July 8, 2008
Governor Rendell Signs Education Budget Benefiting Children and Taxpayers; Laying Groundwork for Long-Term Funding Adequacy
To: STATE EDITORS
Contact: Chuck Ardo of Pennsylvania Governor's Office, +1-717- 783-1116; or Michael Race of PDE, +1-717-783-9800
DREXEL HILL, Pa.,July 8/PRNewswire-USNewswire/--Joined by elected officials, educators, school board members and education advocates, Governor Edward G. Rendell today ceremoniously signed Pennsylvanias new, $9.7 billion education budget at Upper Darby High School in Delaware County.
The Governor said the education budget will lay the foundation for academic success for all students by providing the largest increase in basic education funding in at least two decades, while also introducing a needs-based school funding formula that invests in proven programs that reap results for children. The spending plan also means further relief to property owners because it increases the states share of school funding and lessens school districts reliance on property taxes as a revenue source.
We now begin a better way of funding our schools - a system where fairness is the benchmark, accountability is the norm, and academic success for all students is the end result, the Governor said. The General Assembly has taken a major step forward by setting a goal in law to meet the states commitment to adequate school funding over the next six years.
The budget includes an additional $347 million in Pre-K-12 and higher education funding, a 3 percent increase from last year.
The new budget introduces a predictable state funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. It increases funding for basic education by $274 million, or 5.5 percent, while also continuing to fund successful initiatives that are benefiting children from early childhood through graduation.
The Governor visited Upper Darby to sign the education law because the district is a prime example of how local communities across the state will benefit from improving school funding. Since 1992 (the last time that Pennsylvania had a funding formula in law), Upper Darbys enrollment has skyrocketed by almost 40 percent. In just the past six years, the number of students in Upper Darby High School whose first language is not English has tripled.
The Costing-Out Report found that Upper Darbys schools have a shortfall of nearly $4,000 per student. This years budget provides a first year down payment of $4.9 million to Upper Darby - a 22 percent funding increase - and nearly $16 million across Delaware County. It would take a 6 percent local property tax hike to generate the same revenue in Upper Darby as this years state budget provides.
This historic funding formula is a major step toward the ultimate goal of providing every child and every school with the resources needed to ensure academic success, Governor Rendell said. For too long, the quality of education across Pennsylvania has been based more on the wealth of the community than the potential of the child.
The states additional investments in Pennsylvanias schools also will help alleviate the need for local property tax increases. As the states share of school funding has dropped in recent decades, local property taxes have been forced to rise. The property tax relief law that Governor Rendell signed in 2006 will save taxpayers nearly $800 million this year, and enacting fair, long-term school funding at the state level will help keep property tax increases in check.
Because the state - for several decades - has failed to pay its fair share, the burden has unfairly fallen to local taxpayers, Governor Rendell said. I am pleased that the residents of Upper Darby will see their tax bills slashed by $300 this month thanks to state-funded property tax relief, but the best way to ensure long- term property tax relief is for the state to do a better job each and every year providing local communities with the resources they need.
The funding formula will drive additional state resources to each of Pennsylvanias 501 school districts, with every district being guaranteed at least a 3 percent increase in basic education funding. Larger increases will go to those districts identified in the General Assemblys Costing-Out Study as needing additional resources to aid student achievement.
In November, the General Assemblys Costing-Out Report provided - for the first time ever - a Pennsylvania-specific funding target for each school district by showing the level of resources needed to help every student succeed. The new education budget begins implementing the legislatures findings with the additional $274 million in basic education funding as the first step toward what Governor Rendell hopes will be a long-term commitment to meeting the adequacy gap in every school district.
Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are to be commended for recognizing that, even in difficult economic times, funding our schools is a must if we are to ensure our children continue on a path to success, the Governor said. Even in a lean year, we are enrolling more children in pre-kindergarten, expanding our innovative Classrooms for the Future program to reach more schools and putting more money into tuition grants to make college more affordable.
