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School Funding Advocate Praises Budget Plans

by Andrea Sears, Public News Service
for The Post Publications

HARRISBURG PA – Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget 2017 Pennsylvania state budget, unveiled Tuesday (Feb. 7, 2017), is balanced through cuts and consolidations. The $32.3 billion spending plan would attack looming budget deficits with more than two-billion dollars in cuts and efficiency measures. But it also calls for increased education funding.

Deborah Gordon Klehr, director of the Education Law Center, praised the proposed $75 million increase in early childhood education, and extra funding for early intervention, as “crucial investments.”

Although spending increases for grades K-through-12 are appreciated, she added, they fall short of what’s needed. “The governor’s proposed increase of $100 million in basic education, and $25 million in special education funding, will not be enough to allow schools to close long-standing resource gaps,” Klehr noted. Closing those, she added, would require an extra state investment of almost $3 billion over time.

Klehr reported Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the nation for state share of education funding, and still has the largest difference in funding between wealthy and poor school districts. “Taking all of that into consideration, we’re hopeful we can work with the governor and the General Assembly to ensure that the budget gets us closer to closing that gap,” she explained.

Last year, the General Assembly approved a “fair funding formula” to address disparities in the distribution of state education dollars. Any new money allocated to basic education funding will now go through that formula, Klehr said. “And that will make a difference ultimately in closing the gaps, in terms of what our districts and students need versus what they currently receive,” she added.

While any funding increase is welcome, according to Klehr, public-education advocates claim more investment will be needed to deal with district-to-district inequities.

Photo from Public News Service

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