Budget scorecard: Governor and lawmakers make education a priority

The state Legislature has passed a 2018-19 budget plan that makes key investments in public education and related bills enacting a number of pro-public education policies.

As always, PSEA members played a key role in getting many of these initiatives to the governor’s desk. When PSEA members speak out, our elected officials listen.

Here’s a scorecard to keep track.

WIN. School funding. Gov. Tom Wolf, working in partnership with pro-public education lawmakers from both parties, has made public school funding a top priority throughout his term in office. Together, they have worked hard to craft a budget that makes key investments in our schools.

The budget plan includes:

  • $100 million more for basic education funding.
  • $15 million more for special education funding.
  • $30 million more for career and technical education initiatives.
  • $25 million more for pre-kindergarten and Head Start funding.
  • $6.9 million for community colleges.
  • $15 million for PA State System of Higher Education schools.

Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers supported a budget that makes public education a priority

WIN. School safety. Lawmakers also approved legislation establishing a comprehensive safe schools program.

The plan provides school districts $60 million in school safety grants for a menu of security, training, prevention, and counseling programs. The additional resources will enable districts to make their schools safer and give them the flexibility to identify programs and practices that meet their specific, local needs.

The bill also establishes a “Safe2Say” program that will provide a safe and anonymous way for parents, school staff, students, and community members to report dangerous or criminal acts, threats, or instances of bullying.

Following the tragedy in Parkland in February, PSEA called on members to share their thoughts about ways policymakers can make our schools safer. Nearly 1,000 educators shared their suggestions with PSEA.

From those suggestions, it was clear that educators believe that we need to prevent tragedies before they happen, and not just respond after a tragedy occurs. This plan includes many of those ideas.

WIN. Outsourcing transparency. In the school code bill, lawmakers enacted reforms to protect dedicated school support professionals from having their jobs farmed out to for-profit companies in costly outsourcing deals. School districts must now provide a public review, identify costs, and hold a public hearing prior to the subcontracting of services or positions.

WIN. Secondary certification changes. The school code bill also amends Pennsylvania’s new educator furlough law, Act 55 of 2017, to ensure that experienced educators with multiple certifications are not furloughed simply because they teach in a program area a district intends to cut. This change addresses one of the major flaws in Pennsylvania’s new furlough law passed last year.

WIN. Keystone Exam graduation requirement. The current moratorium on requiring students to attain at least a proficient score on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate was extended by another year until the 2020-21 school year. Students will continue to take the Keystone Exams, but it will not affect their ability to graduate.

WIN. Lead testing in schools. Another provision of the school code bill creates a mechanism to help protect students and school employees by ensuring the drinking water in our schools is safe.

WIN. Vocational certification. Finally, the school code bill reduces the burdensome certification process for career and tech educators to help attract and retain the best and brightest in this field.

PSEA members make a difference

The numerous legislative accomplishments in the state budget, school safety, and school code bills serve as a great example of what happens when thousands of PSEA members speak up and advocate for policies that put our schools and students first.

PSEA members sent thousands of emails, made thousands of phone calls, and held hundreds of face-to-face meetings in Harrisburg this month.

We make a difference when we lift our voices together and advocate for the tools and resources that our schools need to give Pennsylvania’s students the very best education.

Congratulations to winner of Stand Up for Public Education

Theresa Prato

Congratulations to Theresa Prato, winner of the $5,000 grand prize in the PSEA-PACE Stand Up for Public Education Giveaway. Theresa is the president of the Bucks County Technical High School Education Association and active with PSEA-PACE.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Stand Up for Public Education giveaway! Your contributions will help elect pro-public education candidates this fall.

If you missed the giveaway but would still like to support champions of public education on the ballot, go to PSEA-PACE’s web page and make a donation today.

Quick hits

Member Benefits Spotlight: Free college

You read that right. PSEA Member Benefits has rolled out a new benefit — free college.

The PSEA Free College Benefit makes it possible for you and your family members to earn an associate degree completely online for free. This benefit can save you thousands of dollars, and the process is simple.

Go to www.psea.org/freecollege to get started.

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