The education budget takes a long overdue approach to school funding by addressing the adequacy gap in each district, while also driving money into the neediest districts using a formula that stresses investments in proven school improvement strategies.
Pennsylvanias progress in increasing student achievement over the past five years has made us a national leader, the Governor said. This years budget will continue to fulfill our commitment of investing in the programs that are proven to help students learn, while also helping homeowners gain further relief from property taxes.
In Upper Darby, this years funding will make it possible to:
-- Provide extra support to students who are falling behind;
-- Expand the successful high school reform initiative that makes high schools smaller by breaking down the building into close-knit groups of teachers and students in order to meet students individual needs;
-- Hire elementary and high school reading specialists to work with struggling students;
-- Reduce class sizes;
-- Improve the math, science and social studies curriculum; and
-- Hire more teachers to work with English language learners.
Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said the new education budget will enable Pennsylvania to maintain its momentum toward ensuring every child graduates with the skills and academic proficiency needed to succeed beyond high school.
Our continuous goal has been to provide adequate educational resources that will reach children early, help sustain their momentum throughout school and graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in the global economy, Zahorchak said. This budget continues to build on the successful investments we have made in public education.
In addition to the historic basic education funding formula, other important budget initiatives include:
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The 2008-09 education budget invests $86.4 million in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, a 15 percent increase from 2007-08, to enable 800 more children to participate in the commonwealths hallmark, voluntary pre-kindergarten initiative and to respond to parents requests for more full-day enrollment opportunities among some of the existing half-day programs.
CLASSROOMS FOR THE FUTURE
The budget includes $45 million for technology and $15 million for professional development to continue the multi-year rollout of Classrooms for the Future. Thousands of high school English, math, science and social studies classrooms across Pennsylvania have been outfitted with laptop computers, electronic smartboards, and other high-tech tools so students can graduate with the skills needed to compete and succeed in a global economy. Because of the overwhelming demand from Pennsylvania's teachers and students, Governor Rendell said he hopes to continue the expansion of Classrooms for the Future in the 2009-10 budget, enabling all interested high schools to benefit from this initiative.
SCIENCE: ITS ELEMENTARY
The groundbreaking effort to promote science learning in elementary schools will receive $14.5 million - a 7.4 percent increase - in 2008-09, enabling thousands more students to benefit from this hands-on learning experience and be ready for higher- order science classes in middle and high school. Since its start in 2006, Science: Its Elementary has helped introduce the core concepts of science to the next generation of scientists, engineers and inventors at an earlier age. Students in Science: Its Elementary classrooms score an average of 15 points better on science assessments than their non-participating peers.
Pennsylvania's Dual Enrollment program is designed to serve a wide-range of students, but particularly those who attend college at disproportionately low rates. The budget continues the $10 million in annual funding for Dual Enrollment, which allows high school students to take college courses through community colleges and four- year colleges and universities. By encouraging the participation of students who might otherwise be unlikely to attend college, the Dual Enrollment program helps ensure all students have the opportunity to earn a post-secondary degree and become self-sufficient, productive taxpayers.
The budget continues to invest in the commonwealths higher education institutions to offer affordable and accessible post- secondary education in Pennsylvania. State funding for student tuition grants through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will increase by $21.2 million, or 5.5 percent. The states community colleges will receive a 3 percent operating increase, which will bring our investment to $281 million. An additional $14.5 million will be provided to the State System of Higher Education to keep the tuition increases at our four-year state universities at record lows.
The increases in state-funded student tuition grants and additional support for the SSHE will enable families to save an average of nearly $200 per student, and up to $600 for the poorest families, thanks to the expansion of the federal Pell Grant program.
Graphics, budget highlights and additional details about the 2008- 09 state budget are online at www.budget.state.pa.us.
The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses.To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visitwww.governor.state.pa.us.
Michael Race (PDE)
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
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