Philadelphia Senators Call for $300 Million in New Education Funding

Philadelphia, Jan. 31, 2014 – Senate Democrats gathered in communities across Pennsylvania yesterday to challenge Gov. Tom Corbett to produce a spending plan that is aligned with the needs of the Pennsylvania.

Sen. Hughes and his colleagues gathered at the Philadelphia School District along with members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and Public Citizens for Children and Youth to highlight the negative impact of previous Corbett budgets and describe why the upcoming budget is so important.

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“Pennsylvania’s state budget is an identification of priorities and a strategy for investment,” Sen. Hughes said. “We can do better than what Gov. Corbett and his administration have provided. Our schools are struggling and we need additional funds to reverse the negative impact on our students, families, and communities.”

Senate Democrats said their budget priorities reflect needs shared by all Pennsylvanians, including job creation, expansion of health care through Medicaid, increasing the minimum wage, repairing the social safety net and restoring education funds.

“Under Gov. Corbett’s leadership, Pennsylvania has fallen to the bottom in job creation and government efficiency, and we must do a better job of identifying policy priorities,” Hughes said. “Senate Democrats have concrete plans to move the state forward and our payment method does not involve a broad-based tax increase.”

Senate Democrats said they will push for the following in this budget:

  • Creating jobs by funding targeted water and sewer rehabilitation projects, strengthening school-to-work programs and expanding community economic zones throughout the state;
  • Investing in education with a $300 million boost, bolstering funds for early education and committing to a long-term financing plan that restores funding;
  • Increasing the state’s minimum wage to at least $9 per hour, indexing the wage to inflation and raising the tipped minimum wage;
  • Expanding Medicaid and extending health care to 500,000 Pennsylvania families while generating budget savings of $400 million; and
  • Repairing holes in the social safety net by using $85 million in Medicaid budget savings for human services programming such as drug, alcohol and mental health.

Sen. Hughes also noted that the Senate Democratic Caucus has devised a budget savings-and-revenue plan of more than $1.1 billion to fund the priorities.

“There is no question that there is budget latitude and savings for investing in jobs, health care, human services and our workforce,” Hughes said. “Lack of resources should not be an excuse that the administration uses for inaction on key funding initiatives because we’ve proven that savings and revenues are available.”

Senate Democrats said a new direction is needed because the state has gone in reverse since Republican Tom Corbett became governor. Pennsylvania has gone from eighth in job creation to 48th nationwide and has a jobs deficit of more than 180,000 when compared with national economic growth rates.

In addition, Democrats pointed to a recent study of the fiscal health of states placing Pennsylvania 42nd.

To illustrate the problems associated with ill-advised budget choices, Kwanita Williams from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said her school has been impacted significantly by recent funding decisions.

“Our kids’ basic needs aren’t being met when they enter into the classroom. Our kids deserve more. Our kids deserve better.”

Williams is a 9th grade teacher at Franklin Learning Center in North Philadelphia. She also said that her students are dealing with lengthy college admissions applications because of budget cuts.

“We look forward to learning details of the governor’s policies and going through the budget in depth,” Hughes said. “It is critical that we revise the spending plan to better reflect the shared priorities of the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

Senate Democrats said they will provide immediate reaction to the governor’s budget address following his scheduled speech to the General Assembly Feb. 4.