June 30, 2010

Investments in public education will help students succeed

June 30, 2010

PSEA President Jim Testerman commended elected officials for a $250 million increase for basic education in the 2010-11 state budget, saying it will help protect against deep cuts in the public schools and will help Pennsylvania’s students continue their achievement gains.

“Teachers and education support professionals appreciate the efforts and commitment of the General Assembly and Governor Rendell to increase basic education funding,” said Testerman.

“Their decision to increase funds for public education will pay dividends for years to come. The kindergarten class of 2010 will be the high school graduates of 2023, and this investment in their education will allow districts to provide programs to help children achieve.”

Recent investments in pre-k through 12th grade education have resulted in significant academic gains by Pennsylvania’s students. In fact, Pennsylvania students’ reading and math scores are among the best in the nation, and no state scores higher in eighth grade reading, according to reports from independent researchers.

Testerman and other education leaders have expressed concern that those gains could be at risk in the future. Many school districts across the state are reducing instructional staff and cutting important programs to balance their budgets, according to a recent study by Pennsylvania school administrators and school business officials.

“We recognize that difficult decisions had to be made in the current economic climate,” Testerman said.

“We realize that programs throughout state government have received drastic cuts in this budget, which makes the basic education increase even more significant.”

The increase for basic education will help offset some of the losses at the local level, but significant budget challenges lie ahead, given the anticipated state deficit and the loss of federal stimulus funds in 2011. Testerman said PSEA stands ready to work with lawmakers and the next governor to ensure continued investments in education, and to prevent further cuts to essential services for Pennsylvania’s children and working families across the state.

Testerman also expressed frustration with the lack of any final action on the pension reform legislation currently in the state Senate. The Senate delayed action on House Bill 2497, which the House of Representatives passed on June 16 with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill would ameliorate the anticipated “pension spike” in 2012-13 by implementing a responsible payment plan and restructuring benefits for future employees, while maintaining a defined benefit pension system.  Testerman said without a long-term payment plan, the underfunding of the employer contribution rate set by the fund last December is a concern for education professionals who have never stopped contributing to the Fund.

“PSEA members were hopeful that the Senate would pass House Bill 2497, which is a responsible balanced solution to the complex issue of pension reform,” Testerman said. “We look forward to working with the Senate in the coming weeks to ensure that this issue can be dealt with swiftly when the legislature returns to session.”


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