Danielle Smith, Public News Service
Looking to tackle inequitable education funding across the state, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has unveiled a new budget plan, including a major boost in public school spending.
The proposal would direct an additional $1 billion to K-12 education, affecting more than 1.7 million students.
Jeff Ney, vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, called it a historic investment aimed at leveling the playing field for long-underfunded districts.
“It is a great step,” Ney asserted. “We have to see how those funds are allocated and how they are used in our districts, but we are very happy with that number.”
The budget includes $50 million for school safety and security improvements. Ney pointed out the budget incorporates recommendations from the Basic Education Funding Commission to develop a comprehensive solution for K-12 education funding.
Ney explained the proposal calls for $300 million for environmental repair projects and infrastructure improvements. He noted the money could be used to replace lead pipes in schools, upgrade heating and air conditioning systems, and other upgrades to benefit students and teachers.
“It could be used to help out and make sure that our student classrooms are at a manageable level,” Ney stressed. “Right now, we are seeing some class sizes that are just way too high, because they cannot bring in enough staff to do that. Some of the buildings that exist right now just aren’t large enough to house the students that we have.”
Ney emphasized the governor’s budget also includes a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, but his group has asked for a $20 hourly wage for school support staff. The union hopes school districts will be able to raise minimum teacher salaries to $60,000, as starting pay currently lags behind neighboring states.
This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.