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March 26, 2023 7:30 am

Local News

Governor Wolf releases education-focused budget amidst teachers shortages in Pennsylvania

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

Earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his proposed education budget, which comes amid school systems entering a ”breaking point“ due to staffing shortages and lower-than-expected Keystone exam results. 

State lawmakers will vote later this year on the Governor’s executive budget proposal for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, against a backdrop of funding disparities between school districts, reports of teachers taking retirement incentives and leaving their jobs early, and teachers foregoing class preparation time to cover for colleagues in a variety of extracurricular roles. 

K-12 school funding is a top priority for the Wolf administration’s 2022-2023 budget, committing to $1.25 billion in basic education funding, with an additional $200 million for special education.

Included in the Governor’s $1.25 billion proposal are investments in some of Pennsylvania’s most underfunded school districts through an increase in student-weighted distribution formula, in which the funding will be based specifically on a school districts’ needs, prioritizing traditionally underfunded schools. Additionally, the proposal includes a $300 million “Level Up Fund” set aside for school districts facing the effects of lower standardized test scores and learning gaps increased by the pandemic.

While these additional investments are welcome news, reports have shown that Pennsylvania schools could be underfunded by as much as $4.6 billion, due to an over-reliance on local taxes to fund districts.

Just this week, Rich Askey, the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association urged lawmakers to focus on education investments, noting that “we are seeing crisis-level shortages of educators, support staff and substitute teachers in Pennsylvania.”

Governor Wolf’s budget proposal would allow districts to maintain classrooms, provide more resources for students, and increase teacher salaries to a minimum of $50,000, which will help retain and attract teachers. Pennsylvania has seen a 66% decline in the issuance of teaching certificates since the pandemic began.

Gov. Wolf’s education proposal comes as part of his overall executive budget proposal for 2022-2023. As his final budget proposal during his tenure as Governor, the increased spending on education and focus on K-12 investments highlights a culmination of efforts across seven years that saw the Wolf administration secure $1.1 billion for basic education, $190 million for special education, and $40 million for career and technical education.