Harrisburg, PA − January 31, 2022 – State Sen. Vincent Hughes, along with House Democrats and education advocates, announced today a school budget plan that would represent the largest investment in public education in Pennsylvania history.
The $3.75 billion outline, dubbed the Full Funding Plan, would take advantage of an expected $6 billion year-end state ending balance to address generational inequity, crumbling school infrastructure and staffing problems exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Pennsylvania’s insufficient and unequal school system was put under a harsh spotlight by the pandemic, putting in focus the struggles faced by students, parents and teachers in underfunded districts,” Hughes said. “We now have a historic opportunity to correct that legacy and provide every student with the resources and opportunities they deserve.”
The plan would make significant investments in the following areas:
- $1.1 billion into the Fair Funding Formula
- $750 million into Level Up (targets 200 districts with the most inequitable funding, and largest adequacy gap)
- $1.1 billion into remediating toxic schools
- $250 million into historic staffing problems
- $125 million into mental health supports
- $100 million into academic supports
“We are confident in the sustainability of this plan because Pennsylvania is experiencing an unprecedented revenue surplus due to a huge economic turnaround aided by federal investments,” Hughes said. “There can be no more excuses for toxic schools and inequality of opportunity. We are sitting on the largest pool of unspent funds in Pennsylvania history.”
Hughes, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said state revenues are on track to outperform estimates by well over $2 billion, while nearly $2.2 billion of American Rescue Plan funds remain unused.
“The time is now. The time is right,” said Sen. Jay Costa, the Democratic Leader. “The resources are there, and its incumbent upon all of us to really make a significant statement on the steps we need to take to adequately fund public education.”
Pennsylvania’s strong revenues combined with federal assistance will result in a year-end balance of well over $6 billion.
“This budget year is about opportunity and need coming together,” said Rep. Matt Bradford, Democratic Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We have a historic surplus resulting in billions of dollars in revenue, which represents opportunity. We also have the need to address our historically and chronically underfunded public schools. We can make a significant down payment and finally take serious steps towards closing the adequacy gap for our students. This type of investment has a transformative effect when we lessen the burden placed on local taxpayers and enable the true economic growth needed to revitalize communities.”
State Sen. Lindsey Williams, Democratic Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the reach of the plan goes well beyond the bricks and mortar to include supports for education professionals.
“We’re sitting on a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest federal funds and a surplus of state funds directly into the next generation – these are our future doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, counselors, and tradespeople – we must seize this moment,” said state Sen. Lindsey Williams, Democratic Education Chair. “The last three years have shown us that our schools are in many ways the keystone of our society – and for a better society, we must invest in our public education system. By focusing on staff recruiting and retention, professional development, and mental health support staffing we can ensure that all districts across Pennsylvania can provide students with the resources that the need to succeed.”
Sen. Tim Kearney, whose Delaware and Chester County district includes William Penn, one of the school districts leading the school funding lawsuit currently being tried in Commonwealth Court said the plan could bring historic change.
“Every child in the Commonwealth deserves a quality public education and a safe learning environment,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of championing this plan because it addresses longstanding inequities while taking a holistic approach to providing our students with the resources they need to excel academically.”
State Sen. Jim Brewster, who sits on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s School Safety and Security Committee, said inadequate school funding and disinvestment in struggling communities are at the root of numerous costly social problems.
“We can’t effectively address crime or violence without investing in struggling schools and closing the opportunity gap in education,” he said. “In many neighborhoods the school is the safe haven and the resource of first choice for disadvantaged families. This plan is an opportunity to truly create the ‘thorough and efficient’ system of public education that our constitution requires.”
Learn more at https://www.senatorhughes.com/fullfunding/