only state in the nation where test scores have gone up at every grade level and in every subject matter. Classroom performance has improved and student proficiency has increased dramatically. The pace of gains by minority and low income students has been particularly noteworthy, outpacing their classroom peers. While the gains have been significant, there is still the need and the room for progress. We have come far, but we have quite a ways to go, which is why funding to education needs to be sustained. Allowing the cuts Governor Corbett has proposed will most definitely retreat on this record of success. We cannot allow this to happen. Below details the significant progress our state has made thus far.
Gains in Achievement Threatened
More of Pennsylvania’s students are performing at grade level than ever before. The Commonwealth’s students continue to make gains in academic achievement, and have been doing so for eight consecutive years. Across the board, all segments of K-12 education have made significant achievement gains since the 2002-2003 school year. Since 2002:
- 75% of Pennsylvania’s students are performing at grade level or above.
- Students performing at the below basic level has been cut in half.
- Students scoring advanced in math have increased 20.3% and 12.2% in reading.
- African-American students scoring proficient or above have increased 25.9% in math and 20.6% in reading.
- Hispanic students scoring proficient or above have increased 24.8% in math and 20.8% in reading.
- Economically disadvantaged students scoring proficient or above have increased 25.4% in math and 19.4% in reading.
- Students scoring advanced and proficient on PSSA's in families whose income falls into the lowest economic bracket have closed the gap by 25%
over students in households in the highest income bracket.
In addition, between 2007 and 2010 students attending charter schools scoring proficient or above have increased 13.5% in math and 12.9% in reading, while students attending cyber charter schools also increased 3.7% in math and 2.2% in reading between 2007 and 2010.
Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education Expansion to be Cut
Full-day kindergarten enrollment has grown by 38,439 from 42,015 in 2002-2003 to 80,454 in 2008-2009. In addition, pre-kindergarten enrollment through programs such as the Keystone STARS, Pre-K Counts and HeadStart has also increased. More than 235,909 children under the age of five participate in state and/or federally funded quality early childhood education programs. This is a dramatic increase for Pennsylvania. In 2002-2003, less than one in five Commonwealth children had access to a quality early education; now one in three does. Children participating in these programs are more than ready for kindergarten. These gains are due to concentrated and focused investments in programs such as the Pennsylvania Accountability Grant and the Pre-K Counts program.
Quality Education Funding Slashed
Prior to 2002 Pennsylvania trailed surrounding states and the nation with respect to state funding for elementary and secondary education. Act 114 of 2006 required the State Board of Education to complete a study of the adequacy and equity of school funding and to determine what educational resources and related expenditures are necessary to provide a quality primary and secondary education for each student in the commonwealth’s public schools. The report determined the need to increase state support by an inflation adjusted $2.6 billion to insure all school districts within the commonwealth provide an adequate education for their students. Increases in education funding over the past 3 years, has helped to provide the state funding necessary to address the adequacy gap, using the new funding formula which recognizes the actual number of students in each district, geographic price differences and the additional costs of English-language learners and children from low-income families.
School District of Philadelphia Threatened with a $292 Million Cut
The cuts Governor Corbett is proposing have the potential to be dire, particularly for the School District of Philadelphia, cutting approximately $292 million. Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said the cuts hit Philadelphia schools disproportionately high. By his estimates, about 25 percent of Corbett’s cuts affected Philadelphia schools compared to 10 percent for the remaining 499 districts in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia too has seen success through the past decade, and need sustained funding to continue to make improvements. Below are some examples:
- First time EVER that more than half the city's students meet state standards with 50.7% of them meeting the reading standard and 56.6% meeting the math standard.
- 8 straight years of reading and math gains.
- In 2010, high schools had the largest reading gains ever with 45.1% of students now scoring at proficient/advanced, up from 37.8% in 2009.
- Over the past two years in math, Philadelphia students have improved from 44.8% to 50.7%. Again, in 2010, high schools improved the most.
- Our lowest-performing schools (Empowerment Schools) are making greater gains than the overall district average, thereby closing the achievement gap.
- 9 point gains in math in Empowerment Schools since 2008.
- 7 points gain in reading in Empowerment Schools since 2008.
- 150 more middle and high school counselors.
- 29% drop in violence incidents over the past two school years.
- 58,000 students enrolled in expanded summer school.
- Philadelphia's School District's six year graduation rate continues to rise and has reached 60%.
Education is the foundation for not only the success of our youth but also that of our nation and world. The ripple effect of a solid education is tremendous. From a productive workforce to keeping individuals out of prison, education is a necessary component to ensuring an individual's overall quality of life is at its fullest. All of us have a huge responsibility to not allow school children to fail, to keep their eagerness and excitement for learning alive and to not allow such draconian education funding cuts to rob them of a great education. You have my commitment to continue to fight for this cause. But you must also advocate for the education of our children and the future of our nation. Please call your elected officials and the Governor, and let them know of your concerns.
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes